Breathing Techniques To Use Mid-Run
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. This seems like the only breathing technique runners need to know.
But there is a whole lot more that goes into proper breathing mid-run to prevent the dreaded side stitches.
A side stitch is a shooting pain under the ribcage or abdomen that can stop a runner in their tracks.
The exact cause isn’t known. However, many sports physicians think that side stitches occur from increased pressure on the diaphragm as the lungs press down on it. It is as if the diaphragm gets smooshed and thus less blood flows, causes that pain.
This is often a problem with beginner runners. But more experienced runners sometimes too get side stitches because of eating a large meal or fatty foods too close to a run. The heavy meals cause the stomach to pull down on the diaphragm.
Besides painful side stitches, not breathing right during a run causes issues. This includes feeling “winded” when breathing too hard or not enough when pushing the pace.
There are more serious breathing issues like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Consult with a physician prior to taking up running with these conditions. However, runners can run with asthma if they are able to control symptoms and flare-ups.
Breathing Tips For Runners: Nose vs. Mouth Breathing
One of the hardest parts of running is learning how to control breathing.
But mastering a breathing technique to use mid-run is possible.
The first tip to know is that runners should breathe in deeply through their nose and exhale through their mouth.
This is the go-to technique when running in colder temperatures. This is because the nose helps to warm the air before it reaches the lungs.
There are those who prefer to inhale with their mouth. The idea is that they are inhaling the max amount of oxygen possible. If this feels more natural for the runner, go for it.
The “Right” Mid-Run Breathing Technique
The debate nose vs mouth breathing is a big one. But the more important tip is to learn how to “belly breathe” mid-run.
This means breathing deep into the belly, not with the chest.
Chest breathing brings only a minimal amount of oxygen. The runner should be using their diaphragm. Focus on expanding and contacting it as oxygen is focused in and out. Keep the chest still.
Inhale And Exhale Rhythm Technique
No matter if the runner is a nose or mouth breather, they should focus on establishing a rhythm to their breathing.
Try this rhythmic technique:
Inhale long while taking two steps. Exhale for two steps. Focus on synching foot strikes to breathes.
This might also mean breathing in for four steps, out for another four. Whatever the pattern, match breathing to steps when mid-run. The goal is to always match breathing with cadence to never become out of breath.
Another technique is to time breaths to music to better match the pace. During an upbeat song, take two small but strong breaths in and exhale for two counts. Repeat.
This helps to keep breathing consistently with the pace without getting out of breath.
Practice Makes Perfect
Even when not mid-run, athletes should practice breathing techniques.
Aim to sit up straight and don’t slouch to prevent shallow breathing.
Whenever the runner has free time, practice deep belly breaths. Do so by lying down on the back with one hand on the belly, the other on the chest. Take deep breaths and be mindful on getting those deep belly ones in rather than raising the chest.
Another good trick is to just breathe through the nose. Try doing so, both inhaling and exhaling a few times. Only do not do so through the mouth.
Breathing only through the nose focus deep diaphragm breaths.
Other Breathing Tips
From the start, if the runner is out of breath they need to slow their pace. Allow time to warm up and focus on getting into that steady breathing rhythm.
A track coach once told me that it doesn’t matter what you sound like when running. He was talking about breathing and focusing on those big, deep breaths.
Don’t be conscious about making noises like breathing out heavily in a way that resembles a horse. Put some headphones in and tune out the sound.
Runners also shouldn’t hold their breath when passing others in a second of self-consciousness.
Stay hydrated throughout the run to prevent a dry mouth. It can feel harder to breathe through the mouth when it is dry.
If breaths become shallow, focus back on deep breathing, moving the stomach and not the chest while slowing down.
If side stitches occur, slow down or walk while breathing. Place arms up over the head and extended to the sides to open up the chest and get maximum air in.
Try meditating when not running. Download a breathing app or play a video that helps relax the mind and brings forth mindfulness.
Those who continue to struggle with breathing mid-run should try running intervals. They won’t need to focus so much on inhales and exhales, yet won’t become out of breath because interval training has those recovery periods when runners can catch their breath.
- Managing and Preventing Side Stitches, Health Website ,
- Ask The Running Doc: How Do I Prevent Side Stitches?, Running Blog ,
- Breathing difficulties when running, Blog ,