If you’re feeling breathless when out on your run, it may be down to your breathing technique. Here we take a quick look at different breathing techniques for runners and their benefits.

black and white image of male runner focusing on his legs

How to breathe while running

Is it better to breathe through your mouth or nose while running?

Generally speaking it is better to inhale with your nose and exhale with your mouth when you are running. This will have several benefits including:

  • naturally cleaning the air before it reaches your lungs
  • reducing the CO2 in the blood system more efficiently
  • reduction in breathing rate
  • increased breathing control (focus)
  • some evidence supports increased endurance

However, if you are going at a faster pace or sprinting, mouth breathing will almost automatically take over as the body is working harder and needs oxygen quicker.

Mouth breathing while jogging or running is ok, but there are cases where runners ‘over-breathe’ or hyperventilate. Try running and breathing in with your nose and out with your mouth on your next run. It may take some time to get used to, but you might find you begin running further and for longer.

What are the 3 breathing techniques and tips for runners?

Belly breathing

Belly breathing is very difficult to do while running, but it can be done in warm-up, cool-down and in cross-training sessions. It is very difficult to do while on the go because it requires a relaxed core. 

The benefits of belly breathing are that you are filling your lungs to full capacity. Have you ever seen a free-diver? They will ‘belly-breath’ for a good while before they attempt to go hundreds of meters below the surface. Why? Because they are literally filling every last capillary in their lungs with oxygen, and filling their muscles with a source of oxygen. This then allows them to go underwater for over 3 minutes.

For running, belly-breathing is beneficial beforehand and after because it opens up your lungs and feeds oxygen to all parts of the body.

female athlete running through the woods

How do you belly breath?

A simple way to belly breath is to lie on your back on the floor and breathe in as deeply as possible, watching your belly rise. Then, you slowly exhale. If you repeat for a couple of minutes you will be filling your lungs to capacity.

Chest breathing

Chest breathing happens while on the go. When you breathe through your nose while running you will feel your chest rising and falling. 

Rhythmic breathing

Rhythmic breathing is breathing in time. The most obvious example of rhythmic breathing can be found in swimming. When swimming you are forced to breathe after every 2 or 3 strokes, and this creates a rhythm. This can also be used while running. You can breathe in after every 4 strides or so. Rhythmic breathing creates extra focus while running and can divert attention away from the task in hand. What this means is that if you are running for a long time or over very long distances, you can use rhythmic breathing to stay focussed in the here and now rather than have that mental battle about how far left you have to go! It has a meditative quality too,  as it keeps your mind focussed and helps to keep your pace smooth and steady.

female exercising and running through the woods

So, the next time you’re planning to go for a jog or run, try belly breathing for a few minutes before setting off. Then, if you want to keep a steady pace you could try rhythmic nasal breathing. It might make you go further, reduce fatigue, and keep you focussed.