How Do Runners Breathe? Top 4 Breathing Exercises

How do runners breathe?

How do runners breathe? If you're a runner, you know that your breathing techniques help your breathing to be more deliberate, focused, and intentional. 

Breathing is mostly an automatic process. However, if you're an athlete or even a casual runner, you know that effective and intentional breathing can make all the difference in the quality of your run. So, runners pay more attention to their breath by 2:2 breathing, practicing box breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or rhythmic breathing. 

When I first started running, I just breathed willy-nilly without any specific intent. However, reading an article about the 2:2 breathing pattern was a game-changer for me, and that's when my runs improved. Let's dive in and learn more about how the best runners breathe differently.

Breathing Basics

Before you can understand how runners breathe differently, it helps to have a good grasp of the basic mechanics of breathing. Human beings breathe because we need oxygen to fuel our bodies. At the same time, breathing helps us to rid our bodies of carbon dioxide. 

When we run, it stresses our bodies, so the body, in turn, struggles to breathe in enough oxygen and breathe out sufficient carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, stressing our bodies like this increases the lactic acid in our muscles, leading to fatigue and cramps.

We need to do more efficient breathing to get oxygen into our bodies.

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Diaphragmatic Breathing

How do runners breathe? Diaphragmatic breathing
With diaphragmatic breathing, you can get more oxygen in and do so in an efficient manner

Also called belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing helps strengthen the body's muscles that support breathing. With diaphragmatic breathing, you can get more oxygen in and do so in an efficient manner. You'll also be able to possibly avoid side stitch cramps. 

If you're a person with shallow breath, you can especially benefit from diaphragmatic breathing. 

Box Breathing

This type of breathing is also known as four-square breathing or just square breathing. Box breathing is a four-part exercise that can work to restore wellbeing and calmness to your body when it's under stress. 

To box breathe, inhale deep into your abdomen and hold the breath at the top of your inhalation for about four counts. Then, exhale and hold your breath at the bottom of your exhale for four counts. 

Rhythmic Breathing

Another way to get more oxygen into your body is to practice rhythmic breathing. To do rhythmic breathing, you create a rhythm between how you run and breathe. 

Rhythmic breathing works well with belly breathing, too. Most runners follow a five-step pattern: three steps while inhaling and two while exhaling. You can also vary this with patterns such as 2:2 (two steps inhaling and two steps exhaling). 

As you run faster, you can switch to a three-step pattern, two steps for inhaling and one step for exhaling. 

Breathing Through Injuries

One more thing to remember is that you can alter your breathing patterns to accommodate weaknesses or injuries. When your footstrike coincides with the start of your exhalation, your body experiences the greatest impact stress.

As an example, if you start exhaling every time your right foot hits the ground, it will be the right side of your body that continues to suffer the most stress. Knowing this, you can work to develop a pattern of rhythmic breathing that accommodates your body's needs. With that said, if you're injured while running, stop running and seek medical attention.

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FAQs About How Do Runners Breathe

Do Runners Breathe Differently?

Technically, you can breathe normally if you're a runner. However, the best runners know that practicing tried and true breathing techniques can result in a better run and a more effective workout.

Many runners use a 2:2 breathing pattern (rhythmic breathing), which is inhaling for two footstrikes and exhaling for two footstrikes. This method can be modified to inhale and exhale on three footstrikes.

Do Runners Breathe Through Their Nose Or Mouth?

If you're running, you should breathe through both your nose and mouth, depending on the intensity of your workout.

When you breathe through your mouth, you bring in more oxygen. Breathing through your nose sometimes creates jaw and facial muscle tightness, which can lead to tension. However, you want to exhale through your nose because your lungs will extract oxygen from the surrounding air on the exhale.

Should You Run With Your Mouth Closed?

When running, you should breathe through your mouth, so no, your mouth shouldn't be closed when you're running.