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Ready, set, breathe. That is how all of my races begin — and without consciously thinking of breathing, the start of your race is exactly the same. The beginning of a race is buzzing with excitement and nerves. This is where I control my breathing and begin separating myself from my competition.
It’s the consciousness of breath that allows me to maintain better focus, channel anxiety into positive energy and push myself to the next level. The ability to control the mind, breath and stride enhances the synergy within the run that creates the flow of success.
Here’s how breathing well helps you improve as a runner.
Become More Centered:
Do you get distracted, zoned out or have negative thoughts? If so, you’re not alone. Keeping yourself centered by focusing on your breathing will allow you to maximize your run by staying engaged even through the tough times.
Control Your Effort:
Have you ever gone out too hard and then really suffered at the end? Many runners have done that — and regretted it. By learning to control your breathing, you can regulate pace more evenly to the finish.
Boost Run Efficiency:
As you start to get tired, do you notice how your breathing becomes ragged and your form falls apart? Staying focused on your breathing pattern can help maintain a steady flow of oxygen to the muscles. This will help keep your turnover strong and your body relaxed, allowing you to run with more power and efficiency even as you fatigue.
Breathing Exercises for Every Level Runner
Level 1: Belly Breathing
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands on your belly and focus on taking deep breaths into your stomach instead of your chest. Your hands should rise and fall as you breathe. Practice expanding your stomach with each full, oxygen-rich breath. Do 10 breaths for a pre-run warm-up.
Level 2: Combination Breathing
Once you’ve nailed belly breathing, take it a step further by practicing breathing in and out of both your nose and mouth simultaneously throughout the day. This combo breathing is what you should strive for while running. Lips slightly parted, cheeks relaxed, maximizing the efficiency of oxygen intake and outtake.
Level 3: Breathing Patterns
Start with walking and try breathing in for two strides and out for two strides, using belly and combo breathing. This is called a 2:2 breathing pattern. Once you feel comfortable with the pattern while walking, start running. You can do 1–2 minutes of focused effort and then take a break. Slowly increase the amount of time you focus on your breathing patterns, and soon it will become second nature.
Level 4: Progressive Breathing Patterns
The 2:2 breathing pattern is ideal for workouts and shorter races. For training and longer races, you may find it more comfortable to use a 3:3 or 4:4 pattern. Practice these options to find what feels most comfortable based on your goal and effort for that day.