I sometimes wonder if there’s any truth in the saying that some people are “natural born runners”. This past weekend, I ran with a beginner runner who was able to maintain a faster pace than me while going up a hill of 6% grade over a 5-kilometer ascent. The same runner barely broke a sweat when we ran a little more than 10k, 5 days prior to our hill run. Wanna know the first thing I noticed about his running that isn’t very common in many runners? He paced his breathing. I mean, I couldn’t hear him breathe and he never had to catch his breath.
Rhythmic breathing is a common technique that not many runners talk about. It’s kind of a weird topic of conversation and it’s not exactly the easiest question to answer: “hey, how do you control your breathing while running?” So I did some digging and found some pretty good advice on how to pace your breathing while running.
- Breathe through your mouth and not your nose – you can get more more air in through your mouth than your nose – it also helps you maintain a relaxed facial composure whereas breathing through your nose can cause you to clench your jaws or tighten your facial muscles (relax, buddy!) –Solkin, “Every Breath You Take“
- Breathe from your stomach, not your chest – wha?? Breathing from your chest causes your shoulder muscles to tense, which can actually give you bad form. And, once again, you’re able to breathe in more oxygen (and expel more CO2) when you breathe from your stomach than your chest. Pilates can actually help runners develop proper breathing! –“Pilates Moves for Runners”
- Correlate your breathing with your running speed – rhythmic breathing is something that you develop over a lot of practice. Ever ran a race when you initially set the pace you wanted to run, only to break that pace at the starting line? Those fast runners. They’re always throwing us off! Find a breathing pattern that works for your usual running pace and stick to it (e.g. breathe in for 3 steps and out for 2, or breathe in and out every 2 steps)
- If you can hear it, you will feel it – so, slow down –Solkin
- Improve your cardiovascular system – run intervals, perform your strides, increase training duration, and increase weekly mileage. Running at race pace pushes your maximum rate of oxygen consumption (VO2max). Longer runs and higher weekly mileage increases blood hemoglobin concentration, enabling you to improve your oxygen-carrying capacity. –Karp, “Lungs and running performance“
Got a technique for controlling your breathing? Don’t forget to share it as a comment!