Why Do I Struggle To Breathe When Running? (With Solution)

At one point or another, most runners will experience side stitches, sore muscles, and breathlessness while running. It’s part of the learning process and usually disappears as your fitness level improves. 

It would help if you learned to breathe correctly as a runner to maximize your workouts and boost performance. Here are a few tips to help you get into it.

Inhale Through Your Nose

Your nose serves as a natural air filter that warms and cleans the air before entering your lungs, aiding breathing more efficiently while decreasing carbon dioxide exhalation during exercise. Because of these advantages, practicing nasal breathing before running is recommended. Follow this simple sequence below:

1. Start by closing off one nostril with your thumb, inhaling slowly through your left nostril for two counts before exhaling through your right nostril for two counts. 

2. Repeat this cycle 5-10 times. Once comfortable, attempt running with both nostrils open; try matching inhalation cycles with exhalation cycles for optimal breathing efficiency while running. 

This technique can help ensure even and efficient breath while running, improving performance. 

How To Breathe During Harder Runs

As your body undergoes strenuous exercise, oxygen needs increase while carbon dioxide builds up. While nasal breathing can help you keep a steady rhythm during casual runs, mouth breathing becomes more efficient during more strenuous running efforts such as tempo runs or races. 

Taking in more significant volumes of air through mouth breathing allows you to reduce feelings of air hunger while increasing oxygen uptake. As you run, aim to inhale for two counts and exhale for two counts – this should be adjusted depending on your pace. 

Keep in mind, breathing through your nose may become easier over time, even for the more vigorous running workouts. So you may find breathing through your mouth may not be as necessary as you increase your running economy.

Pay Attention To Your Posture

Though hunching forward can be tempting while running, it actually compresses the lungs and diaphragm and makes breathing harder – leaving runners feeling short of air without needing to slow their pace down. Use these 2 important techniques below to improve both posture and breath while running.  Anyone can implement them for more comfortable running experiences.

1. Breathe In A Rhythmic Pattern

Most runners experience certain physical sensations when running for the first time – including side stitches, sore muscles, and breathlessness – in the early stages of training. Over time, however, these sensations should subside as your body adapts to running’s demands and fitness increases. 

One way to make running more comfortable is breathing in a steady rhythm corresponding to each foot strike. Try adopting a 3:2 breathing pattern (inhale for three steps and exhale two). This will help balance impact stress on the diaphragm, core, and pelvis muscles, possibly decreasing risks such as injuries, muscle imbalances, and the dreaded side stitch. 

Breathing at a consistent rhythm can help calm and focus the mind on completing the tasks at hand and strengthen back and chest muscles. These are critical factors in efficient breathing, which promotes efficient lung function. That is why it is vitally essential that running routines incorporate strength exercises like Superman, glute bridge, and plank for better posture.

2. Avoid Shortness of Breath

Taking shallow, upper-body breathing as you run is inefficient and may contribute to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels, all of which contribute to feelings of shortness of breath or struggle. Shallow breathing uses unsuited neck and shoulder muscles that cannot keep pace with high-intensity activities like running. 

Difficulty breathing during exercise may be expected in healthy people, but you should always consult your physician before increasing your workout regimen. Breathing difficulties could indicate more serious medical problems like respiratory infection or cardiovascular disease. 

In such instances, taking frequent short walk breaks can help. Or try developing a rhythmic breathing pattern matching your running cadence for maximum performance.

A Final Recap

Understanding the reasons behind breathing struggles while running is essential for improving performance and overall enjoyment of the activity. By implementing proper breathing techniques and paying attention to posture, runners can mitigate issues such as side stitches and shortness of breath. Here’s a summary of the key points discussed: 

Proper breathing techniques, such as nasal breathing and rhythmic breathing, can improve efficiency and performance during runs. 

Posture plays a crucial role in breathing efficiency; maintaining good posture prevents lung compression and enhances oxygen intake. 

Consistent breathing patterns, like the 3:2 breathing ratio, help reduce muscle imbalances and injury risks. 

Shallow, upper-body breathing should be avoided as it contributes to increased heart rate and feelings of shortness of breath. 

It’s essential to listen to your body and consult a physician if breathing difficulties persist, as they could indicate underlying health issues. 

By incorporating these tips into your running routine, you can overcome breathing struggles and enjoy a more comfortable and fulfilling running experience. Remember, breathing well is the foundation of better performance and overall well-being.

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