How to Breathe Properly When Running—11 Strategies

Wondering why you’re running out of breath when you try to go for a run?

Or are you looking for ways to help you properly breathe while you exercise?

If you want the answers to these questions, then keep reading. You will discover the reasons why you seem to feel breathless while exercising. But more importantly, you will discover a variety of tips and techniques on how to breathe properly when running.

First, let’s talk about the reasons why you sometimes find it hard to breathe properly when you run.

Why Can’t I Breathe Properly When Running?

Running is hard, and it takes your body some time to acclimate to the work. You’re making demands on your heart, lungs, and legs that they are not used to, which is definitely tough at first.

However, with practice, you can get stronger and learn to match your breath with your activity in a way that won’t make you feel like you’re going to collapse. You should have one goal with your breathing while you are running, which is to maximize the oxygen delivery to your muscle cells.

Let’s look at some things that may be hindering your ability to breathe properly when you are running.

Physical stress.

You run out of breath when you run because your body is tired. Different factors contribute to physical stress, including your body’s condition and the heat and humidity in the environment.

Also, your cardiovascular reflex is activated as you run. Your breathing muscles are forced to work harder, and your blood flow is restricted to your limbs. If you aren’t properly engaging your entire body while you run, you will limit the amount of blood that is transported to your cells, making your legs much less powerful.

Respiratory condition.

One of the most significant causes of breathlessness is when there is a problem with your lungs or airway passages. When you don’t get the right amount of oxygen you need, your respiratory system finds it hard to work properly.

If you have heavy breathing at rest due to a respiratory condition, you will also experience relatively heavy breathing during exercise, making running even more difficult.

Blood’s carbon dioxide content.

In relation to the oxygen you need to properly breathe when running, you have to understand that oxygen is available everywhere. Thus, it is your muscles producing more carbon dioxide that is the problem.

The main effect of hyperventilation is a decrease in carbon dioxide in your blood and tissues. This causes your blood vessels to constrict, which leads to a reduced blood flow to all of your vital organs and large muscles. When you have this decrease in carbon dioxide, your blood cells will also release a reduced amount of oxygen to your tissues or cells, making you feel out of breath.

Asthma-prone system.

If exercise induces asthma for you, you will surely have a problem breathing while running. You’ll start to experience wheezing, coughing, and chest pain while on the go because it’s hard to move air in and out of your airways due to the constriction that occurs and the increased amount of phlegm that your body produces. Running with asthma will trigger your symptoms if your asthma is poorly controlled.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If you are suffering from COPD, that’s probably why you are having breathing troubles when you run. COPD refers to several different lung diseases that make breathing a very difficult task, especially if you are a frequent runner. The three main conditions that fall into the category of COPD include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthmatic bronchitis. Running can help your symptoms of COPD in the long run by increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood. Consult a physician before starting any exercise if you have COPD.

Whether you suffer from these conditions or not, you still may have a hard time catching your breath while you are running. So what can you do to alleviate the shortness of breath? If you know how to breathe properly while you are running, it can help you save your breath and make running easier.

Infographic: 11 Tips for Breathing Properly When Running

Tired of catching your breath when running? Learn how to make running easier from this infographic of the 11 strategies to breathe properly when running. 

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How to Breathe Properly When Running

There are a number of ways you can improve your breathing while you’re running, but the two most common techniques involve your actual method of breathing—meaning how you breathe and where you breathe.

Two Primary Breathing Techniques

1. Breathe in through your nose then breathe out through your mouth.

There is still an ongoing debate as to where one should breathe when running. However, most agree that the best technique is to breathe in with your nose then breathe out through your mouth. When you try to breathe in through your mouth, your body tends to take in less air than when you breathe in through your nose, which can result in oxygen deprivation.

Concentrate on your breathing while you are running until you get the hang of it. Try breathing in through your nose for two counts and then blowing the air out of your mouth with pursed lips for two counts until it comes naturally. Breathing with pursed lips reduces the amount of work you have to do to breathe by keeping your airways open longer. This way, it is easier for the lungs to function, and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is improved.

