As you go about your regular runs, whether you’re following the Zen Lab’s free C25K – 5K Trainer program or not, one thing that you do need to be making sure you are aware of is the breathing pattern you’re using. Improper breathing technique can not only impair your running performance, but it can also be downright dangerous as well.

If you aren’t breathing properly, you won’t be getting the steady flow of oxygen into your body that you need and in addition to this, which can lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide in your system. This in turn creates lactic acid or brings about a very high level of fatigue, which will then cause your run to come to an abrupt stop.

This is the base case scenario. In more serious cases, poor breathing and the decrease in oxygen consumption that goes along with it could mean that you start feeling very lightheaded and if you don’t stop and listen to your body, could lead to you passing out. Most runners would never let it get that far, but the point must be made to help illustrate just how imperative good breathing is.

Proper breathing technique will also help you maintain good form as you run (and likewise, good form fosters better breathing as well), so with these two working together, you can enjoy your runs that much more.

So how should you breathe? Let’s go over the facts that you should know.

Focus On Slower Breaths

First, you want to aim for slower, deeper breaths. If you’re breathing rapidly and taking very short inhales and exhales, this will lead to greater carbon dioxide development and less oxygen getting to the muscles.

Slower breaths will also help to keep your heart rate down lower, which can also play a key role in fatigue management.

When you start picking up the pace of your run, your breathing rate will naturally increase to keep up with the demand for oxygen, but as much as possible, you do still want to focus on keeping them as slow as possible.

Deep breaths will utilize more total air sacs in your lunges, which increases total oxygen levels in the body.

Belly Breathing

Next, you also want to be sure that you are focusing on breathing from your belly, not from your chest. Most runners out there are going to be breathing deeply from the chest region, which can cause their shoulders and neck muscles to be tenser, wasting energy in the process.

If instead you breathe from your belly instead, you’re going to avoid this and get more total oxygen in. To experience belly breathing yourself, do a little experiment.

Place one hand on the chest region and one hand on your belly region. Take a deep breath in as you normally would.

Which hand moved outward? If it was your chest, you’re a chest breather. If it was your belly, you’re doing things correctly.

Start practicing belly breathing more often and you will soon get into the habit of making this the breathing type you use. It is a harder habit to build, but once you do, you will definitely notice the benefits.

Time Your Breathing

Some runners may also prefer using a time count to help them regulate their breathing. This can be especially helpful for when you are just starting and are prone to breathing too quickly.

You want to try and take a deep breath in, lasting for four steps. Then on the next four steps, breathe out. Learning how to time your breath with your foot patterns will help ensure that you are keeping them in check and maintaining a balanced running motion.

It’s also a good reminder to aim to breathe through your nose rather than mouth as often as possible. This will help you breathe more efficiently as you go about your run, which in turn means better performance.

Breathing during running is something that many people do really struggle with as it can be hard to regulate, especially if poor habits have been formed.

But, take comfort in knowing that if you do work at it, you will not only see a dramatic rise in the performance you give, but you’ll also see a dramatically lowered rate of fatigue. This helps you enjoy your runs even further and make sure you get hooked on the sport for good.

Have you tried these breathing techniques? What worked best for you? Share your tips, struggles, and stories in the comments below.