What Is the Correct Breathing Technique When Running Long Distances? – For runners (especially those who run long distances), breathing is a critical component to their performance. Anyone who decided to download a run tracker early in their running “career” likely has historic data showing improvements that correlate with deeper knowledge on breathing techniques.
Breathing correctly while running enables you to move with greater ease and efficiency, thereby elevating performance to new heights. While integrating a new technique might feel uncomfortable at first, in time, it will help you to become a more competent runner.
That said, let’s take a look at how long distance runners should be breathing.
Using the Rhythmic Breathing Technique
Rhythmic breathing is a practice runners use to align their breath with their gait. There are several reasons this technique is practiced.
First, rhythmic breathing helps runners to time the force of their feet striking the ground (which is two to three times the person’s body weight) with their inhalation. The reason for this is that, when inhaling, the body’s diaphragm and core muscles contract and help to stabilize us, thus helping to guard runners against injury.
Second, rhythmic breathing can help to reduce stress while running and put a person into a meditative-type state. As has been detailed on the effects of breathing to reduce stress:
“Controlled breathing can cause physiological changes that include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood, reduced lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue, balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood… increased physical energy [and] increased feelings of calm and wellbeing.”
In a nutshell, rhythmic breathing requires runners to inhale for three steps and exhale for two steps. The result will be that your inhale lands on a different foot each time, reducing the pressure on one side of the body while simultaneously minimizing the number of steps where you are exhaling (and thus relaxing).
As you continue to speed up with this technique, you can transition to a two-step inhale and one-step exhale.
While this technique can be quite beneficial, injuries are still commonplace among long distance runners. Therefore, if you suffer from any allergies or medical conditions, it is critical that you always wear a medical necklace or a minimalist Apple Watch bracelet while on longer runs.
With that aside, it is also important to recognize that before you can begin to practice rhythmic breathing, you need to ensure that you master the basics of breathing while running.
The Basics of Breathing While Running
If you are a newer runner, make sure that you nail these foundational breathing practices before diving headlong into rhythmic breathing.
Inhale Through Your Nose, Exhale Through Your Mouth
Breathing in through your nose enables your nostrils to warm and filter the air that goes into your lungs. The same is not true when breathing through your mouth.
This is important as our bodies are constantly trying to reach a state of balance regarding temperatures. Breathing in through your mouth thus forces your body to work harder and can dehydrate you faster.
Therefore, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth is necessary when practicing all forms of exercise.
Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing
Many people breathe using their chest and lungs. For folks like athletes, singers and others who require lots of air, it is critical to learn to breathe with the diaphragm instead. This is because the diaphragm is a large, powerful muscle that can help draw in more air.
Using the diaphragm to inhale, it will pull the lungs downward and push the belly outward as air fills the newly available space.
It is wise and advisable to practice this breathing technique until it feels comfortable and normal for you. Once it does, you can then begin to integrate it into your exercise and running routines.
Warm Up Your Breathing Prior to Running
Just as you stretch before your run, it is also necessary to warm up your breathing so that you can get your session off on the right foot.
Running, particularly distance running, is all about stamina and pacing, which means that starting your breathing off correctly will be key to finding your groove and increasing your maximum distance by decreasing stress.
Breathing Right on a Long Distance Run
Improving your breathing is a critical task for long distance runners. By learning to utilize rhythmic breathing, runners can better their pace and distance, while reducing stress on their bodies and potential for injuries.
However, before doing so, it is vital to ensure that you have first mastered the basic breathing techniques that will allow you to fully grok rhythmic breathing. These are the basic building blocks that will allow you to successfully integrate rhythmic breathing later down the line.