Welcome to the newest edition of Running A-Z. This is a weekly series where I cover a new running topic each week following the order of the alphabet. Last week we covered running acronyms. If you don't know what a BQ or a PB is in running, check out that post to get up to date.
B is for Breathing
It may seem silly to write a blog post about how to breathe, as breathing is something that we don't have to think about normally. When you start to run you naturally will start breathing heavier to provide your lungs with the necessary oxygen. However, breathing is often an issue for new runners. It seems that the lungs give out long before the legs and you are left huffing and puffing when your legs could go on.
There are a couple of breathing strategies that can help you as you move through this phase of your training.
Breath through your mouth and your nose to take in as much oxygen as possible. Run with your mouth slightly open. It keeps your face relaxed and makes it easier to breathe deeply. Take deep breaths from your diaphragm, rather than your chest (otherwise known as belly breathing). Practice taking deep breaths, put your hand on your belly to feel it expand and contract with your breath.
Rhythmic breathing is helpful in a couple ways. Try to synchronize your breathing with your steps, it helps with both efficiency and pacing. I personally like a 3:2 breathing pattern. With each step I take three breaths in (right, left, right) and then two out (left, right). Be careful not to hold your breath at any point. (I found at first I had a tendency to hold for a second after the inhales and I had to break that habit.)
A 2:2 or 3:3 are also popular breathing patterns. Two breaths in, two breaths out or three breaths in, three breaths out in time with your steps. Rhythmic breathing can also be a mental distraction. While you're focused on counting your breaths and steps, the miles can seem to move by a little faster.
It is not just for beginners. I do rhythmic breathing when I need to focus and find my running rhythm. If you do a little experimenting on the road, I am sure you will find the rhythm that works best for you. After some practice, you will find that it comes naturally.
Of course, talk to your doctor before you start running. If you find that breathing is an ongoing issue even after your have adapted to running, please see a doctor as it could be exercise-induced asthma (or something else all together).
One thing I can promise about breathing for new runners is that it does get easier. It will get better with practice and conditioning. Before you know it you'll be breathing like a pro.
Good luck and keep training!