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wikiHow to Control Breathing While Running

Three Parts:Matching Your Breathing to Your Running PaceBreathing with the Correct TechniqueTraining to Breathe More EfficientlyCommunity Q&A

Running is one of the most natural forms of exercise there is. But learning to breathe properly while you’re running doesn’t always come naturally. When you’re breathing incorrectly, you might be discouraged to find that you’re losing steam too quickly and unable to get into a good rhythm. Fortunately, learning to control your breathing is simple. It only requires that you establish a consistent tempo, breathe deeply and practice running to increase your cardiovascular endurance.

Part 1
Matching Your Breathing to Your Running Pace

  1. 1
    Determine the intensity of your run. Since you won’t always be running at the same speed, you should implement breathing techniques that suit the intensity of your workout. Think about whether you’re going on a quick jog or training for a marathon. Your breathing might be slower and more natural for an easy session, whereas you’ll have to take a more structured approach for harder runs to make sure you don’t get exhausted too quickly.[1][2]
    • It will be especially important to keep your breathing under control during tougher runs.
    • For easy runs and light jogging, you may be comfortable continuing to breathe normally.
  2. 2
    Develop a tempo in your steps. Once you’re in motion, count the steps you’re taking and see what kind of rhythm develops. Your aim should be to synchronize your breathing to your running tempo. Think of each step as a “beat” and then decide how many beats each inhale and exhale should be. That way, as long as you keep running, you’ll keep breathing.[3]
    • Group your steps together in sets of four beats to help you mentally keep track of your rhythm. 1-2-3-4 translates to left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
  3. 3
    Keep your breathing in time with your steps. Now that you’ve singled out your running rhythm, use your steps to keep time with your breathing. Many running coaches suggest a “2-2” pace for moderate-intensity runs, meaning that you’ll inhale to the count of two (one step with the left foot, one step with the right) then exhale to the count of two. For more difficult runs, you may feel better trying a 3-2 pace (to take in more oxygen), or quickening the entire tempo of your breathing with a rapid 2-1 (inhale on left, right, exhale on left) pattern.[4][5]
    • Experts sometimes disagree on whether it’s better to have a longer inhale or exhale. Do what feels more natural for you.
    • Faster tempos like 2-1 may work better for high-intensity bursts such as sprint intervals.
  4. 4
    Adjust your breathing as your intensity changes. Change your breathing to be consistent with your pace. As you begin to tire and slow down, so should your breaths, ramping down to a deeper, more controlled cadence. Likewise, when you speed up or go out for more intense training sessions, you should adopt a breathing tempo that allows you to get as much oxygen as you need to keep performing at an optimal level.[6]
    • Don’t let your breathing slacken too much. It’s important to keep new air moving in and out to maintain your stamina.[7]

Part 2
Breathing with the Correct Technique

  1. 1
    Breathe through your mouth. Unlike when you’re respiring normally, you should always breathe in and out through your mouth while you’re running. The reason for this is that it allows more oxygen to reach the lungs at a faster rate. Purse your lips slightly and keep your breaths tight and controlled. Try not to pant or let your mouth hang open as you get tired.[8]
    • If you catch yourself panting, you should either slow down or switch to a breathing pattern that you can more easily regulate. Panting is a symptom of exhaustion and is usually a sign of poor breath control.
    • You should be breathing forcefully enough to be able to hear yourself while running.
  2. 2
    Expand your belly, not your chest. When most people breathe, they raise and lower their chests as their lungs expand and contract. Chest breathing restricts how much your lungs can fill up because they are caged in by the ribs and breastbone. Instead, imagine that you’re breathing through your stomach and let your belly protrude with each breath. This is known as “diaphragmatic breathing,” because it flexes your diaphragm and helps it move out of the way, letting you take fuller breaths.[9][10]
    • To get the hang of diaphragmatic breathing, act like you’re pushing your belly out to make yourself look fat.
    • Diaphragmatic breathing gives the lungs more room to expand out and downwards.
  3. 3
    Get the most out of each breath. Your breathing should be part of your running technique, not a byproduct of fatigue. Concentrate on pulling in good, revitalizing oxygen every time you inhale. Force out the spent carbon dioxide before you take your next breath. Oxygen fuels your body as you run, so make sure you’re getting as much of it as you can.[11]
    • Breathing too shallowly can cause you to lose steam because you’re gradually putting your body into an oxygen deficit.
  4. 4
    Don’t hold your breath. It’s easy to forget to breathe when you’re worn out, but holding your breath will just make things harder for you. Remind yourself to breathe constantly and try to find the right rhythm to match your running pace. If you need to, slow down and give your lungs a chance to catch up. The worst thing you can do as a runner is burn through oxygen without replenishing it.[12]
    • If you’re breathing audibly, it can help remind you not to hold your breath.
    • Breath control is a more advanced skill for the average runner. Inexperienced runners tend to hold their breath because they’re focused on running with proper technique.

