The Running Physio

TRP's Running Blog

Injury management, nutrition, training and running tips.

How Do You Breathe?


How do you breathe? It sounds like a trivial question, It’s breathing, it just…happens, and we don't give it much thought. But the truth is running and breathing have an interesting relationship. What if we told you that your running performance could be dramatically improved by addressing and potentially changing the way you breathe while running? This week we’re addressing breathing practices for runners.

First off, let’s start with HOW you breathe. Here’s a test:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Place one hand  (palm facing down) on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
  • Take a few, natural deep breathes in and out.

Now, what hand moved up and down with your breathing? If it was the hand on your stomach, perfect - you were breathing from your diaphragm. If the hand on your chest felt the most movement keep reading!

Why should we be breathing from the belly? A great article from Runner’s World sums it up quite nicely, “When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and moves downward, while muscles in your chest contract to expand your rib cage, which increases the volume in your chest cavity and draws air into your lungs. Working your diaphragm to its fullest potential allows your lungs to expand to their greatest volume and fill with the largest amount of air, which of course you need for your running. The more air you inhale, the more oxygen is available to be transferred through your circulatory system to your working muscles,” (Running on Air by Budd Coates). Makes total sense, right! Diaphragmatic breathing allows more oxygen into our circulatory system and into the muscles we use while running.  

So, how is diaphragmatic breathing achieved? Following the same steps as above where we discovered how we’re breathing - this time instead of breathing naturally, focus on keeping the hand on your chest still and allowing your breath to fill your diaphragm. Keep your upper chest and shoulders still while you breathe. Really focus on raising your belly as you inhale and lowering it as you exhale. The hand on your stomach should move up and down with your breaths. It can take some time getting used to and practicing while lying down is the best way to learn. Once you’re comfortable lying down, try it sitting in a chair, and then while you’re running.

It’s important to practice diaphragmatic breathing, getting oxygen all the way down to the bottom of the lungs to utilize them to their full capacity. Many patients we treat with desk jobs tend to develop tension through their necks and shoulders. Aside from sending more oxygen to our muscles, belly breathing allows us to relax the muscles of the neck and shoulders - making us feel more at ease. This also improves our endurance and ease of breathing with running. 

When our mind and body are connected, we run better and with ease. The simplest way to make that mind/body connection is through our breathing - need help connecting the two? We can help you! Click here to book in with us to chat about how to develop and incorporate a diaphragmatic breathing pattern into your running.

Breathe deeply!


Lauren Roberts