New Breathing Tips to Improve Running Performance


On your first mile of an 8-mile run, on a hot and humid afternoon you’re sweating profusely and trying to maintain your stride mechanics.  Physiologically, your heart is pumping, delivering oxygen to the lungs and returning carbon dioxide to the heart.   As your energy demands increase blood lactate levels may begin to rise if not enough oxygen is available to working muscles. What am I getting at with all this scientific information?

It is vital that our hearts and lungs deliver oxygen to the blood stream and tissues for optimal performance and adequate blood lactate removal. As the hills rise, the sweat forms more quickly and the steps get heavier rising lactate levels threaten optimal performance. What can runners do to flush out waste products as quickly as possible?

Runners should breathe through their noses!

Did you know that breathing through the nose creates an avenue of air that is:

  • moisturized,
  • humidified and even somewhat filtered?

Runners should also Practice Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing!

This method is simply a deepening of the breath. Nitric oxide is secreted into the nasal passages and is inhaled through the nose. It is a potent vasodilator (dilatation of the blood vessels), and in the lungs it enhances the uptake of oxygen. Nitric oxide is also produced in the walls of blood vessels and is critical to all organs in the body. Furthermore, when we breathe through our nose, the air passing through the nasal airway and contacting the turbinates — shelf-like bony structures — is slowed down. This allows the proper mixing of the air with an amazing gas produced in the nasal sinuses called nitric oxide.

  • Take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose.
  • When the diaphragm drops down, the abdomen is expanded allowing the air to rush into the vacuum created in the lungs. Then the chest cavity is expanded, allowing the lungs to fill completely.
  • This is followed by a slow, even exhalation which empties the lungs completely.

Learning how you feel during your runs, controlling your breathing, not letting your breathing control how you feel is important. There’s a likelihood that you’re breathing is completely fine and you’re eliminating waste efficiently during long difficult runs, if that’s the case, GO YOU!   However, if by mile 6 you’re feeling like you’re running through mud, give these new techniques a try. With breathing this way, you are aiming to deliver the maximum amounts of oxygen to your working muscles—that’s where the training effect happens.

Practice nose breathing and deep breathing when you are not running. These therapeutic breathing techniques have a rich history in eastern medicine including yoga, meditation, Qigong and even weight lifting. They have been proven by researcher such as Dr. John Douillard and Dr. Roger Jahnke as an effective means to decrease stress and deliver more blood flow, so don’t hesitate to use this technique throughout your day.

Would you like to learn more about this breathing technique? If so, please email Alton Daley, Strength and Conditioning Coach at alton@elliottphysicaltherapy.com or call our Dorchester location at 617-506-7210.