Skip to main content

How To Breathe When Running


Benefits | Why Is It Hard | Nose Or Mouth | Breathing Exercises | Rhythmic Breathing

Breathing is something we all take for granted, but for runners, paying attention to your breathing can take your running to the next level.

Whether you’re a new runner struggling with your breathing or a seasoned runner looking to step it up a notch, read on to learn about the best breathing techniques for running.

What Are The Benefits Of Learning Running Breathing Techniques

Learning to control your breathing while running allows you to breathe more efficiently, bringing in more oxygen to help fuel performance. With proper breathing, you can run faster, and for longer. You’ll also recover quicker when doing interval running workouts. Breathwork can also help to reduce anxiety and physical tension during runs.

Why Is Breathing When Running So Hard?

Cardiovascular activities like running work the muscles and respiratory system hard which creates more carbon dioxide than normal. The build-up of carbon dioxide causes us to breathe more rapidly so that we can bring in more oxygen and lower carbon dioxide levels back to normal.

There are various factors that can make breathing while running feels so difficult, such as cold weather, but often it’s due to pushing past a level where you are able to bring in enough oxygen.

Improving your cardiovascular endurance will help to make breathing while running easier. However, improving your breathing technique can also help to bring more oxygen in!

Should You Breathe Through Your Nose Or Mouth?

For moderate runs, nasal breathing or breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth, is fine. For higher intensity runs, mouth breathing is recommended as allows more oxygen into the body with each breath.

Running Breathing Exercises And Techniques

While there is no one right or wrong breathing technique for running, there are methods you can try to improve how efficiently you breathe. It’s worth trying a few to see what works best for you, although only try one at a time!

Breathing exercises

Doing breathing exercises outside of your runs can help you to build more mind-body connection and strengthen the muscles involved in breathing so that controlling your breath becomes easier while running.

Some breathing exercises to try include:

  • Belly breathing

    Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing teaches us how to engage the diaphragm rather than rely on the lungs to do all the work. Belly breathing increases the amount of oxygen brought in, and carbon dioxide expelled, with each breath. It also relaxes the body, which can help to improve running stride.

    Sit or lie down and close your eyes. With your mouth closed, take a deep breath through your nose and focus on sending the breath to your belly, so that your stomach expands, with your chest staying still.  Breathe out through your mouth, sending the breath from your belly. It can help to place a hand on your stomach and chest to ensure only the belly expands.

  • Alternate nostril breathing

    Practising alternative nostril breathing can strengthen the lungs and improve oxygen flow. It’s also a good tool to help focus on the breath and improve control.

    Sit tall with your shoulders rolled back and chest up, and close your eyes. Cover your right nostril with your thumb, then exhale slowly through the left nostril. Once you’ve released all the breath, cover your right nostril with your ring finger and release the left nostril. Breathe in deeply through the left nostril.

  • Pursed lip breathing

    Pursed lip breathing helps you to control the flow of breath and take greater inhales and exhales, and can strengthen the lungs.

    Sit comfortably, taking care not to slouch or slump the shoulders. Close your eyes and lips. Breathe in through your nose for the count of two. Purse your lips (as if you were going to blow on something hot) and breathe out through your lips for the count of four.

Rhythmic breathing 

The above breathing exercises can help to strengthen the lungs and diaphragm and improve breathing control, all of which will help you to breathe better during your runs.

A technique to try when running is rhythmic breathing, where the breath and movement are linked by doing a certain number of steps for each breath in and out.

The rhythm you choose will depend on preference, as well as the intensity of your run. Some common rhythms to try include:

  • Breathing in for two steps, out for three steps (2:3)

  • Breathing in for three steps, out for two steps (3:2)

  • Breathing in for three steps, out for three steps (3:3)

  • Breathing in for three steps, out for four steps (3:4)

  • Breathing in for four steps, out for three steps (4:3)

  • Breathing in for four steps, out for four steps (4:4)

As you start to perfect your breathing, you should see an improvement in your running endurance.

If you’re looking for more ways to improve your runs, why not try these internal running workouts or strength training exercises for runners?

Find your nearest PureGym here and start your fitness journey today.

All blog posts