2. Breathe with your belly instead of your chest.

Athletes and sports experts prefer belly or diaphragmatic breathing over chest breathing. This is because belly breathing allows you to perform deep breaths, expanding your lungs and filling them up with enough air.

When you breathe with your stomach, you are taking breaths that use your entire lung capacity. This is because your diaphragm and stomach muscles pull the abdominal cavity downward in order to fully inflate the lungs.

Your chest expands very little, if at all, while you’re stomach breathing. Rather, your abdominal area expands as you inhale. These breaths are slow and deep. You take your time inhaling and exhaling, and provide a large amount of oxygen to your bloodstream. These large breaths of oxygen also allow you to exhale more carbon dioxide, letting it escape your body faster.

These are the two primary techniques that you should take note of if you want to maintain proper breathing while you’re running.

But here are more tips to improve your breathing for a better running experience:

1. Find your own rhythm.

Don’t merely follow the rhythm ratios you see on the Internet. Our bodies are different from each other. It’s a trial-and-error process until you figure out the best breathing pattern for your system. Most runners sync their breaths with their steps to ensure their breathing is consistent. Once you move to a greater speed, you may need to alter your pattern or ratio, which will also help you keep track of your running intensity.

A common ratio is to breathe in for two foot strikes and then breathe out for two. However, you have to play around with your pace and preferences to find what works for you.

2. Take longer and deeper breaths.

Taking longer and deeper breaths allows your body to get the right amount of oxygen it needs. Likewise, it prevents your muscles and lungs from experiencing fatigue. Most people typically only use the top third of their lungs while breathing.

But taking longer and deeper breaths while running helps you consume a lot of oxygen, which will prevent you from getting dizzy or nauseous. Once you learn to breathe to your full potential, you will increase your endurance.

3. Practice proper breathing even when not running.

Even when you’re not doing any exercise, you should be able to breathe correctly. This allows you to apply the appropriate breathing technique once you start running. Practice taking deep breaths in from your abdomen while you are sitting still or lying on your back.

Place your hand on your stomach to ensure that you are moving properly. You want to make sure that your abdomen rises and falls with each breath. During your breathing exercises when you are not running, count to eight during each inhale and exhale. Do this for three to five minutes.

4. Keep your mouth slightly open when running.

Since your mouth is wider than your nostrils, this allows you to breathe in more air. You can naturally breathe in through both your nose and your mouth when your respiratory rate begins to increase. If your mouth is already slightly open, you can do this without additional effort.

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5. Try doing the “talk test” to check how long you can hold your breath.

Doing the “talk test” is an effective (and cheap!) way to connect with your pace, effort, and heart rate. It’s a helpful tool to use if you are running in adverse conditions like heat, humidity, or wind. In these conditions, your pace may lag, but you may still be getting an excellent workout.

This test takes away any pressure to hit a certain pace, and keeps your training on track so you can do a great workout, no matter what the conditions are. Experts say that if you can speak a full sentence without huffing when running, then you’re doing a good job with your breathing patterns.

When doing the “talk test,” you should be able to carry on a full conversation if you are running in the “endurance” zone. If you move up to the “stamina” zone, you should be able to speak one to two sentences. If you are in the “speed” zone, you should be able to speak one or two words, but definitely not enough to make a conversation.

6. Prepare for possible weather changes.

While weather that is too hot is not ideal for running, too cold of weather is not good either. Runners agree that temperature affects performance. But since you can’t control the weather, you need to be able to train your body to adjust for any change.

For example, if you are running in the cold, shorten your stride and keep your feet closer to the ground. This will help you run more efficiently and reduce your risk of slipping or straining muscles. You will also want to take some extra time to warm up when you are running in the cold.

Alternatively, when you are running in the heat, you want to make sure to stay hydrated, choose routes that have shade, slow down, and listen to your body. You will exert more energy by running in the heat, even if you are not running as fast as you normally do.

