Every Breath You Take
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This article originally appeared in MarathonGuide.com
by Mindy Solkin

While most runners take notice of their pace and distance, many people do not give any thought to breathing. However, how you breathe during your run can sometimes make the difference between a good and a bad run, and perhaps enable you to run at a faster pace with less effort.

The most effective breathing method for runners is to breathe in and out through the mouth. This is because of two main reasons. One is that you can get more air in and out of your mouth, rather than your nostrils. And secondly, you want to maintain a relaxed composure while running. This is achieved by having relaxed facial muscles. Nose breathing will result in a clenched jaw and tight facial muscles. So forget everything you've heard in yoga class, because "this ain't no yoga class." During your run, the mouth should be held open just slightly, and this position is called the "dead fish" because that is what it looks like. The breaths are short and shallow, but comfortable, not deep and long, and you shouldn't be aware of anything in particular. However, every now and then if you need to take a deep breath to re-group, it's absolutely fine.

Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is better than chest breathing. This is because you are breathing in more oxygen and expelling more carbon dioxide. You can see if you are belly breathing by lying on your back and placing your hands over your stomach. Your stomach should rise and fall as opposed to your chest rising and falling. In order to practice this, picture your stomach filling up as a balloon would. Every time you breathe in, your stomach fills up the balloon and rises, and every time you breathe out, your stomach flattens. During this time, your chest stays mostly still. And, as an added benefit, while belly breathing, you are performing an isometric contraction of your stomach muscles. This will result in a more muscular and flattened stomach.

You can count your footsteps in time with your breathing. If, for instance, you have a 2-2 breathing pattern, you would breathe in while stepping left foot, right foot, then breathe out while stepping left foot, right foot. Then, the pattern would continue. If you have a 3-3 breathing pattern, you would breathe in while stepping left foot, right foot, left foot, then breathe out while stepping right foot, left foot, right foot. Then, this pattern would continue. If you feel out of control, either because of your breathing or your pace, you can use different breathing patterns to calm yourself down. Practice different patterns such as 2-2, 3-3, 2-3, or 3-4 to see what works best for you, especially during different conditions such as steep hills or racing versus flat, easy running.

If you hear your breathing while running at what should be a comfortable pace, you are running too fast. This may result in an out-of-control feeling. Slow down until your breath is very quiet.
Mindy Solkin is the Owner and Head Coach of The Running CenterTM. She is certified by USA Track & Field (USATF) as a Level III Running Coach (the highest level) and by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a personal trainer.

Known as "Coach Mindy" to her runners, she has coached thousands of people over the past ten years, helping them to achieve their goals on the open roads and the winding trail, whether it is running their first mile or pursuing their personal best in the marathon.

Mindy was the creator of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society's Team In Training marathon program in New York City and served as its Head Coach from 1994 through 2001. From 1995 through 2002 training over 3,000 runners to run marathons in cities around the world, Mindy was the Head Coach at Reebok Sports Club/NY. She is also the creator of the Polar Heart Bra® and has been a PowerBar® Team Elite athlete since 1994. She can be reached at www.TheRunningCenter.com.

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