You might think that breathing is a natural process and our bodies will adapt our breathing to suit the intensity of exercise we are doing. If we have poor breathing technique when we are not running then the chances are we will be use the same poor breathing (only faster) when we are running.
The more oxygen you breathe in, the faster you run
Running – in fact any kind of exercise – requires oxygen. You see, energy is released to do work when the cells in our body consume simple sugars in the presence of oxygen. The more work you do, the more oxygen you need. Since there’s only about 20% oxygen in air, unless you want to carry supplemental oxygen like an Everest mountaineer, you have to move more air in and out of your lungs when you’re running. So what can you do to get more of that air in and out of your lungs without feeling like you’re climbing a mountain without supplemental oxygen?
Correct running posture for maximum breathing
First, you should get in the practice of keeping your head and chin up, with your shoulders back. This will help to keep your chest as open as possible. I’ve seen many runners heading down the trail with slouched shoulders, eyes directed down at the ground just a few feet ahead of them. This compresses the chest and can even inhibit airflow down the windpipe into the lungs. Maintaining good posture while running will not only feel better, but will increase your available lung volume. More lung volume equals more oxygen.
Breathe with abdomen not chest
Focus on breathing deep down into the abdomen. As babies, we were all ‘belly-breathers’ with our abdomens rising and falling deeply with each breath. Somehow, as we grow up, we started breathing primarily in the chest. This actually gives us less lung volume as air might not even reach the bottom of our lungs on every breath. Breathing deeply, focusing on moving your belly in and out on each breath will make even more lung volume accessible. In addition to increasing oxygen uptake, belly-breathing can help prevent cramps during running.
Breathing with Nose vs Mouth
Many new runners are misinformed and believe that you should breathe only through your nose while running. Effective breathing while running means getting in enough oxygen to power your body through an intensive workout. The only way to do this is by taking in large, deep breaths through your nose and mouth. Studies done on elite runners have shown they breathe in using both the mouth and nose.
Don’t wait until you have run for a few miles before you start deeper breathing, the sooner you start the better your body will be oxygenated. If you can get into a good rhythm of breathing that matches your strides it will make it easier to breath enough and in the right quantity. When you breathe out try making a panting noise. This helps you to take lager breaths and align your breathing with your steps.