Breathing Tips for Runners by Sha Hussain

Sha Hussain. Photo by Simon R Photography. @simonrphoto

Guest Blog post by Sha Hussain, founder of Run Yoga Run.

Take a deep breath — the upcoming British 10k on 9 July (entries close 30 June) is just around the corner! We got some top tips for runners and how to best breathe from Sha Hussain, founder of Run Yoga Run. Check out his handy how-to inhale and exhale below, and follow him on Instagram @shahussain and @runyoga1.

The first thing I always do as I prepare to set off for a run is to bring my focus to my breath and get in tune with it (a smile also helps), the result is that I find myself having a much more comfortable and smoother running experience.

Follow my top breathing tips for runners below to get the best out of your running.

1. Breathing through the mouth is the most effective way to breathe when running, because you breathe in more oxygen through the mouth than the nose. It also relaxes your jaw, which helps relax the hips joints too (the jaw is intrinsically linked to the hip joints and pelvis). This will also help guide the breath to these areas.

2. The most effective way to breathe when running an easy pace is to inhale for three steps and exhale for three, for a medium intensity run it’s breathe in for two steps and out for two and the same for a maximum pace, usually the final sprint to the finish line. The above is a guide to get you started and you can try out a few different breathing patterns until you find the one that suits you best.

3. Either before or after a run, it’s great to focus on cultivating a deep belly breath. Practicing deep belly breathing when not running will help exercise the correct respiratory muscles, the diaphragm, pelvis, and abdomen. When breathing in a passive fashion, these should be the main muscles which are in action. A regular practice of this exercise will benefit the body when running because you will be breathing more efficiently. Supplying the muscles with more oxygen during a run is essential both for stamina and building up fitness. Even though the ribs and shoulder muscles play a part in a full breath, they shouldn’t be the main focus for optimum oxygen intake!

How to Practice Deep Belly Breathing

A. Lie on the floor or on a flat surface (in the park, on the sofa) and place your hands or a light book on your lower belly. If you place your thumbs just below your naval and your index finger just above the pubic bone, this is the area in which you should be focussing on during the practice.

B. Breathe in and out deeply and consciously, the hands or book should be seen clearly rising as you breathe in and fall down as you breathe out.

C. Start by gently guiding the breath lower and lower into the belly on each inhalation. The book or your hands should rise. Make it an easy, pleasant exercise. No pushing or straining. The breath likes to be guided, not forced.

D. When you have practiced this for 10 breaths or so then bring your focus to the exhalation and expel all the air in the lungs on your next out breath. Breathe out some more (there’s always more!), and then allow the breath to enter the body naturally — neither force nor extra effort. Exhale fully. Repeat until there is a sense of fullness in the inhalation and the belly is rising in a fuller.

E. Allow the exhalation to then become more natural so the inhalation and exhalation are even lengths. Be aware if there is any more depth in the breath from when you started.

Photo by Carlos @carlosm.k

The best tool to keep you focused when you are running is…your breath! When the mind is wandering or the negative chat comes in — ‘I can’t do this. I’m tired. Oh my legs are hurting. I should have gone to yoga.’ — take all your focus to the breath. Listen to it. Feel it.

Keep drawing your awareness back to the breath and eventually the negativity should pass.

With every inhalation bring in a positive intention ‘I can do this’ ‘This is easy’. Channel your inner Bolt. ‘I need to go faster. Faster than lightening’ It’s all about focus. You are not gonna catch me.’ Use the breath as a tool to trump any negative.

Entries close 30 June for the British 10k. Get yours before it’s too late!