How to Breathe While Running?

In our daily life, breathing is something that people think might come naturally, but some will find it difficult when they started to run. When you just started running, you will feel that it’s hard to run further because you feel suffocated. Once that happens, as you gasp for more air, you will feel that your legs are getting heavier, you are hunching more, and starting to get some abdominal pain called the ‘side stitches’.

This is a common problem for new runners.

We have heard a lot of new runners asking their coaches or running mates this same pertinent question, “How do you breathe when you run?”.

While most people will blame their performance due to lack of cardio or strength training, many have failed to see the fundamental problem in their running, which is breathing.

The remedy?

Run slower and focus on your breathing.

Breathing is an important technique to master because it helps you go further, faster (over time) and even prevent injuries.

The logic is simple. Muscles need oxygen to produce energy. And if you don’t inhale enough air, you won’t be able to supply enough oxygen to the muscles. The faster the pace, the shallower your breathing will be.

So what is the correct way or the most efficient way to breathe?

While running you should be using the stomach breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, compared to the shallow chest breathing. When you breathe, the air will only remain in your lungs for a short time, thus preventing a complete exchange between cycles.

Thus reduces the amount of oxygen you take in.

According to research, the most efficient way to breathe while running is stomach breathing. Chest breathing is considered to be a weak form of breathing. It is too shallow to bring in the maximal air intake and doesn’t fully expel air in your lungs.

But, how do I practice stomach breathing?

In order to fully master stomach breathing, you need to practice it.

  1. Lie down on your back, or sit down on the sofa.
  2. Place your hand or a book on your stomach.
  3. Breathe in and out strongly. You should be able to see the movement of your hand/book going up when you inhale and going down when you exhale.
  4. Remember to exhale all the air in your lungs when you breathe out.
    This will help you inhale more air when you breathe in.

You can practice stomach breathing any time and any place. With a little bit of practice, stomach breathing will come natural and becomes automatic.

Should I breathe with my mouth or through my nose?

Theoretically, breathing through the mouth will help you get more air into the lungs compared to through the nose.

You can breathe through the nose or the mouth or both, whichever suits you the best. But, the harder you run, you will soon see that you cannot get enough oxygen by simply breathing through your nose.

Breathing pattern

Breathing patterns (or the number of steps taken for inhaling or exhaling) should change according to the different paces that you are running at.

For easier runs, we recommend you to run with a 3:3 breathing pattern, meaning you take 3 steps while breathing in, and 3 steps while breathing out.  This is best for easy run days or warm-ups.

For moderate pace runs, we recommend you to run with a 2:2 breathing pattern. This is great for marathon pace runs, tempo runs, and steady state runs.

For really hard runs, switch to a 1:2 (one step breathing in, two steps breathing out) or 2:1 (two steps breathing in and one step breathing out) breathing rhythm. I know it will be very hard to focus on your breathing but focus hard on finishing the race.


In order to master breathing during running, focus on the following:

  1. Practice deep stomach breathing and exhaling all the air in your lungs when you breathe out.
  2. Breathe through either your nose or mouth, mostly on the latter.
  3. Focus on the breathing pattern depending on the pace that you are running.


  • Excellent article

  • I strongly agree with the above and hoping for many more info and advice.

    Sukor Abdul Rahman

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