While we put a lot of focus on footwear, training programs and nutrition, an important subject matter is often left out: breathing. Contrary to popular belief, effective breathing can have a large impact on one’s performance. Next time you head out for a run leave your headphones at home and tune into your breath to make sure you are breathing properly.
Your muscles require oxygen to work efficiently. Fast, shallow breathing results in diminished oxygen supply to the muscles. Therefore, focus on inhaling for longer periods of time to get as much oxygen to the muscles as possible. Additionally, slower breathing equates to a lower heart rate, and a lower heart rate equates to less aerobic stress on the cardiovascular system.
Timing your breaths can also help with pacing. For example, inhaling for two steps followed by exhaling for two steps can assist in keeping your pace steady throughout a run.
Lastly, your breathing rate can tell you a lot about your effort level. Studies have shown that the ability to talk while exercising, although labored, is a sign of exercising at one’s lactate threshold—a common metric for a high, but sustainable exercise intensity level.
Focus on your breathing rate (i.e. respiration rate), not just your stride rate and form while running. Initially, awareness of your breathing rate will require a conscious effort—however after a while, you should notice that you’re always aware your breathing rate. Anytime you run, you should be monitoring your breathing rate to ensure that you are working at the correct workload and being as efficient as possible based off the workout you are doing at that moment.
Focus on breathing in for two complete gait cycles (left, right, left, right) and breathing out for two cycles. This will help teach you to control your breathing as well as how it relates to pacing and stride rate.
Be aware of your breathing rate during your workouts will also help you determine if you are running too fast or too slow during a workout or race. If you find your breathing rate is too fast, focus on inhaling slower and if that is not possible, slow your pace until you can control your breathing rate, as noted in the breathing drill above.