Breathing is something that is usually an involuntary action in everyday life. When we push ourselves to the limit running, especially racing, it's important to get it right.
Some ideas that can help you with your breathing whilst running:
1) Practice Deep Breathing – my chiropractor has often told me that it is essential to practice deep breathing to improve your lung capacity and practice utilising all of your lungs, not just the upper part. The longer you run the more necessary it is to get large amounts of oxygen for your body to use…
To practice: lie on your back and put your hands on your stomach. Take deep, deep breathes making sure your tummy rises and falls as well as your ribs. You can also do some visualization while you are here eg. imagining yourself running strongly and with great form, maybe even along the course of your next race… If you want more, here are some exercises to build lung capacity, “Lung Power“.
2) Try out 3:2 breathing – Runners World magazine recently put out an article on breathing. (Running on Air) The idea is that your diaphram and core relaxes as you exhale and the force of always landing on the same foot on an exhale could lead to injury if you always breathe evenly (for example, if you breath in for two and out for two). So they suggest breathing in for 3 and out for 2 for easy running and in for 2, out for 1 when running harder and up hills. This, I believe would take some work and practice… I did try it for a while but then I just went with my own method… which is…
3) Focus – I have found that, in the case that I cannot do the 3:2 breathing while running, by just focusing on your breathing and taking control of it that this helps with the whole situation. But at least if I am thinking about breathing I am actually going to do it, maybe even deeper and better than if I wasn’t thinking about it.
4) Something I did recently read was “What I talk about when I talk about Running” by Haruki Murakami and he described how putting your hand over your mouth to feel your breath, can remind yourself to stay connected to your breath before a race, or any time you need to really.
5) Cross training – yoga, especially the yoga types where breathing is an integral part, as well as swimming can both help you with your lung capacity and breath control.
6) Use your nose and mouth to breathe – not just your nose, or just your mouth. There is a fair bit of controversy around what combination of nose/mouth breathing you Should do. I think you should do a bit of both – but that is just my opinion.
7) Keep your posture – this will help the oxygen get down deep into your lunges and increase the amount you take in, in each breath.
8) Another idea is to at times concentrate on getting the CO2 out of your body – by making sure you breath out with force.
Even so, it is a hard thing to get a good handle on. When it comes down to it though, the more practice you have at running ‘race pace’ the better you will be able to breathe as faster speeds.