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How to breathe while running: tips and breathing techniques

Short of breath after just a few minutes of running? Don't worry: here's what you need to know about breathing while running and the best breathing techniques to train your diaphragm.

Budding runners often find themselves out of breath after just a few minutes of training. It has happened to everyone, especially at the beginning, and there are two reasons why it happens, both equally important. Firstly, speed. Running is all about taking things step by step and not expecting 'everything and anything' from your body. The importance of listening to your limits in this respect is fundamental: you are likely to feel short of breath if you run too fast. On the other side of the coin, it could mean that you are breathing incorrectly.
It is not trivial to keep your breathing controlled and constant while running: you need training, concentration and moderation, because breathing too quickly could cause episodes of hyperventilation. It is better to breathe in a shallow way and well, or rather, to breathe with quality.

How to breathe while running: is it better through the mouth or the nose?

Good running requires a good dose of oxygen. And for this very reason, it is necessary to dispel a myth: despite the common belief that it is better to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, it is better to breathe only through the mouth to ensure that your body is properly oxygenated when running. While the nose can warm and filter the air, the mouth allows more oxygen to enter the body (which is much needed when the body is under stress).

Breathing while running: what's the difference between diaphragmatic and thoracic breathing?

Before we look at which technique is best during a run, we must first say: what is the difference between diaphragmatic and thoracic breathing? If in the first case the action of the diaphragm prevails, in the second the intercostals and scalene are more active. In addition, while diaphragmatic (or abdominal) breathing ensures that the maximum amount of oxygen is introduced into the body and makes it possible for air to remain in the lungs, this is not the case with thoracic breathing. To run well from your first running session, therefore, you need to learn abdominal breathing and take advantage of its benefits from the start.

Exercises to learn the diaphragmatic breathing

In order to learn how to apply abdominal breathing when running, it is essential to start with exercises on basic techniques. In this sense, the most useful exercise for beginners is deep diaphragmatic breathing.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing while seated

Sit on the sofa or armchair: the important thing is to feel comfortable and to maintain a sitting position with a straight back, without forcing yourself. Inhale for about seven seconds in a slow and gradual way, filling your lungs and expanding your diaphragm. Exhale, slowly, always counting seven seconds and contract your diaphragm. This is a useful exercise to practice every day because, as well as helping with breathing during running and training the diaphragm, it also helps to reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing while lying down

Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Relax and start breathing naturally. After a few warm-up breaths, place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose and concentrate on inflating your stomach only, without raising your chest. Exhale through your mouth, emptying your stomach completely. The exhalation should be done in a natural way, without too much haste but not too slowly either: a bit like a puff or a breath of relief.

How to apply diaphragmatic breathing while running?
The above exercises should already help you a lot in learning diaphragmatic breathing so that, once you have trained your abdomen, you should be able to run while breathing in this way almost unconsciously. But to give your running session an extra boost, you can dedicate a special place to abdominal breathing during the warm-up.

Abdominal breathing in running

After stretching, which is essential in every discipline, walk at a normal pace, inhaling through your nose and inflating your abdomen. Then exhale through your mouth, emptying your stomach completely. To help you with your breathing, you can add the movement of your arms: raise them up to shoulder height in a perpendicular axis to your body as you inhale and lower them along your chest as you exhale. Step by step, breath by breath, you will gain more and more confidence with this breathing technique.

If you feel ready, increase the speed of your walk while keeping your breathing constant. The advice is to precede each run with a session dedicated to abdominal breathing: it only takes five minutes of diaphragmatic training to feel the difference.

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