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When we head out for a run, proper breathing might not be at the forefront of our mind. “Runners think about training their heart and legs, but they rarely think about training their lungs,” says Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City. However, for obvious reasons, mastering the right breathing rhythm is super important for runners. Solkin explains, “A strong respiratory system can improve your running. It’s a simple equation: Better inhaling equal more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance.”
If you’re a beginner runner, you might struggle with more huffing and puffing than an experienced one. While it might appear that some breathe and run with little effort, they were once in the same shoes as you! Here’s are some ways you can tune into your patterns to aid your lungs on future runs:
- Deep Breathing. Be selfish—take in as much as much as you can. When more oxygen is delivered to your lungs and your legs, you’re less likely to feel fatigued. “When you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in more oxygen to feed your muscles,” according to David Ross, M.D. a pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center. Ross says, “When I’m running, I concentrate on taking slow and deep breaths to strengthen my diaphragm.”
- Rhythmic Breathing. It might sound labor-intensive, but breathing with a pattern can help you run faster and longer. Everyone is capable of finding his or her own breath rhythm. According to Budd Coates, running coach and author of Running on Air, a training manual on breathing and running, having a set breathing pattern puts you in tune with how hard you’re working. A 2:2 breathing pattern ratio means you’re always exhaling and inhaling every time you land, so breathe in for two steps and out for two. For beginner runners, a 3:3 or 4:4 pattern might be more comfortable.
- Inhaling and exhaling while extending your lower stomach can be a vital way to obtain more oxygen as you run. When you breathe, concentrate on your stomach. Aim to expand and contract it as your diaphragm takes in the air and your lungs release it out. Belly breathing has been proven paramount for many runners. Research done at the Centre of Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University shows a direct correlation between strength of your diaphragm and fatigue during a marathon. Although you may not be looking to run 26.2 miles, consider the strength to be gained from this form of breathing.