“How do we breath when we run? Let these running tips help. Read them now!”
I’ve heard people advocate breathing in through the mouth and out through the mouth, using slow breathing rhythms, and all sorts of nonsense. Nothing irks me quite like the spread of misinformation, especially when it pertains to training topics. Therefore, I am happy to help set the record straight.
Breathing through your nose or your mouth?
You should always breathe in and out primarily through your mouth when running. If your nose wants to join the party and help get air in and out, that’s great. However, when you’re running, feeding your muscles the oxygen they need is of paramount importance, and breathing through the mouth is the most effective way to inhale and exhale oxygen.
Your exact breathing rhythm will depend on how hard or easy you are running and/or the intended intensity of your workout. Breathing rhythms refer to the number of foot steps you take with each foot while breathing in or out. For example, a 2:2 rhythm would mean you take two steps (one with your right foot and one with the left) while breathing in and two steps (again, one with your right foot and one with your left) while breathing out.
Typically, you’ll find that a 3:3 rhythm (three steps – one with your left, one with your right, one with your left – while breathing in) works best for warm-ups and most easy paced days. This allows plenty of oxygen to be inhaled through the lungs, processed, and then exhaled with relative ease.
Don’t try to force yourself into a 3:3 breathing rhythm on an easy day if it isn’t feeling comfortable. Remember, the purpose of an easy day is to keep your effort comfortable and to help the body recover. If a 2:2 rhythm (described below) is more comfortable, go with it.
Breathing slower than a 3:3 rhythm is not advised because you’re not giving your body enough time to clear carbon dioxide. The average runner should take about 180 steps per minute (some a little less, others a little more), which means you take 90 steps with each foot in a one minute span. A 3:3 rhythm enables you to take about 30 breaths per minute, ample time to process carbon dioxide while still getting in the oxygen you need.
Moderate paced runs
Runs harder than an easy run, but not all out race efforts, should typically be performed at a 2:2 ratio (two steps – one with your left, one with your right – while breathing in, two steps – one with your left, one with your right – while breathing out). A 2:2 breathing rhythm enables you take about 45 breaths per minute, which is perfect for steady state, tempo runs, and marathon pace runs.
Hard workouts and Races
At the end of races or the end of a particularly hard interval session, a 2:2 breathing might not cut it. In this case, you can switch to a 1:2 (one step breathing in, two steps breathing out) or 2:1 (two steps breathing in and one step breathing out) breathing rhythm. This will increase your oxygen uptake to 60 breaths per minute. More at How to Breathe When Running