Ever wonder why some days you feel like you can keep running and running while on others you have zero stamina? Certainly the amount of sleep you got the night before, stress levels, and diet play a role in how you perform during your runs, but how you regulate your breath during your jogging session also affects your energy levels. Here's how to power your muscles with fresh oxygen on each stride.
Learn to breathe deeply: Your lungs are just a bit smaller than your rib cage, but most people tend to use just the top third of this powerful organ. When you take a deep breath, you are expanding the lungs, pressing down the diaphragm, and causing your abdomen to expand as your lungs fill with air. Learning to breathe this way while running helps you take in a lot of oxygen, preventing dizziness and nausea. With a little training and some stretching, you can breathe to your full potential and increase your endurance. Cross-training with yoga and Pilates can also help you learn to breathe from your diaphragm, as can meditation. Here are some tips for how to conquer diaphragmatic breathing.
Match your breathing to your steps: For an easy-paced run, inhale for three or four steps, then exhale for the same amount. Count the steps in your head while you adjust to breathing on tempo. If you are running more intensely, your breathing tempo will increase to support your increased energy output and become faster — a breath in for one to two steps and out for one to two steps. If you can't match your steps to your breathing tempo, then you are trying to run too fast; slow down, and get back into your rhythm.
Breathe differently in cooler temps: It's important to breathe through your nose while running in chillier weather, because cold air is dry and breathing through your mouth increases the dryness while decreasing the temperature of the air. Since your lungs do not like dry air, you can experience asthma-like symptoms, like wheezing and coughing, when breathing cold air in through your mouth. Breathing through your nose not only filters out air impurities but also warms cool air to body temperature, creating less shock for the lungs to decrease those asthma-like symptoms.
Learn to breathe through your nose: If nose breathing is difficult for you, start experimenting with the technique now before the temperature drops drastically. Breathing through the nose helps you breathe more deeply and efficiently, which will ultimately help your running no matter what the temperature is. If you plan to run in cold temps and have yet to master nose breathing, you can try wearing a bandana (or a shirt that can be pulled up far) over your nose and mouth to help trap the moisture of your breath and humidity in the air before it reaches your lungs.