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How to Breathe When Running

Running is an excellent way to stay fit and improve your cardiovascular health, but to perform at your best, it’s crucial to understand the role of your diaphragm in the breathing process. Proper breathing techniques can significantly impact your running performance, ensuring you get more oxygen into your body.

In this article, we’ll explore what the diaphragm is and how it works, and provide practical tips on how to use your diaphragm while running for optimal results.

If you’re interested in pre-season conditioning, contact the experienced physical therapists at Paspa Physical Therapy. Our physical therapists appreciate the benefits of one-to-one sessions with their clients. Book an appointment now at our practice in Manhattan, New York.

What is the Diaphragm and How Does it Work?

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located just below your lungs, separating the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. Its primary function is to facilitate the process of breathing.

When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, creating more space in the chest cavity. This action allows your lungs to expand, drawing in air and oxygen. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, pushing carbon dioxide out of your lungs.

A woman at gym learning how to breathe while running.

How to Breathe with Your Diaphragm

Breathing with your diaphragm (also known as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing) involves using this muscle to its fullest potential. This deep belly breathing technique allows for deeper and more efficient breathing, providing your body with a higher volume of oxygen.

To practice belly breathing, implement the following steps:

  1. Lie on your back and get comfortable. Try to relax your shoulders.

  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.

  3. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm contracts. Your chest should remain relatively still while your belly should rise.

  4. Exhale slowly and steadily through your mouth or nose, feeling your abdomen contract as your diaphragm relaxes.

In order to establish this type of breathing, practice this technique for 15 to 20 minutes a day every day, or every other day, for a couple of weeks. In time, these breathing patterns should become second nature.

How to Breathe While Running

Incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into your running routine can significantly improve your performance. Follow these steps to effectively integrate abdominal breathing while running:

  1. Warm up your lungs: A dynamic warm-up will not only get your legs ready for your run but will also prepare your respiratory system. You should also focus on opening up your chest to expand your diaphragm and make belly breathing more efficient.

  2. Start Slowly: Begin your run at a comfortable pace to establish a rhythm.

  3. Practice Belly Breathing: Focus on deep belly breathing by allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale. This action draws more air into your lungs and maximizes oxygen intake.

  4. Maintain a Rhythmic Pattern: Sync your breathing pattern with your foot strikes. Try inhaling for three steps and exhaling for two. This rhythmic pattern helps maintain a steady flow of oxygen.

  5. Combine Both Your Nose and Mouth Breathing: For high-intensity runs or when you need more air, nasal breathing alone will limit the amount of breath you can take in. Combine nasal and mouth breathing to ensure you’re getting enough oxygen.

  6. Monitor Your Breathing Rate: Pay attention to your breathing rate. If you’re taking shallow breaths or experiencing side stitches, slow down and focus on deep, rhythmic breathing.

A man not using his diaphragm properly while running.

Signs You Are Not Using Your Diaphragm Properly

Recognizing signs that you’re not using your diaphragm effectively while running is crucial to improving your breathing technique. Be sure to keep the following in mind while running:

  • Shallow Chest Breathing: If you primarily breathe using your chest, you may be missing out on the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing.

  • Faster Pace Leads to Rapid Breathing: When you speed up, your breathing should also increase. However, you may not be benefiting if your breathing becomes erratic. Try to maintain controlled and deep rhythmic breathing.

  • Difficulty Maintaining a Rhythmic Pattern: Struggling to synchronize your breath with your stride could indicate improper diaphragmatic use.

  • Low Oxygen Levels: Feeling fatigued or struggling to maintain a faster pace due to inadequate oxygen intake may be a sign of inefficient breathing.

Tips for Breathing When Running

To enhance your breathing technique and overall running performance, consider the following tips:

  • Gradually Increase Intensity: When incorporating diaphragmatic breathing, start with shorter runs at a slower pace and gradually increase both distance and intensity.

  • Work with a Running Coach: A running coach can provide personalized guidance and help you develop proper breathing habits.

  • Focus on Good Posture: Maintain good posture to allow your diaphragm to work efficiently, reducing the impact of stress on your body.

  • Combine Breathing Techniques: Experiment with different breathing techniques to find what works best for you, considering factors like terrain and intensity.

A couple practicing good breathing techniques while running in Manhattan, NY.

Key Takeaways About Better Breathing Techniques

Mastering the art of using your diaphragm while running can significantly enhance your performance by increasing oxygen intake and ensuring your muscles receive the necessary fuel.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting, incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into your exercise routine can help you reach your fitness goals and enjoy a more efficient and enjoyable running experience. Practice deep belly breathing, maintain a rhythmic pattern, and monitor your breathing rate to optimize your running performance and achieve the maximum oxygen intake your body needs.

Learn How a Physical Therapist Can Help

If you would like to find out how a physical therapist can help you with your pre-season conditioning, including establishing a proper breathing technique, contact us at Paspa Physical Therapy today! Our practice has a fully equipped gym with private treatment rooms for your comfort.

Book an appointment now in Manhattan, New York. We look forward to helping you get the most out of your runs!

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