Ask Kikay Runner: How Should I Breathe While Running?

This is a section on my blog where I answer questions people ask me. If you have any questions for future Ask Kikay Runner entries,Β email me or join Xpert.PH to get access to more expert advice!

Hillrunner asks:

Hi Ms. Noelle I’ve been running for more than a year now. I’ve joined a lot of races and always wanted to find out if there is a proper breathing technique when running. Sometimes I think I’m working out my lungs too much.

Breathing provides oxygen which helps fuel our muscles. When you think of your body as an engine, your lungs are its cylinders and how much you breathe is your intake capacity to help burn fuel more efficiently and power the engine to go faster.

Here are two tips to help you breathe better on your next run:
Breathe fully. Singers and yoga and Pilates practitioners learn the difference between “chest breathing”, where only the top of your chest expands when you inhale, and “abdominal breathing”, where even your belly expands as you inhale. Our lungs can expand a lot, stretching from just underneath the collarbone to the belly area under your ribcage. Breathing into only the top part of your lungs (chest breathing) uses only a small part of your lung capacity, so it’s not efficient. In fact, chest breathing causes that feeling of being breathless; it also involuntarily tenses your shoulder and chest muscles, wasting energy. Abdominal breathing lets you breathe more with less effort, flooding your body with the oxygen it needs.

Abdominal breathing takes practice. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly (just above the bellybutton). As you breathe, the hand on your chest should remain steady while the hand on your belly should move with the expansion and deflation in your abdomen. This kind of breathing also allows you to breathe more slowly, so you don’t hyperventilate and your body gets its cue to relax.

Breathe rhythmically. I heard Coach Jojo Macalintal give this advice to Piolo Pascual as we ran the Sunpiology Run 12K last year. He said, “1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe.” He meant for Piolo to inhale for four steps and exhale for four steps. At a sprint pace you might need to breathe in for two steps and breath out for two steps. You can also try a 3-3 pattern, breathing in for three steps then breathing out for three steps.

Again, these breaths need to be deep. If you’re chest breathing, your legs are probably going too fast for your lungs to catch up. You’ll need to slow down to avoid burning yourself out.

I hope these tips help!

About Noelle De Guzman

Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer and recreational athlete with over 12 years of experience in fitness and endurance sport. She believes sport and an active healthy lifestyle changes lives.

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