Part 3
Training to Breathe More Efficiently

  1. 1
    Warm up thoroughly. The better warmed up you are, the more easily oxygen will be able to travel through your bloodstream. Always perform a satisfactory warm up before setting out on a run. Move your thighs, hips knees and ankles through their full ranges of motion, continuously for five minutes or more. Move around enough to get your heart beating faster and your blood pumping. Do some slow, deep breathing as you warm up to prepare your lungs to meet the demands of exertion.[13]
    • Warming up loosens up the muscles and improves circulation, which means oxygen can be carried more efficiently to different parts of the body.
    • A proper warm up will also help you ease soreness and avoid injury.
  2. 2
    Run more frequently. If you often find yourself short of breath while you’re running, it might just mean that you’re out of shape. Schedule a couple more running sessions throughout the week and supplement these sessions with weight training, stretching or another form of exercise. Don’t push yourself to do too much too soon. Build up your cardiovascular conditioning gradually until you’re ready for longer, more intense runs.[14]
    • If you’re a new runner, start small and work your way up. Try walking and jogging first and increase your speed little by little until you can handle the stress of running long distances.
    • You’ll find that as you run more, your breathing will get better naturally.
  3. 3
    Pay attention to your breathing. When you’re first learning how to breathe while running, it can help to stay mindful of the tempo and quality of your breathing. Focus on taking deep, regular breaths. Consciously thinking about your breathing might be a little distracting at first, but in time it will become second nature and your performance will improve dramatically. Efficient breathing is paramount to becoming a good runner.[15]
    • Take note of how you feel after completing a run of a certain length or intensity, and how different breathing methods affect your performance.
  4. 4
    Do what feels natural. If a certain breathing technique or tempo isn’t working for you, try to find one that does. Matching your breathing to your pace can be a helpful trick, but the exact timing will depend mostly on your specific attributes as a runner. Keep your individual capabilities, limitations, running style, and level of fitness in mind.[16][17]
    • Listen to your body. If something feels particularly difficult or uncomfortable, it probably means that you should find a better way.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • I have breathing problem when I am running a mile race. What can I do to get rhythmic control over my breath?
    Michele Dolan
    Personal Trainer
    Great question. A mile race is considered a short distance. I suggest you focus on your exhale and coordinate it with your foot fall, maybe every second step. The inhale will happen, just exhale as forcefully as you can. It takes a great deal of practice to train your breathing. Try practicing some longer runs to make sure you are in great shape to race a mile.The more running you do, the more your breathing will fall into a pattern.
  • What is an exercise that can help reduce panting?
    User Contributor
    Focus on taking deep, controlled breath during running. When you feel yourself start to get tired, slow down your running pace and adjust your breath accordingly. Try to get the most out of each and every breath.
  • Why do I feel breathless after physical activity?
    User Contributor
    That's totally normal. Strenuous exertion causes your body to use up oxygen at an accelerated rate. When you start getting out of breath, slow down and give your lungs a chance to catch up. After your workout, get your breathing under control to replenish the oxygen in your body and make sure you're hydrated.
  • How do I run very fast and control my breathing for track?
    User Contributor
    Practice at home. Run in place and look at your breathing. At track practice, start running slow and then catch your speed. When you are comfortable, run as fast as you can and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
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    • When synchronizing your breathing to your steps, the shorter your strides, the more rapid your breathing will be. If you are a sprinter or generally run with short strides, this means the pace of your breathing will be quite fast.
    • Keep your breathing as even and steady as possible, even when you're trying out different tempos.
    • Stay relaxed. Tensing up wastes energy and can cause you to hold your breath involuntarily.
    • Don't overthink it. This may just make both running and breathing more complicated. Keep the whole process straightforward and get an intuitive sense of what feels best.


    • If at any point you feel lightheaded, dizzy or extremely short of breath, stop running immediately. You could be nearing exhaustion. Try to keep moving by walking and moving the arms to maintain circulation and bring blood to the upper body. If you don't feel recovered after 10 to 15 minutes, seek immediate medical attention.
    • Don't push yourself too hard. Do as much as you can handle comfortably and try to get better with time.

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    Categories: Running for Fitness

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