Breathing Tips for Distance Runners

How to Breathe Properly While Running

One question I’m frequently asked by relatively new runners involves breathing patterns. They usually want to know how to breathe when running. Often new runners complain of difficulty breathing, getting short of breath long before their legs feel significantly fatigued.

Thankfully, as with all other elements of running form, there are cues you can use to learn how to breathe more effectively while you run, making the whole experience of running more comfortable!

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Is it Better to Breathe Through Your Nose or Mouth When Running?

People often get given conflicting advice here. The most effective strategy to use is that which maximises the potential for oxygen intake. Breathe through your nose and mouth together to take in the maximal amount of air per breath.

Find a Breathing Pattern to Match Your Natural Running Rhythm

When running within your comfort zone, try to breathe using a 3:3 or 4:4 rhythm (inhaling for 3 or 4 strides : exhaling for 3 or 4 strides). You should be able to maintain this for a steady aerobic pace.

If you want to run faster, it might help to move to a 2:1 rhythm (inhaling for 2 strides : exhaling for 1 stride). You will learn to regulate and maintain your breathing pattern by lining it to your stride pattern. Thus avoiding hyperventilation.

Take Full Breaths While Running

To enable your body to take in full breaths of air and therefore absorb maximum amounts of oxygen, learn to breathe from your diaphragm, breathing ‘into your belly’ or so it feels, instead of feeling your chest rise and fall.

Maintain Good Running Posture

To enable your lugs to fill to their proper capacity, you must maintain a good posture. Don’t allow yourself to slump forwards as you fatigue. This may effectively reduce the space your lungs can operate in and therefore restrict your breathing, adding to your fatigue.

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How to Use Breathing Patterns to Pace Your Running
Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.


  1. 18 months ago a coach suggested a two short in one long out cycle to breathing. In, In, Out. It sets up a great rhythm and stops the gasping for air especially as you tire. I now find I just do it with out thinking and had an impact (I think) on my times. Was not told to match the breaths with a cadence but think it falls into an “in, stride, in, stride, out, stride”.

  2. And breath from stomach. If pushed from lungs the energy required will be more than from stomach. so one can economize by breathing from stomach.