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Breathing tips for running (reader q&a)

Posted Jan 21 2011 8:07am

Hey everybody! I’m Beth from Will Run for Books .  When Jennifer tweeted that she was looking for someone to help her answer a reader question on breathing while running, I jumped at the chance!  I’m an asthmatic who was told she’d never be a runner – now, I’m training for my second half marathon.  I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer, just a regular girl who likes to run, but I can share what I have learned and what works for me in the hopes it might work for someone else, too! Here’s the question Jennifer received:

“I am new to running and an unable to run for more than a minute without feeling like I can’t breathe. I know I need to keep trying to build endurance, but do you have any breathing tips and running that may help me go longer without getting out of breath?”

First, if you are starting a new exercise program, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor, including an asthma screening.  There are a lot of different types of asthma, including exercise induced asthma (the type that I have) and inhalers and medications that can help.  If it turns out you do have asthma, your doctor may recommend an inhaler or oral medication (like Singular) to help your lungs along.  You’d be amazed at the difference it makes!

If you don’t have asthma, or are already controlling it, you may be trying to start out too quickly.  One thing I learned when I started running is it takes longer and is harder for you to build endurance, so it’s important to start out slowly.  If you’ve never run before, you shouldn’t expect to be able to run for long periods of time right away.  A minute might be your max right now, and there’s nothing wrong with that!  I recommend the Couch to 5k program by Cool Running.  It’s what I used to start running over six years ago – it works!

Another thing you might try is slowing down.  If you are feeling that out of breath, just take it a little slower.  A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to talk a bit at the pace you are going.  Not a marathon gab-fest, but  being able to get out a sentence is actually a good thing. :)  When I started, my pace was around 12 minute miles (or 5 mph).  Yours might be faster, or slower, but will improve with time.

Also, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.  I know a lot of people say to just breathe how it comes naturally to you, but this works for me.  It helps control my breathing and my heart rate.  Plus, it warms and moistens the air before it reaches your lungs (particularly helpful in chilly weather!).  Of course, if you find this cumbersome or uncomfortable, don’t do it.

Finally, if you are running outside in dry or cold air, cover your mouth with a scarf or balaclava. This goes a step farther in warming and moistening the air for you, making the job easier on your lungs.

I hope this gives you some ideas to try and that you find these tips helpful!  Thanks, Jennifer, for letting me post for you!

Are you a runner or do you suffer from asthma? What are your best breathing tips for our reader?

Note from Jennifer: If you haven’t already be sure to check out Beth’s site and follow her on Twitter!

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