I started running in middle school. I was never fast, but I stuck with it, even joining the track team for a bit in 9th grade and running a marathon after college. As an adult running continues to be my exercise of choice. I like the consistency of it – put sneakers on, run, stretch – not many changes. Until this year. Yup, you guessed it, I changed how I was breathing. And it has rocked my world!! No joke.
Breath in through your nose, out through your mouth is something I’ve heard multiple times throughout my life. But I would just think whatever, I’ll run how I want. And breathing through my mouth was what I wanted. It was just easier.
Then I read the book Body, Mind and Sport by John Douillard, where he highly recommends nose breathing when exercising. It changed my mind and the way I run. The first few times are really rough (seriously), but.it.makes.such.a.difference!
So if you want to try it, here’s some highlights and how-to’s:
1. We are all designed to be nose breathers
If anyone has a baby (or access to one) notice how they breathe when they’re calm or sleeping. All through the nose! The reason being is that we are all born “obligate nose breathers”. That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re designed to breathe through our noses. We only learn to breathe through our mouths if something scary or stressful happens. For example, if a baby has a cold and can’t breathe through their nose, they open their mouths and start to cry in order to keep breathing. So when we’re stressed later in life, like when we’re scared OR running really hard, we respond by going to our emergency source of breathing and gulp the oxygen down quick! This works great if we’re actually in danger, but for exercising not so much.
2. Try it! (For more than a day…slackers!)
First: Warm up for 5min (i.e. walking, stretching) and breathe as deeply as you can through your nose during this time. Make sure the air goes all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. Then breathe out through your nose, squeezing your stomach at the end to get the last of it out.
Second: Start running at about 30% of your normal rate while keeping this deep breath. It’ll be frustrating. Even more so when you have to slow down in order to maintain this. Some of you might have to settle for a fast walk…at first. Truthfully, I felt like I was suffocating in this phase. I would do it for about 5min (or maybe 30 seconds, but it felt like forever!!) and then run “normal”. And then try again. Eventually it not only got easier, it got addictive! Plus, I run just as fast if not faster than when I started. The only difference is that I feel calm and invigorated instead of red faced and panting at the end of my runs.
3. Final Thoughts
I first tried breathing this way for about two weeks, off and on, and then gave up. I absolutely hated the feeling of not getting enough oxygen. Then I tried again about a week later just for giggles. That’s when it got easier for me. Now I breathe in through my nose for the entire run and only stop when my legs get tired. It’s awesome.
There’s SO much more I want to write about this topic, but this should get you started! I would love to know if any of you try it!! Feel free to ask me questions, pick up the book (it’s one of my faves) or stay tuned to future posts. I doubt this is my last one on breathing and/or running ;).
Lacing up for my morning run!