Coaching Focus: Breathing

Following on from a recent Q&A, this week’s coaching focus is breathing. Firstly, to be clear, it *is* a good idea to breath whilst running… Not doing so can cause significant harm! But seriously, improving your breathing is seen as a possible way of increasing oxygen uptake and decreasing the risk of side stitches and cramps, as well as reducing stress before or during a hard run or race.


This week, why not think about your breathing whilst you run? Do you follow a particular breathing pattern? Have you tried different breathing techniques? Pick a run this week, focus on how you breathe, and maybe try one of the changes suggested below.



Start your usual run. When you’re warmed up and a little way in, count how many steps it takes to inhale and exhale. You’re not looking for a particular number, this is just to give you a baseline of how you currently breathe. Then try one or more of the techniques below, or play with your breathing pattern in your own way, and see which feels more comfortable to you. You can also play with deep breathing drills to improve your oxygen intake before or after running, and relaxation breathing techniques to relax before a hard run or race.

  1. Nasal breathing: This is useful for checking you are running at a very easy effort. Oxygen intake is restricted so it’s ideal for stopping you running too hard. One to try on a very easy effort run.
  2. Match your breathing to your cadence: breathe in on each left foot strike and out on the right. Or breathe in on left foot strike and out on the next left foot strike. Which pattern feels better to you?
  3. Try a different breathing pattern. Alter your breathing so you breathe in for more foot strikes than you breathe out e.g. 3:2 – breathe in for three foot strikes and out for 2, or a 2:1 pattern.
  4. Try using breathing to reduce your heart rate whilst running easy. If you feel your heart rate rising, slow down. Then breath in slowly for a count of three steps and release. Repeat 2-3 times, and note your heart rate at the start and the end.


Please don’t take this too seriously and if you find that something doesn’t work for you try something else. The main thing with breathing while running is to find something that you feel works for you and that feels natural. Whilst these techniques can help some, for others, one of the worst things would be to have to think about breathing whilst running.


Have fun and enjoy this – and don’t forget to post below to let me know what you are planning to do and how you get on.


I hope that you can take something away from this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and I’ve set up a very supportive free Facebook Community where like-minded people can share their experiences of life and exercising. Please feel free to join and invite others you know who may be interested.


I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.


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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community