How do I control my breathing during exercise?(especially RUNNING!)

I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback lately on my #FitnessFriday posts, so thank you to all of my followers/readers/subscribers!!! 🙂 Y’all are making this such a joy for me and I can’t wait to have a full archive here for you.

For this week, the topic we will tackle is- BREATHING!!

Breathing is an extremely interesting because it’s controlled involuntarily while we sleep(thank God!) and a voluntarily while we do daily activities. It turns out that breathing while exercising isn’t as easy as breathing while you’re sitting there reading this now.

Last week, I was chatting with a friend of mine who wanted to start incorporating more running in his training. He mentioned that it was really difficult for him to manage his breathing and that he felt that really uncomfortable “burn” in his throat we’ve all had the displeasure of feeling before.

  • What’s the right/wrong way to breathe?

  • Why is breathing so hard when we run?

  • How can I adjust my breathing during exercise and does it get easier?

First, let’s talk about the importance of breathing when you run/or lift.

Breathing is just as important as any other bio mechanics you focus on when you run because it can effect your performance. If you have irregular or strained breathing, your body will respond by tightening up and throwing off your whole rythm during the run. If you’re stressed and don’t breathe evenly, you’ll tire yourself out and may have to stop the run completely. Hyperventilation or anxiety can be results of improper breathing as well.

So what’s the right way to breathe??

A lot of newer runners tend to breathe panicked and tighten their fists too much and cause stress on the body which hurts the breathing. Others only breathe through their nose when they run and just overthink the process little too much. Breathing is absolutely more difficult the less fit you are too.

Posture also directly effects breathing because if you don’t remain upright and with a stable core and fluid movements, you won’t get the amount of oxygen you need. If you’re hunched over, the oxygen will have a harder time entering the respiratory system and reaching the lungs and supplying blood to the muscles being used.

  • Breathe through your Diaphragm not your chest

Breath through your diaphragm instead of chest because you get more oxygen volume taken to your lungs than short, shallow chest breathes. You can also cause yourself to hyperventilate if you use chest breathing. It does take getting used to at first but, the more you do it the more it becomes innate. Try just sitting and taking three DEEP breathes and hold each for a few seconds and release. Feel the sensation and remember it when you workout.

  • Breathe through your nose and mouth

My friend also asked me whether he should breathe through his nose or mouth on runs. I said, “Well..your mouth is bigger” so you can get more oxygen that way. But really, it’s not like I’m running around with my mouth wide open on runs! On easy runs, you may only want to breathe through your nose if your body isn’t too stressed and you aren’t that fatigued. On hard runs and workouts, you may require deeper breathes and breathe through your mouth to try and gather the most oxygen uptake.

Bottom line here- your body will adapt to it’s own “correct” way through mouth or nose. I think you should do whatever is natural for you and helps your performance as long as you breathe through your diaphragm!! and maintain a relaxed upright position.

Why is breathing hard when we run?

If you’re a new runner or building your training from scratch, it will take longer to adjust to pushing your body during exercise. Breathing may “burn” when you run and you may not feel comfortable trying to find the right way to breathe at first. That “burning” sensation you feel is your body trying to gather all of the oxygen it needs to send to your lungs as you exercise. The burn will take a while to conquer but it won’t always be this hard!

Some people inhale and exhale at wrong  times for their perspective workouts or irregularly. That won’t completely trash your run or workout but think about how much more efficient you’d be if you slowed it down and focused on deeper, controlled breathes..

One of my college teammates(who was actually really talented) would always have labored, short, loud and sporadic breathing. Whenever she would run beside or near me, I was always bothered by it and wondered why? I didn’t want it to effect my breathing either!

She didn’t have any asthma or breathing issues that I knew of either but I think she really just didn’t breathe through her diaphragm smoothly.

How can I adjust breathing during exercise and does it get easier?

Not every run or workout will require the same breathing patterns. But it’s important to not tense up and actually focus on remembering to breathe until it becomes second nature to you. That may seem silly but I’ll explain why it’s more common than not.

Many people in the gym perform what’s called the valsalva maneuver, which is basically holding your breathe when working out. It’s understandable to get fixed on an exercise so much that we forget to inhale and exhale!

The fitter you are, the more you improve breathing by increasing v02max(the max amount of oxygen uptake during exercise). That’s how it becomes easier! If you improve breathing, you improve performance and v02max increases. This can take time at first, but yes it will get easier. I honestly don’t think about my breathing when I run unless it’s during a hard workout and I really need to focus on staying relaxed to hit my times.

Higher intensity workouts will cause breathing to become more taxed as the demand for oxygen increases. Think about a sprint compared to a distance race:

A sprinter’s breathes may be quicker and more intense and a distance runner’s may have more sustained and deeper breathes.

Breathing will not always syc perfectly with body movements too and that’s okay. Sometimes breathes come after specific movements.

Yoga is a great way to learn calming and patterned breathing techniques. If you can improve your breathing, you will lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, improve metabolic benefits and heart rate.

Whether you’re a pro or a newbie, breathing can be difficult at first but it’s certainly a good aspect of training to get right so you can improve!





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