A breath of air

A couple of days ago I wrote about my first time running to the Stepping Stones podcast. In the blog I mentioned a new (to me) breathing technique that I was trying out, and how for the first time I completed a run without experiencing my ususal lung discomfort. It worked just as well for me today when I did my interval running using the C25K+ Speed podcast.

During the week 2 podcasts Laura's breathing tip is to breath in for 4 steps and out for 4 steps. That might work for some, but it sure didn't for me. I couldn't really settle on any particular pattern so I stopped worrying about it and decided to just make sure I was taking deep belly breaths and not panting. And if my lungs started hurting too much then I'd just slow down.

Then I found this recent (long) article (with a video demo) on runner's world, called Running on Air:


It talks about a 3:2 breathing pattern. Breath in for 3 steps, out for 2. That way you have balanced breathing - ending one exale on the left foot, ending the next exhale on the other foot, etc. And for faster running there's the 2:1:1:1 balanced breathing pattern where you breath in for 2 steps, out for 1 step, in for 1 step, then out for 1 step, and repeat. The 2:1:1:1 pattern might sound complicated but it worked great for me when I was running tired during the last 5 minutes (at 160 BPM) of the Stepping Stones podcast.

As usual, this might work for some people but not others. If nothing else, though, it makes for interesting reading. :)


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24 Replies

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  • Will try it ... if I can keep count and not panic :) That sounds more like my pattern in that I have to force a deeper breath every few paces.

    Hope graduation continues well ... should do my last run tonight!

    Happy running :D

  • Good luck for tonight.

    Perhaps you should try out the new breathing after your grad run to avoid unpleasant surprises?

  • I'll admit it was a little tricky counting my breathing in (1,2,3) and out (1,2), in (1,2,3) and out (1, 2) while Laura is calling out the beat, "1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4". I didn't really have to do that much counting, though, once I got into the rhythm of it.

    I hope your run went well, I'll probably be reading about it in a moment. :)

  • Thanks for posting this. Will definitely check it out as I've never managed to stick to any suggested even breathing patterns, whether running, swimming or meditating. They nearly always leave me gasping for air... First the guy says "breathe in" and then what seems like ten minutes passes before you get the "breathe out". Maybe my lung capacity is abnormal... Like you, do my own thing. :D

  • I think the long exhales as you mention are what always bothered me the most. I've never learned to swim properly because I could never figure out how to breath without inhaling water. To each their own! :D

  • Interesting reading.... I tend to do 3:3, but I will try the 3:2. I don't go that far yet as only on W5R2, but in the future I would like to run further so breathing will be important. Thanks for the advice :) Good luck with C25K+ :-D

  • I think I may have been doing a 3:3 patten in the earlier weeks, but not certain because at some point I'd decided to not pay attention to my breathing. But then in the later weeks I was running out of breath (with painful lungs) before my legs were giving out. Good luck to you, too. :)

  • I will check this out, thanks. I'm very interested in this, as I have played around with breathing quite a lot while running. I think a spill over from my yoga, I tend to breathe 4:1:3:1 (1 = pause) for a very easy jog and 3:2 (no pause) for harder running, with the exhalation a really forced push, to get all the nasties out of my lungs and have space for new, clean air. My lungs improved a lot with learning yogic breathing and the running became easier as a result. Running has also contributed to my overall lung capacity and strength improvement. Now I just need to keep running places that aren't smelly with car fumes ;-)

    Sounds like you already figured out that our bodies are all different, some of us are more/less fit than others, so it's good to try out different things to see what works for you right now and to revisit them from time to time, as your body and fitness levels change. Good luck with C25K

  • I think I'd pass out with the 4:1:3:1 breathing while exercising. :O So you're doing the 3:2 pattern for harder running, that's cool. When I was doing harder running I had to switch over to the 2:1:1:1 pattern. You apparently have much better lung capacity than I do. Hopefully you'll find some places to run with nice, clean air. :)

  • Laura's 4:4 pattern didn't work very well for me either. I have a variety of patterns now, depending on how fast I'm running and how hard I'm working! Steady, level running is usually 3:5 (in:out); slightly harder work is 3:4 or 3:3, and uphill or speed intervals can be 2:4.

    It's so definitely not a case of 'one size fits all2, and finding the right breathing pattern makes such a difference, so it's definitely worth trying a variety of patterns and seeing what works best for you. :)

  • Sounds like you have a system that works just fine for you, that's great. I find it interesting that some people prefer longer exhales than inhales. I still haven't tried running hills yet so I'll have to wait and see how my breathing does under that kind of stress. Happy breathing. :)

  • It is interesting and worth a try, thanks for posting as I have not yet thought about my breathing, I will now.

    I suspect that Hannah in the video is an evil robot! And Dr. Whats his name is not a Doctor of fashion, a knitted Cardi and trainers! ouch!! :0)

  • Funny video critique! :D

    Now how did you make it all the way to graduation without thinking about your breathing? :O Maybe if it just comes naturally to you then you should just leave well enough alone? :)

  • I did think about it, like you, when Laura said four in four out, but it defiantly did not work for me either! Since then I just tried to breath deep and it seems to work.

  • I am glad I am not the only one who could not do Laura's breathing.

  • Stick around long enough and you'll see it come up again. It is comforting, though, to know we're not alone. :)

  • Thanks for this. I was under the impression that 4:4 pattern was the best for all! Most of the time I just do what feels right, not sure exactly what that is, but don't worry about it at all!

  • It would have been nice if along with the breathing tip there was a little disclaimer that said if it doesn't work for you then don't worry about it. :)

  • I'm a flautist, so am used to long, slow exhaling. I tend to find that I am breathing in for two counts and out for four while running, and cannot make a longer inhalation work. I suspect I am just too used to taking in lots of air quickly and letting it out slowly!

  • Another long exhaler, very interesting. My lungs have always been wimpy, never getting exercised. Maybe things will change as I get fitter. Keep up the good work. :)

  • All very interesting! No idea what my breathing pattern is (the only time I tried to follow a pattern I got all confused and out of breath and decided to forget about it other than breathing deeply). The yoga and flute references were fascinating. Maybe I'll try counting my breathing just to see what I do naturally, under different circumstances.

  • Yes, lots of interesting comments. I'm not sure I could count my natural breathing because the moment I focused on it I'd be messing it up. Let us know how it goes. :)

  • I tend to do the 3:3 breathing when I feel puffed and it generally works quite well. I might try the 3:2 though as it always seems easier to exhale than inhale, so doing it faster makes sense. Interesting article.

  • I think what you just said is partly why I like this pattern, because I also find it easier to exhale. :)

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