We rarely think about our breathing, but when you’re on a run your breath may suddenly be all you can think about. Long distance running will push your lungs to the limit, so don’t be worried if you regularly feel out of breath.
It turns out that, like everything in athletics, technique matters. How you breathe can have a huge impact on your athletic performance, and proper breathing can help to improve your blood oxygenation, increase stamina, and keep you going strong mile after mile.
Every edge counts when you’re trying to max out your performance, so we’re going to give you the inside tips about how to breathe when running long distance.
How Your Muscles Use Oxygen
We all know that breathing becomes heavier during exercise, but why? Simply put, oxygen is used by our muscles to convert stored glucose into usable energy. As you start running and your energy needs increase, so does the amount of oxygen your body needs to make it happen.
Oxygenated muscles also perform better and recover faster, but on the flip side, not having enough oxygen in your blood will lead to a buildup of lactic acid. This causes you to feel fatigued when running, making the need for effective oxygenation even more important.
Along with breathing, you may hear runners talking about their heart rate. The reason is that your heart rate and breathing rate are very closely related. Your lungs take in oxygen, but your heart is responsible for distributing it through your bloodstream. So when your breathing rate goes up, your heart rate often needs to increase too.
Heart rate zones refer to the percentage of your maximum heart rate, and different heart rate zones work with different energy systems.
- The aerobic system refers to heart rate zones 1-2 (50-70% of your max HR), and are generally considered to be ideal for your long, easy runs. They don’t produce lactic acid, and help train your body for sustained aerobic activity.
- The lactic threshold system is heart rate zone 3 (70–80% of your max HR), and these are your tempo runs. This trains your body to adapt to lactic buildup, and helps you increase your speed.
- The anaerobic system is your heart rate zones 4 and 5 (80–95% of your max HR), and occurs during interval training sprints. This pushes your body to its VO2 max, and will result in a lot of lactic acid buildup.
Each training zone has a purpose, and understanding how oxygen is used in each zone can help you manage your breathing for your ideal workout goals.
Now that you know how your body operates, you’ll be in a much better position to understand what it’s telling you. Here are some tips to improve your breathing on your next run.
1. In through your nose, out through your mouth
Your nose is able to filter, humidify, and warm the air you're breathing, making it easier on your lungs. Then, you need to exhale as much CO2 as possible, which can be done most effectively from your mouth.
Also, when you’re on a long run, if you’re able to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth it also means you’re probably pacing yourself well. If you’re constantly sucking in all the air you can get, you’re probably pushing too hard!
2. Match your breath to your gait
Rhythmic breathing is when you breathe in for the same amount of time you breathe out— like inhaling for three steps and out for three steps, for example. Not only does this help you find focus on your run, but it can actually assist in dispersing stress evenly on each side of your body.
3. Focus on form
While it can be hard to maintain posture on those difficult runs, it's important to avoid hunching or slouching to allow your lungs to fully expand. Aim to keep your head in line with your spine and relax your shoulders down away from your ears.
4. Diaphragmatic breathing
This technique uses the muscular power of your diaphragm to pull air into your lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing is also called belly breathing, and you can practice it even when you’re not running. Once you get a feel for it, it’s easy to add this deep breathing into your runs to increase your O2 intake.
5. Air quality matters
While it can be hard to control, the type of air you’re breathing can impact your performance. Pollution, pollen, and extreme cold can all have an effect on your lungs, so take your environment into consideration before heading out. If it’s a bad day for air quality, hit the treadmill!
Your Body Needs to Breathe, Too!
As you focus on deep, controlled breathing on your next run, remember that your body needs to breathe, too. Sweating is your skin’s way of regulating moisture and temperature, and staying cool and dry with the right gear is just as important as learning how to breathe when running long distance.
Fitsok creates breathable socks that keep you feeling fresh from the ground up. With advanced technical fabrics that wick moisture from the skin, cushioning that protects your feet, and a supportive design that prevents rubbing, Fistok’s range of athletic socks will keep your feet feeling comfortable mile after mile.
Take a deep breath, and start exploring our range of high-performance athletic socks for men and women!