Couch to 5K
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5K easy today - nosebreathing only!

I have been reading a bit about nosebreathing while running. Like all things related to running there are different opinions as to whether it should or should not be done - whether it has any advantages or not -- but this led me to the subject of hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is a fact of life caused by all kinds of things - panic attacks, heart problems, etc. My understanding of hyperventilation is that it is a bit like positive feedback out of control. A hyperventilating person feels like they are struggling for oxygen and therefore breath at a fast rate - but the fast rate of breathing is actually causing their blood to not accept oxygen from their lungs and cause them to want to breath even faster!! :) Something like that!! :)

Apparently we need to expel CO2 from our lungs - BUT we also need CO2 in our blood to cause the blood to accept oxygen from the lungs and transport it to the body muscles - if there is insufficient C02 in the blood, then the blood cannot extract enough oxygen. Insufficient CO2 in the blood is caused by hypervention. Something like that!! :)

So apparently one of the things we need to do most is to slow down our breathing rate - to allow our blood to pick up Oxygen. Too high of a breathing rate is bad!! I also read of a number of high profile runners ( like Paula Radcliffe) who use nasal strips to open up their nasal airways .

It IS quite difficult to breath ONLY through the nose when running - apparently it is even difficult for many people to do so when not running. - I managed to keep at it today over a full 5K - I have no idea at this time whether it is beneficial or not - but I can say that it stopped me from running too hard on an easy day. I think it will be something that needs to be practiced for some time - just like learning how to run easy and slowly takes time to learn how to do.

6 Replies

I think you breathe normally, whatever that is for you. As you get fitter you will find you can breathe through your nose. I was amazed when I found I could. When you speed up though, say for a fast finish in a race, you can't keep it up as you would struggle to get enough oxygen, but I think it's good practice to try and do it when you can. It took me ages though


Yes - I have also read that slow breathing rates ALA nasal breathing is more suitable for distance runners who need to run aerobically than for sprinters who run anaerobically. I am thinking that "probably" a 100 metre sprinter would not need to breath at all for the duration of the race.!! :)


I'm sure this is quite hard to do. Without thinking about it I breathe through my mouth for all runs even though I don't need to on slow runs. I think it's just a habit. But it makes me feel better as I get more oxygen in that way. I will make an effort later today and try your example Bazza.


Interesting. I once read somewhere (or possibly just imagine that this is what I read) that the great Austrian climber, Reinhold Meissner. used a kind of asymmetric breathing technique (probably through the nose, to humidify the air better). They would breath out quite quickly, and then breathe in as slowly as possible. But please note, everyone, I might have this completely backward. I've looked for it online, and have found nothing like this.

For those who don't know, Reinhold Meissner led the first expedition to summit K2 (which should be called Mount Neverest, for several different reasons) without oxygen. AFAIK, he always climbed without oxygen, and is one of those rare people who have bagged all 14 of the highest peaks. He climbed without oxygen, so his breathing techniques must have been something extraordinary. (And who knows? Maybe it was just a con, and he had a way of sneaking oxygen up there).

I think your main benefit of nose breathing would be humidification. You can't transfer a gas across a membrane, unless it's dissolved in a liquid, so for both "outgassing" CO2, and uptake of O2, moisture helps. (And it keeps the membrane from going brittle, I suppose, but your plasma could do that fine, so I think it's the mixing of the gases and the water vapour that matters - for transport in solution as dissolved gas.)

Why would asymmetric breathing work? Because you're constantly adding O2 to the gas mix in your slowly expanding lungs, as you slowly breathe in. At lung surface level, it's going to be raw concentrations that matter, so steadily maintaining a favourable relative concentration of O2 ought to give you something similar to a more continuous uptake, on the in-breath. And then you quickly get rid of the CO2 buildup, and start again.

This might be complete rubbish, too. Anyway, for what it's worth, there's what I imagine I've read, but can't find any trace of today.


I am one of those people who normally always breathe through the nose unless I am doing something physically challenging. I realised my fitness was improving when i noticed that I had been running for some time on one run just breathing through my nose! Breathing through my mouth means i am out if breath. If it gets that way i start breathing out through my mouth but i usually only breathe in that way when i am really sprinting at the end. I tend to get dry throat through mouthbreathing- but of course we are all different :-)


I have used a HRM quite a lot - and I had a "suspicion" that using a faster breathing rate than that required for the exertion level ( eg using a 2/2 patter instead of 3/3 or really slowing it down to 4/4) was raising my herat rates.

the reading I have been doing seems to confirm this - and theorizes that breathing through the nose is what is "natural" and is what babies do as they feed at their mothers breast - but mouth breathing is a learned reflex ( as learned by said baby when it's nose becomes blocked) and is associated with emergency situations - hence the increased heart rates.

So - the object of trying to breath more slowly is actually to keep heart rates as low as possible.


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