Couch to 5K
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Breathing bother - any advice?

I ran my first post-graduation run yesterday evening, warm but breezy conditions, along the sea front. Unusually, I had the sensation about 20 mins in of finding breathing harder than usual - it felt like I couldn't get enough air into my lungs without really lifting my chin and expanding my chest as much as I could - and kind of forcing the air in.

I tried slowing right down, but I started to feel like I couldn't catch my breath properly, and a little bit dizzy, so I actually stopped at that stage. After about 30 seconds the sensation had passed, and I got going again but very slowly, then finished the run ok.

It's hard to describe, but I think I breathe quite shallowly normally - so is what I'm experiencing just my body getting used to working harder - or are there things I can do to improve? I have tried breathing in through my nose and out of my mouth, but seem to get even less air in that way, so I opt for the mouth.. and probably look a little like a basking shark when I run..

Can anyone help with this one? the dizzy bit was a little scary :O

6 Replies

I would nip to the GP just in case. I know that you can get exercise induced asthma so best to get checked out. I have had no success at all with the breath through the nose and out through the mouth thingy ... basking shark 'r us as well.


Glad there's at least two of us basking sharks out there... I'll try the ideas advised below, but if I don't see an improvement, I'll go to the GP - I'm gradually learning it pays to listen to my body rather than ignore its cries for help! Thanks for the advice, sorry it took a while to reply - just back from holiday.


Your breathing sounds exactly like what I've experienced - a feeling that you can't get enough air in or breathe right to the bottom of your lungs. I also can't breathe in through my nose, for the same reason, so it's open mouthed (through gritted teeth when there are flies!) for me too. I think I first experienced it in week 3 but it's never been as bad since, so I suspect it's just a case of the body getting used to it. Someone suggested hill-climbing (eg setting treadmill to max incline and doing a brisk walk) as a good way to improve lung capacity/stamina, so you could try that.


Thanks Legion, Just got back from holiday, but appreciate the advice. I will try and build in some hills. It's still a small miracle I'm running at all, so I just need to build stamina steadily I guess.


the dizzy feeling is almost certainly due to hyper-ventilating so make sure you are "belly breathing" as described in podcast 4: breathe in by pushing out the stomach to drop the diaphragm and increase lung capacity and breathe out by pulling in the stomach to squeeze the lungs. It is best if you can use your nose to breathe in because hyper-ventilating is over-breathing so using mouth and nose will add to the problem. You are taking in more oxygen than your body can use. This over-breathing may also cause tingling and numbness in the hands. To increase stamina try adding a little incline to your run and slow down.


Thanks for the advice, sorry for long delay before replying. Been on holiday for the week in France. Managed 1 run there, did 25 mins but was very hilly, and breathing ok considering heat and hills. Will try the belly breathing technique, and then go to the doc for a check if that doesn't improve things.


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