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Breathing Warmups for Runners

breathing exercise motivation running strength training May 20, 2021

Hey...pssst….are you a runner? Do you pay attention to your breathing before it becomes labored and fast and loud? Well, how about this, do you warm up before you go on a run? What does your warm-up look like?

If your warm-up doesn’t consist of any breathwork then let me ask you another question - Why do you train a cardiorespiratory activity without warming up your respiratory system?

Before diving DEEP into breathwork and breathing function, my passion for running was often limited by, you guessed it, my labored, loud and wheezing breath. I never thought about my breathing until something went wrong. Why would I need to? I’d been breathing my entire life! My warm-ups consisted of some stretching, maybe a bit of skipping and possibly some hip drills. I would then trounce off on a hard run with some pretty intense mouth breathing. Because mouth breathing means you get more air into your lungs, right?

Nope! Silly younger Amanda...Just because air gets in, doesn’t mean it goes to where your body needs it! Think of your respiratory system like a funnel, it doesn’t matter how much air you have in your lungs if your cells can’t get or use oxygen. And how do we get that oxygen into our cells? *Cue that really fancy music they play before a hero comes on the screen* Carbon Dioxide! 

Cells use oxygen to make energy, but the reaction also makes carbon dioxide. So our smart, amazing and super cool bodies use the presence of carbon dioxide to shove more oxygen into your cells! 

Young Amanda wasn’t that far off though, being able to take more air into your lungs while running hard can be really useful, but only if your lungs will actually expand and if your cells are trained. Training takes time.  

If we think of this as what running is, just our cells working really hard to make enough energy to keep us going; then wouldn’t it follow that the thing that lets this happen, i.e. breathing, might be an important part of our running training programs? 


So, to make this simple there are a few tricks and drills you can incorporate into your pre-run warmup to create a better awareness and rhythm to your breathing while you run:

  • Rub down your ribs

Say whhaaaat?! Yep. Get IN there! Use your knuckles to dig around in between the ribs and touch your intercostal muscles. Touching your intercostal muscles often opens up the thoracic cage and creates greater mobility in your lungs, because just like your skin and your muscles, your lungs move and stretch and get tight and sticky!

  • Breathhold Walking 

Start with some small breath holds. Exhale, hold your breath and walk 15-20 steps. Rest. Repeat 5 times.

Ramp it up. Inhale. Exhale. After your exhale hold your breath and walk until you need to take a breath. Rest. Repeat 5-8 times. 

This is hard. Fight through the tension and allow your body to relax into the sensation. Treat this as an opportunity to get really comfortable with the sensation of breathlessness. 

  •  Rhythmic Walking

This is a great drill to create greater awareness surrounding  the rhythm of breathing while running. The goal here is to create a challenging pace to make your run not so hard….

Inhale sharply through the nose and exhale sharply through the nose. This is a 1:1 pattern. Inhale sharply through the nose and then inhale again through the nose. Exhale sharply twice in a row. See if you can get your inhales in a row up to 15 or 16. 

Ultimately, running is just a program that your brain runs on occasion. To keep that program running smoothly and bug proof we should train and warm up all aspects of the Running.exe program, including our breathing patterns.



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