Tips to Manage your Breath While Running

Tips to manage breathing while running.

Running presents one of the most significant obstacles in addressing breathing pattern disorders. While my work over the last 25 years has been around running and running-related mechanical issues, it is not a shock that almost 50% of those who are active, and even in the endurance category, have some breathing pattern issues. Running makes this more of a challenge, as gravity and its effects on us can increase up to 12X body weight. Here are some tips to help you manage your breath while running.

Warm up and Mobilize your Breathing System

The simplest way to make significant changes is to warm up well and mobilize around the rib cage and gut/abdominal area. 

Warm-up example 1: 

Start with any rotational movement and rotate into your end range of motion and hold. Draw air in as you rotate and find this end range. Holding in place, fill your lungs with as much air as possible and hold for a few seconds. Release the air while working to gain a little more range and hold. Repeat bringing in air in and holding for a few seconds and releasing for 3–5 repetitions. 

Warm-up example 2:

Placing your fingers on the edge of the front of your rib cage and abdominal muscles, work to get your fingers under your rib cage bones slowly as you draw deep slow breaths in and out through the nose. Work the front of the rib cage around to the sides for several breaths over a 5-10 minute period to free up the diaphragm a bit.  

Build your Breathing Tolerance 

Interval Work

Move at a pace that allows you to breathe through your nose. Slowly increase the intensity until you can longer breathe through only your nose. Once that happens, slow down and/or walk until you’re able to breathe through only your nose again. Repeat this buildup and drawdown as an interval routinely to speed up the benefits of this process.

Slow and Steady Approach

Another option is to simply run slow enough to allow your primary breathing muscles to do more of the work for longer. Nasal breathing engages the primary breathing muscles to work MORE because of the resistance it creates. Biochemically–and below moderate levels of effort–this only helps us use oxygen by improving our oxygen/carbon dioxide dissociation curve. If you want to learn more about this resistance, check out this article, where I discuss the differences between nasal and mouth breathing

Controlled Breathing = Efficiency

This may take some time, but there is no reason why you can not look at this as routine interval work. Even the fastest sprinters in the world in the 100m and sometimes the 200m do not open their mouths. It is only necessary after the effort. Although sprinting is not the goal here, you can understand that significant work is still being done for us. 

In any case, when moving, we are all staving off the inevitable process of blood stealing. This phenomenon starts diverting blood from the loco-motor muscles to our diaphragm and intercostals when they fatigue. The weaker or more dysfunctional our breathing, the faster we use up limited energy sources and start to break down. 

If you’re interested in improving your breathing to better train endurance, check out our endurance program called SH//FT Sustain that’s included in All-Access. It’s a 24-week progression based on my New York Times bestselling book, The Unbreakable Runner.