7. Quit smoking and regularly drinking alcohol.

Cigarette and alcohol content damage your heart and lungs. They are two of the major causes of difficulty in breathing. People who smoke have smaller coronary blood vessels (making it difficult for their blood to flow through their bodies), and an elevated average heart rate (which makes running hard).

While runners who also smoke or drink on a regular basis can improve their performance with training, this cannot be done as effectively as with people who do not have these habits. Studies show that the carbon monoxide content of your blood increases when smoking, which greatly interferes with your body’s ability to transport oxygen to your cells.

For endurance sports such as running, oxygen transport and supply are critical. But this doesn’t mean that you can just skip that last cigarette before your run. Oxygen transport is impacted for up to 24 hours after you smoke because the nicotine in the cigarette hinders your blood vessels’ regulation and your lung function.

Alcohol can impact your running in a few ways, but one huge factor is dehydration. Drinking alcohol makes you dehydrated, which can be dangerous if you are going for a run. Without proper hydration, you are more at risk for muscle injuries and cramps—and your body is unable to regulate its temperature. Drinking in moderation every now and then may be ok, but drinking in excess will certainly hurt your training.

8. Synchronize your breathing and foot strikes.

Your breathing and foot strikes should match with each other. A 2013 study indicates that locomotor-respiratory coupling (LRC) is an effective way to regularize your breathing.

Most animals and humans utilize some sort of rhythmic breathing pattern while running. This means they synchronize their breathing to their foot strikes. Researchers refer to these patterns as LRC. Humans show the most flexibility in their range of possible patterns with their LRC. There are a lot of alternatives to the typical ratio pattern of 2-2, such as 2-3 or 3-3. Experiment with a variety of breathing patterns until you find what works best for you.

9. Improve your physical endurance.

Developing your strength and stamina can help your body endure the pain of exercise. It also helps increase your ability to breathe in more air when you’re running. There are a few ways you can mix up your exercise routine to keep your body engaging more muscles and building more strength.

First, you can do some interval training, which will help you mix up your speed and intensity so your body doesn’t get complacent moving at one pace. You can also do cross-training, which will engage more of your muscles and give you more overall body strength to help you bring in an increased amount of oxygen while you’re running. Finally, you can run slower for a longer period of time. This will help you with stamina while allowing you to not worry about your speed. This will also help boost your mental stamina.

10. Assess your breathing pattern.

Before anything else, you need to know why you’re having a hard time breathing. You can do this by monitoring your breathing patterns. Are you making sure to breathe in through your nose, or are you finding yourself gasping for air through your mouth? Are you breathing in with your stomach muscles or taking shallow breaths? If you feel like you are taking all of the recommended steps, consult your doctor, as you might have more serious respiratory problems.

11. Make running a consistent habit.

The best way to regularize your breathing pattern is to keep exercising or running. Otherwise, you’ll find it hard to maintain your momentum every time you try to start. Research has shown the significance of consistency for effective running, as studies have found that the most reliable predictor of running performance is the amount of training one has consistently done over the past five years.

In fact, while recent training is a more accurate predictor of results than either age or early life training, it is still not as important as what runners have done specifically in the past five years. Studies show that a consistent training schedule that has been followed for at least five years prior to a performance is what makes the biggest difference in a runner’s performance. The research showed that successful runners have learned that their training must be systematic and continual in order for them to maintain their running skills and fitness.


Proper breathing is an essential element of running, particularly if you’re a beginner. It can make or break your whole running experience. Hence, it’s crucial and imperative to know how it should be implemented.

In this post, we’ve shared with you the reasons why you seem to run out of breath when doing your running routine. But more important than that, we’ve also discussed the best two techniques you need to practice to be able to breathe properly. We have also added tips on what to do and not to do to be able to maintain and discover the breathing pattern that best suits you.

We hope that we were able to help you wit this article. But if you are a beginner looking for a comprehensive guide on how to start your running regime, check out this post.

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1 thought on “How to Breathe Properly When Running—11 Strategies”

  1. Very useful information. As someone who used to run and had great difficulty breathing, I think this will be a great help of new runners coming behind me.

    – Nyxie

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