Can't Breathe When Running, Why and What to Do?

Running is a great full-body workout and offers you numerous health benefits. Many new runners have to deal with a number of issues in the beginning and they have to address those issues to improve their performance. A common issue is to feel that you still have strength in your legs to keep running but you just have a hard time controlling your breathing. If you can't breathe when running, you are certainly not alone. In fact, many experienced runners struggle with the same problem until they pay attention to certain things.

Why Can't You Breathe When Running?

It is a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have shortness of breath or find it difficult to catch your breath. They will ensure that there is no serious underlying condition making it difficult for you to breathe properly. It is also possible to have exercise-induced asthma and your doctor can confirm that too. In case you do not have any medical condition but still can't breathe when running, it could be because of one of the following reasons.

  •  You do not warm up your body first. If you start out too fast without giving your body time to warm up, you may get into 'oxygen debt' and have little energy available for your working muscle cells. This can make your breathing become rapid and leave you feeling panting and breathless.
  • You run soon after a meal. Understand that about 70% of your blood volume is directed towards your digestive system to help digest the food you have eaten. It means there will be little blood available to deliver nutrients, oxygen, and energy to your muscles during the workout. This will result in shortness of breath when you try to run.
  •  You run in hot weather. When temperatures are high, a large amount of blood begins traveling through blood vessels underneath your skin's surface to keep your body cool. With large amounts of blood leaving your main circulatory system, you will end up feeling out of breath while running. If you continue to push yourself, this will lead to the production of lactic acid, which, when accumulated in the blood, causes shallow and rapid breathing.
  • You have an infection. Many people with an upper respiratory infection may experience the same breathing problems when running. Similarly, you may notice breathing problems because of overtraining or exposure to cigarette smoke.

Techniques to Train Your Breathing When Running

If you can't breathe when running, don't worry. It is quite common to have certain breathing issues when you first start running. Unless there is an underlying medical condition, you can try some techniques to control your breathing while running. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Be Sure to Take Deep Breaths

Research shows that most people do not use their lungs fully – they only use the top thirds of their lungs. You have to learn to breathe deeply, which will expand your lungs, press down your diaphragm and fill your lungs with air. Deep breathing while running provides you with more energy and prevents issues like nausea and dizziness. You may find it a bit tricky, but you can train yourself to breathe deeply when running. Cross-training with Pilates and yoga may also help improve your breathing.

2. Develop a Rhythm in Your Breathing

You can do it by matching your breathing to your steps. You should be inhaling for 3-4 steps and then exhaling for the same amount. You should try to count every step in your head to help adjust to breathing on rhythm. You can change the tempo if you are running fast. If at any stage you fail to match your steps to your breathing, it means you need to slow down a bit.

3. Breathe Through Your Nose

Many people can't breathe when running because they inhale through their mouth. You should avoid it at all cost. It may seem a bit difficult to inhale through your nose, especially when you are a new runner, but you have to master the art to have more energy throughout your running workout. Nose breathing lets you breathe deeply and efficiently. You really need to learn it when you will be running in extreme temperatures.

4. Switch to Abdominal Breathing

Deep breathing is important but you should also ensure that you are breathing from your abdomen and not from your chest. Simply lie on the floor with one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, and notice which hand is moving up and down with each breath. Make a conscious effort to ensure the hand on your abdomen moves while breathing.

5. Improve Your Posture

You need to maintain a neutral posture when running. Keep your head high with shoulders back and chest opened up a bit. You may also consider going with a deep tissue massage to help make breathing easier while running. Also, ensure that your chest, abdomen, shoulders, and back are all loose to facilitate breathing.

6. Go Swimming

One of the best exercises to train breathing is swimming. Regular swimming sessions will significantly improve your lung capacity. It will also improve respiratory function that will help you while running. You can always include swimming in your routine to maximize health benefits.

7. Do Not Forget to Warm Up

A few minutes spent in a warm-up session can always help prevent injuries and breathing issues while running. Even experienced runners do not start running at a faster pace right out of the blocks. They move at warm-up pace for a few minutes and then up the pace. Do not try to run like a veteran when you have only just started following a running routine. Give your body some time to get ready and then you can push the gas.

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