Breathing Efficiently


A few readers have asked me, “how should I breathe while running?” So today’s post is in direct response to your questions.  Much of the material is summarized and applied from an article in Runner’s World that discusses the book, Running on Air by: Bud Coates, M.S., and Claire Kowalichik. Their belief is that by using a breathing pattern you can: 1) prevent injury, and 2) increase your oxygen capacity which decreases your times.

How Can Proper Breathing Prevent Injury?

If you are one of those runners who always finds themselves hurt—especially on the same side of the body—listen up because this method is especially for you.
The impact on your body is two to three times your body weight while running. When you inhale you cause your diaphragm to contract (your diaphragm is a muscle that helps expand and contract your lungs). And when you exhale your diaphragm relaxes. As your it relaxes your core is left unstable and susceptible to injury—especially through the hips, knees, and back. So, if you are always breathing out on the same leg, you open yourself to injury.
Remember when you were in college and you wore that stylish side satchel? Eventually, your back and hips would begin to hurt from continually wearing it on one side. So what did you do? You switched it to the other side. This concept applies directly to your breathing while running. Here is how it happens:

Run  >  Inhale  >  Flex Diaphragm  >  Flexing Creates Core Stability
Run  >  Exhale  >  Relax Diaphragm  >  Relaxing Creates Core Instability (increased risk of injury)

Re-establish Your Breathing and Increase Your Capability

In proper breathing the key is to inhale longer than you exhale. Thus you flex your diaphragm longer which creates a stable core. Coates and Kowalichik suggest breathing in a 3:2 pattern which means you breathe in while you run three steps, then breath out while you run the next two steps, then repeat. This allows you to alternate what side of the body you are exhaling. They claim this technique will help you avoid injury and drop significant amounts of time.

Here are the 6 steps to better breathing from the Runner’s World article:

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Place your hand on your belly and make sure that you are belly breathing (see their article linked below for a detailed description on how and why your should belly breath)
3. Breathe through your nose and your mouth.
4. Inhale to the count of three and exhale to the count of two. You might count it this way: “in-2-3,” “out-2,” “in-2-3,” “out-2,” and so forth.
5. Concentrate on a continuous breath as you inhale over the three counts and a continuous breath as you exhale over the two counts.
6. Once you become comfortable with the inhale/exhale pattern, add foot strikes to mimic walking steps.

Essentially, once you have mastered walking the steps you move to jogging and then running. Personally, I think it’s hard to breath out for only one count. However, I’m willing to try anything to get me moving faster! If you want to learn more go pick up his book and dive in. If you want something more basic, check out our previous article and read the part about ‘mantras’.  Hopefully, you can get out there, try something new, and stay injury free.


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4 Responses to Breathing Efficiently

  1. Laurie July 7, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Just a quick note – fix your spelling error. There is “breath” and there is ” breathe”. Take a breath. Breathe correctly. :) Thanks for the post!

    • Stacie July 14, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      Oh my word! I can’t believe I did not catch that! Thank you, thank you!

  2. Amber May 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Super excited to try this. I am looking forward to find more tips on your site. Running my first half marathon in June.

  3. Anne-Marie September 12, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    Thanks for the post. Will be giving it a go!

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