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Austin Capitol10k 2010

I love to run, and a lot of my friends have recently started running too. I think running is probably one of the most intimidating exercises to jump into if you’re not used to it, even for those who are in great shape. It’s a lot easier once you get the hang of it, though, so there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier.

If the thought of running more than a mile strikes fear into your heart, you just need to learn a few simple tricks (and some good, old-fashioned motivation).

Breathe through your nose

Training your breathing is an important part of increasing your distance when running. Your legs might hurt a little, but most people have to stop running because they simply can’t breathe anymore and end up gasping for air. Set goals for yourself. Run a quarter of a mile before opening your mouth to breath, and add a quarter every time you run.

Running with your mouth closed forces you to breathe through your nose, which regulates your breathing.  You can gasp in a lot of air very quickly through your mouth, but you also run out of air more quickly. Breathing through your nose spreads out the process, providing your muscles with a constant supply of oxygen. If you’re dealing with allergies and a runny nose, you might not want to breathe out your nose, but you can still inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Breathing.com lists several reasons why you should breathe through your nose rather than your mouth:

  • Because the nose slows the breathing process, it allows the lungs more time to extract oxygen.
  • The nerves that regulate breathing are found in the nose. When you breathe through your mouth, you bypass these stimuli.
  • When you breathe through your mouth, your brain thinks you’re losing carbon dioxide and produces mucous to slow the breathing.
  • The nostrils filter the air going into the lungs, warming it in the process.

Wikipedia expands on this a little. It’s difficult at first, but once you get the rhythm, you can run much farther without running out of air.

Got rhythm?

On the topic of rhythm, another way to regulate your breathing in addition to breathing through your nose is by counting steps. For example, I inhale for three steps and exhale for three steps. I spread the breath out through the three-step period. Depending on your speed, you may choose to breathe every two or four steps. Once you find the perfect rhythm, you can go a lot longer.

Do you run? Do you have any special breathing tricks?

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