Just before you crest a hill or reach the end of a speed interval, your lungs go into overdrive. Your breath becomes shallow and rapid. You think if only you could pull in more air, you could surge up that hill or maintain your pace. But the more your chest heaves, the more you struggle. You may even end up exhausted, bent over, gasping for air.
Just as we strength-train our hamstrings and calves to improve our ability to power over hills, we can tone the muscles used for breathing. When you take a breath, 80 percent of the work is done by the diaphragm. If you strengthen your diaphragm, you may improve your endurance and be less likely to become fatigued. Most runners are “chest breathers”-not “belly breathers.” Every time you breathe in, your belly should fill up like a balloon and every time you breathe out, that balloon should deflate. When you chest breathe, your shoulders get tense and move up and down. That’s wasted energy. Chest breathing can be a hard habit to break-especially while you’re preoccupied with keeping pace or calculating splits. One way to make the switch easier is to work on belly breathing when you’re not running, and the skill will eventually carry over to your running.
Open Your Mouth
Your mouth is larger than your nostrils, so it’s more effective at taking in oxygen. Also, keeping your mouth open keeps your face more relaxed, which makes it easier to breathe deeply.
Breathe in Patterns
Coordinating your inhales and exhales with your footfalls develops diaphragmatic strength. Start with a 2-2 pattern-breathe in while stepping left, right; breathe out while stepping left, right. Advance to 3-3 (breathe in, step left, right, left; breathe out, step right, left, right), and then a 4-4 pattern.
Thanks to Runners World for theses great breathing tips.