Did you know that breathing wrong can affect your walk and that way you can be exposed to injuries?
Running is a great exercise to learn breathing correctly and develop a strong walking ability along with carrying a backpack on your back.
Being in great shape is key for a great hiking journey without injuries.
Like strengthening our legs, running can strengthen our chest muscles that our body uses to breathe.
The diaphragm and the intercostal muscles are involved in the breathing process. In time those muscles lose their elasticity, that is why it is very important to exercise and maintain your body in good shape.
We all know that endurance is crucial when hiking. You must take a certain distance in a certain time and you carry a certain amount of gear on you. Running will help you maintain a great physique and you will develop the endurance ability.
How to improve breathing while running?
Each individual person that practices a certain sports activity for a long period of time will develop by itself a breathing technique that is best suited for the activity he/she is doing. For example, yoga has the breathing technique suited for yoga exercises, boxers have other breathing techniques suited for boxing, and so on.
There are breathing techniques developed for running that will improve your running efficiency thus making your body stronger.
Breathe fully = live fully
Before we get deeper, is very important to understand what is the breathing process, and what is going on in your body during that process.
Breathing process is divided into two separate stages:
- Inhalation – Breathing in, air enters your lungs, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward to increase your chest. The intercostal muscles between the ribs also help expand your chest. When the lungs expand the air is sucked in through the nose and mouth. Oxygen-rich air is carried through your lungs to your bloodstream which will provide your body with life force oxygen.
- Exhalation – Breathing out, the diaphragm relaxing and returning to its default position moving upwards into the chest. The intercostal muscles also are relaxing and the chest is decreasing in size. That is pushing the dioxide carbon out of the body. Normally exhalation doesn’t require effort from the body unless you are doing physical activity. In that case, the abdominal muscles are contracting, forcing the diaphragm against the lungs even more, for a faster breathing process.
Connect your brain with your lungs!
Learn how to control breathing while running.
The breathing process is controlled by the brain, a signal is sent to the muscles involved in breathing that force them to contract.
Breathing is changing depending on the activity you are doing. You are breathing more when active and less when the body is resting. Many times our emotional state can change our breathing without even noticing, this process is hard to take under control.
For example, if you are in a dangerous situation, our body acts instinctively and you start breathing more to provide more oxygen to your body so you can act instantly.
Types of breathing
Shallow chest breathing – aka chest breathing, is the type of breathing that involves just the intercostal muscles. Provides the minimal amount of air into the lungs. Should not be used while running.
Breathing from the belly – aka diaphragmatic breathing, believe it or not but taking a full chest of air is actually not the maximum capacity of air you can induce to your lungs. Breathing from the belly actually is providing more air in the lungs, and is very important to develop a habit to breathe from the belly.
The beginning of exhalation is the breaking point!
Studies showed that the greatest impact stress when running, occurs in the moment of the beginning of exhalation that coincides with one footstrike.
That is very crucial to understand because at this moment our muscles that are responsible for breathing are relaxed. Your foot hits the ground with a force twice or thrice more than your body weight. In that short moment, our body is exposed to get injured, for example you can sprain a foot.
To avoid that, you have to develop a breathing technique that will diminish the repeated stress.
Don’t forget to consult your physician before proceeding to any exercise program.
Rhythmic breathing technique – is used for running, and a great way to induce more oxygen into your body and minimize the impact of running on your body. Timing the foot strike with the inhalation, not the exhalation.
Types of breathing patterns while running:
- Even pattern
- Odd pattern
Even vs Odd
Any type of pattern you choose is better when you combine it with the belly breathing. Even breathing pattern is the normal, usual breathing, it is about 3 steps inhale and 3 steps exhale. That also means that inhalation and exhalation will always start when you step on a certain leg.
You can be always inhaling on the left and exhaling on the right (may vary). Try to walk and count the steps on inhalation and exhalation to figure out your breathing pattern.
Avoid stressing your body on the same side repeatedly!
Odd breathing pattern needs a bit of practice because you must control your breathing matching the steps.
At first start running at a slow pace, 3 steps you inhale and 2 steps you exhale. This will help you get the hang of odd rhythmic breathing, when breathing becomes easy and comfortable, you can hit a quicker pace, maintaining the same pattern but 2 steps inhale and 1 step exhale. You will exhale each time on a different foot thus minimizing the stress on one side only.
Breathing through nose or mouth?
You must learn how to pace your breathing while running. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Breathe through the nose is designed to provide oxygen to our body when we are resting.
Your nose can provide oxygen in limited quantity, and when the air is not sufficed you start drawing air through your mouth.
The need for more oxygen will force you to breathe through the mouth.
Do not force yourself breathing through the nose only.
Yes, it’s true that air is filtered and warmed when breathing through nose, but you don’t need to put that extra stress on your body.
In time your body will learn to use the oxygen more efficiently and you will be breathing in through your nose and exhaling through the mouth.
Tips and Advice
- Try inhaling and exhaling only through your nose while running, that way you will find out the limit of the easy and comfortable running.
- Each time you exhale deeply, the inhalation will be also deeper by itself. (Try now!)
- Practice belly breathing at home, develop a habit of belly breathing.
- Avoid shallow chest breathing while running.
Training is the key!
Each time when you’ll be running and focusing on rhythmic breathing your body will develop the best breathing technique suited only for you, for maximum efficiency, speed, and endurance.
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Also, be sure to check out our definitive guide to Orienteering.