What Is the Right Way to Breathe When Running?

What Is the Right Way to Breathe When Running?
Running is hard work, requiring a stout cardio-pulmonary system and a strong aerobic base. With more to running than mere one-foot-in-front-of-other, running requires a good sense of how to breathe during exertion.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Out Through the Mouth

Things You’ll Need:
  • Running shoes
  • Running clothes
Step 1
When you begin your run, take time to slowly allow the body and lungs to warm up. In colder climates, this is especially important, as the lungs need to become acclimated to the cold air coming in so they do not go into bronchio-spasms, a key factor in weather-induced asthma. Begin your run at about half of what you are capable of. Let the heart rate slowly increase and the muscles warm up. While you are doing this slow warm-up, begin to breathe by taking air in through the nose and letting the exhalation go out the mouth if needed. It is better during the warm-up phase if you can do a continual nose in/out, but if you find a need for oxygen, go to the nose/mouth breath, and decrease your energy output.
Step 2
Once the body has had time to warm up, begin bringing your running pace up to about 65 percent of your ability. During this time, your muscles should be well warmed up and you should have an established comfort with the nose/mouth breathing. Continue to breathe by taking air in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. This brings the body to a comfortable level with your aerobic system.
Step 3
Now that your system is really working, it is time to switch to the opposite breath technique. As you find yourself in need of more air, start to take in air through the mouth, but exhale through the nose. This allows you to "teach" your body to process more oxygen without hyperventilation. If you breathe in and out through the mouth, you risk taking too much oxygen in because you are creating a sort of bellows with your diaphram and making the aerobic system too O2 rich.
Step 4
During sprint or interval workouts, breathe in and out through the mouth. You will push your body out of the aerobic range and into anaerobic levels requiring a larger amount of O2. Breathe mouth in, mouth out during the intervals, but as you cool down between, try to concentrate on breathing in through the mouth and out the nose. By doing this, you help your body build its aerobic conditioning and tolerance.
Step 5
After your workout and run are over, whether it was a distance run or intervals, it is important to cool down by breathing first in through the nose and out through the mouth, so as to help build your aerobic tolerance and base. Pace the run accordingly, and as you slow to your walk for the cool-down, begin to breathe nose in, nose out. Bring the O2 intake down according to the level of energy output, which should be decreasing during your cool-down phase.

Tips & Warnings

If running in cold weather, pay particular attention to the cold, dry air you are bringing into the lungs, and try to breathe slowly to warm the air.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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