If you’ve never asked yourself, “How should I breathe when I run?” it’s time to pay more attention.
One thing that running experts can agree on is that breathing from your diaphragm is preferred to breathing from your chest. But it seems that’s about the end of the line when it comes to agreeing on HOW to breathe while running.
The article written on Competitor.com, is a nice overview of Budd Coates (author of Running on Air) method of breathing while running; and goes on to site opinions of other running experts such as Jack Daniels, Danny Dryer and Bill Leach- who all seem to disagree on exactly how to breathe while running.
This article caught my eye because I just wrote and published a book on this very subject, so I consider myself an expert on the topic– at least expert enough to have an opinion and a few points of contention with Coates breathing methodology.
First, I am a proponent of nasal breathing while running- both on the inhale and exhale; in other words, I’m convinced that running with your mouth shut is hands down superior to the common nasal-oral breathing that’s taught by Coates, Daniels and others.
Not convinced? Don’t take my word for it, read up on the research and work of Konstantine Butekyo (just google search him). Although his breathing method was originally used for asthmatics, he also did research on nasal breathing while running.
Second, Coates advises a breath pattern of 3/2 (breathe in for 3 steps and then out for 2 steps). I’m a proponent of patterned breathing, and teach my runners how to use patterned breathing to elicit certain physical and mental states.
The problem with the 3/2 breathing pattern is that it tends to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (our bodies stress response). I don’t advise this breathing pattern, or any breathing pattern where the exhale is shorter than the inhale UNLESS OR UNTIL you have balanced your nervous system with a stable breathing pattern such as 4/4 (in for 4 steps, out for 4 steps), or even a 2/4 (in for 2 out for 4).
Yes, 4/4 is a longer breathing pattern than most runners are used to, but if done correctly, it will help to balance the autonomic nervous system. The 2/4 breathing pattern will elicit a very relaxed state, both in the body and mind. I do not advise using uneven breathing patterns until you have 1) learned how to breathe properly with your diaphragm and 2) have become comfortable with the 4/4 breathing pattern.
Another odd point that Coates purposedly made is that your core is more stable when you inhale. I’m completely confused with this claim and would like to see the evidence/research to back this up. I agree that the diaphragm contracts on the inhale, but it’s one of many core stabilizers which include the transverse abdominis, oblique abdominals, multifidus, and some would include the glutes as they also contribute to core stability. Most health and fitness professionals would agree that exhaling is the part of the breath cycle that creates core stability, not inhaling.
My final point of contention is that Coates advises runners to breathe faster when they increase their tempo. This may sound logical, but it actually has adverse affects on the autonomic nervous system, and is something that I’ve only seen a couple of experts address.
John Doulliard, author of Body,Mind,Sport advises to maintain a slow breath rate, even at higher tempo; this is what I teach as well. Butekyo also advises to breathe LESS even during higher intensity exercise.
What we know is this: Nearly all runners have an over-stimulated autonomic nervous system. The way to heal old injuries and avoid incurring new ones is to reduce your breath rate.
A lower breath rate while running is associated with many benefits including better oxygen utilization, feeling more relaxed during a run and more energized after a run, inducing a light state of trance/meditation, and much more.
If you find this topic interesting, you can read more in my book Breathe Run Breathe http://amzn.to/18BklPw .
See on running.competitor.com