woman running a 10k

Not sure how to breathe when running? 5 tips to improve your run

Posted by for Strength

Try these expert tips for mastering your breath when running, to help you get faster and go further.

Just because you don’t lift heavy weights while you’re running doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to your form. In order to maximise your performance and avoid injury, you have to make sure you have your technique sorted.

Admittedly, this is easier said than done. As running gets your heart rate up, it is all too easy to forget the rest of your technique while you focus on simply breathing. But breathwork and technique are more entwined than you think: mastering your inhaling and exhaling will help your body go faster and further. 

Before your next run, read these five simple steps to help you get control of your breath and push you closer to your personal best.

1. Relax

“The art to breathing correctly when running is staying as relaxed as possible,’ explains Rachael Woolston, founder of Girls Run the World, the training platform and community for women in running and triathlon. “Your body will get in the oxygen it needs – as long as you’re not anxious about it.” 

Unfortunately, telling yourself not to be anxious doesn’t help reduce anxiety. Rachael recommends following a proper plan to get you through your runs – that way you can trust the process and put your mind at ease knowing that you are working at a consistent rate. 

2. Use the mouth

How you breathe in and out won’t just affect your nervous system, but the whole body. “When you’re running at hard efforts, you need to get as much oxygen in as possible to fuel your muscles, so use both the nose and the mouth,” advises Rachael. 

“But when on an easier run, breathing through your mouth helps to keep your jaw, and therefore your shoulders relax.” This proper posture is so important to minimise injury of the joints and muscles in the whole body, including the knees

Try to relax when you run to improve the run

3. Learn to be uncomfortable

Running is hard, especially if it’s something that your body isn’t used to doing. Settling into the feeling will help: “You can often get that horrible burning feeling in your lungs, and if you’re not used to that it can make you anxious,” Rachael adds. “When that happens, it can be quite good to let out a big, deep exhalation just to regain control of the breath.” 

Remember: consistency and planning will get you there eventually.

4. Improve your fitness

Don’t run to get fit, get fit to run. “If you’re finding breathing difficult, then that often can be a sign that you need to build up your aerobic fitness. Skipping can be a fantastic way of building that up, especially by doing it in short bursts like 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off. That not only helps you develop your cardio fitness but will also develop your plyometric strength, which is exactly the mechanism that you use for running.”

5. Practice makes perfect 

Practicing your breath outside of the run is key. “Work on your yoga breath, so that you can get in tune with your inhalation, retention and exhalation,” says Rachael. “Building that up outside of training can really help you stay in control when you are running, whether fast or slow.” She recommends practicing with an inhale for three, holding for two, exhaling for three and building that up so you can work at a 8:4:8 pattern. “Stay relaxed around the jaw, mouth and nostrils when you do it so that it’s keeping that flowing, controlled movement is also important.”

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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