Thursday, March 14, 2013

Intel: How Should I Breathe When I Run?

Q: How should I breathe when I run?

A: Someone once told me about a friend that told her when running she should only breathe in and out of her nose. "It'll help you get that runner's high," she said.

Whoa! Stop! Don't do that! Whoa!

Ok, now that we've established that you should not do that, here's my take. Just breathe. Open your mouth and let as much oxygen as your body demands be inhaled. Do not constrict your breathing in any way. In, out, repeat.

If you're a relatively new runner your breathing will most likely be labored. That's because your aerobic capacity needs to be trained as much as your legs. Don't be discouraged. It will become less work the more you run.

You will no doubt hear from others that the proper way to breathe is to inhale deeply all the way down to your stomach. Or you may be advised to inhale X breaths for every X steps you take. Again, don't stress over this. These methods certainly work for some, but I don't recommend you get hung up on it.

Keeping this simple, my advice to new runners is to try keep your breathing manageable. You should be able to carry out a conversation. If you're panting so hard you can't, slow down. In time you may want to run faster. When that day comes it will be time to reassess. Until then, slow down and just enjoy the run.

This post is one in series that addresses comments and questions I routinely hear from both new and non-runners. This series - posts will be tagged with the "Intel" label - is not intended to delve deep into running subjects, but simply to provide informative, concise responses that sometimes entertain. I am not an anatomy professorparticularly accomplished runner or legend of the sport. I'm just a guy that runs often, races frequently and enjoys sharing what he's learned. You can contribute topics by emailing me using the link on my Google+ Profile or by posting in the comments below.


  1. For those with Exercise Induced Asthma, it is recommended that inhaling through the nose as much as possible will reduce the symptoms, especially on cold, dry days when it is much easier to breath through the nose.

    Breathing in through the nose also reduces the amount of dust and pollen that reach your lungs, which you will have to cough up later. Of course, there is a point, when the intensity of the exercise increases, you can only take in so much air through the nose and you must resort to breathing in through the mouth.

    The only times I've ever reached the runner's high, is on easy runs when I've been able to breathe through my nose the whole workout.

    1. Thanks for your response, Duane. I was hoping it might get some feedback on this, so it wouldn't seem like I'm an authority on the subject.

      I guess my main points were that runners shouldn't intentionally constrict their breathing in any way or over think how they do it. I agree there is merit to breathing to in through the nose for some people.

      I like your point about reducing the amount of pollen and dust that reach your lungs. Do you think think older dudes with excessive nose hair have a distinct advantage in this department? ;)