Running Faster with Your Nose - the HOW
How to gain the benefits of nasal breathing while running without running
Recently I wrote an article described the reason to try nasal breathing during your running practice.
This time I am going to talk about HOW with personal experience in practice. The exercise I mentioned here would be suitable for anyone. If you are a professional athlete, increase the repetition or duration of the training can help you to go to the next level.
Everyone should know how to breathe with their nose. I mean, inhale and exhale only with their nose. Some people like to inhale with the nose but exhale with the mouth, especially during running, but cannot fulfill the purpose and gain the benefits from above.
This is because what we want to achieve is re-train our body to adapt to nasal breathing, and the first thing we need to train is the breathing muscles - mainly the diaphragm.
1# Practice Belly breathing
Without being told, I generally breathe by expanding my lung when inhaled. But the better way of breathing is to do it by expanding your diaphragm - Diaphragmatic Breathing or Belly Breathing.
Strengthening your diaphragm may improve your core muscle stability and your body's ability to tolerate intense exercise (Thanks to improved CO2 tolerance). With more practice, the first thing you notice is a reduced breath rate as you can supply oxygen to your body with a lower breath rate.
Belly breathing helps you to expand your diaphragm and take in more air while inhaling. When you breathe out, it does the opposite - relaxes and moves upward.
According to Benefits Of Holding Your Breath:
1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.
2. Relax your shoulders.
3. Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
4. Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your belly expand. During this breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
5. Press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
6. Repeat these steps several times for the best results.
For advanced practitioners, you can do this practice while walking, and better to use it during running.
Diaphragmatic breathing is not only better for running but also comes with several benefits, which are lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, and regulate the sympathetic nervous system. You probably heard about it before from meditation and yoga practices.
2# Breath-hold after exhales, not inhaling
Holding your breath give your cells more time to absorb oxygen, and produce carbon dioxide. This is why holding your breath can sometimes increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your cells and blood.
So why we need to hold our breath after exhale? To increase CO2 tolerance, we need to increase the CO2 concentration, not O2, in the lung. When we inhale and hold our breath, there is a larger supply of oxygen from the air when breathing in.
Without inhalation first, holding our breath will supply limited O2 for our cells, but at the same time, our cells continue to produce CO2. The net increase in CO2 in our blood would raise the air hunger. Our goal is to increase our time to hold our breath after exhale.
This practice can be work together with 1# if you already get used to belly breathing. I am not going to teach you how to hold your breath but when. I usually do this practice when I am waiting for something or walking a long distance. You can count your breath hold by the number of steps if you are walking.
What you need to do is:
- Breathe normally for 3–4 times
- In the last exhalation, hold your breath.
- Once you feel the urge to inhale, sip a little bit of air only and continue to hold your breath
- Repeat 3 for three times and then go back to normal breathing.
My warm-up exercise with breath-hold:
- Jogging with a pace that will not increase your breath rate
- Hold your breath after exhalation for 7–8 steps.
- Resume breathing for three breathes (both in and out)
- Repeat 2
The warm-up exercise is excellent before and after running, which can prepare our body for the rise of CO2 during running. You can also add breath-hold into your dynamic stretching.
3# The easiest way to nasal breathing is by mouth tapping
Forcing your body to breathe through your nose during sleep can train your body to adapt nasal breathing during the night. It gives you the extra benefit of better sleep, too.
If you know you have some form of sleep-disordered breathing, like sleep apnea, it's almost certain you're mouth breathing through the night. Then it would help if you considered keeping your mouth shut during sleep.
I do mouth tapping during sleep. It prevents my mouth from open during the night and forces me to breathe through my nose. I noticed my mouth was not dry the first morning with mouth taped.
My Sleep Score from Oura ring improved after mouth tapping. Before that, I got headaches often in the morning and takes more time to be fully functional. It also prevents me from waking up in the middle of the night to sip some water as my mouth is dry.
Tips for mouth tapping:
- Put a thin layer of Vaseline around your lips before applying the tape. This can reduce the stickiness of the tape during removal.
- There is no need to tape the whole mouth but in the center area of your lips. Leave two sides of your lips without tape. Test it after tapping to see if you can open your mouth.
- Any medical tape will be sufficient as long as it is not too sticky and difficult to remove in the morning. You can buy mouth tape online specialized for mouth taping. For me, I use 3M micropore tape.
My experience with Nasal Breathing while Running
In the past, like everyone else, I ran with my mouth open and breathed like a dog. I sometimes cough when running in winter as my throat was dry.
After I tried nasal breathing during running, the first thing I noticed was an improvement in endurance. As I run every week, and it is easy to tell the differences. I could keep my optimal pace for a longer distance. It can be explained by the production of NO and higher breathing efficiency.
I was no longer breathing so rapidly during running and could calm my body faster after I stop. Also, my recovery time after running is shorter (muscles feel less sore the next day).
In the first few times, using this breathing method, irritants and congestion gave me some extra snivel during running, so be prepared to have a towel ready when you try it. Running with a clogged nose would be uncomfortable, but I reminded myself that congestion was previously breathed in through my mouth without a filter (my nostrils)!
Using Nasal Breathing for Pacing
Later I found out that it helped me to link my breath rate directly with my pace. While running with nasal breathing, your breath rate would not be so drastic, like oral breathing. And you can monitor your condition by merely checking your breath.
Once you get used to using only your nose during running, you can find your optimal pace much easier by sensing your breathing as you start to run and pick up speed, your heart rate and breathing increase gradually. The faster you run, the faster your heartbeats, and the harder you breathe.
Your heart pumps faster to keep up with the oxygen demand and eliminate carbon dioxide. Your nostrils are too small to take enough oxygen for your need, and you cannot keep up using nasal breathing.
The threshold where you start to breathe with your mouth is directly related to your CO2 tolerance at that moment. You can use it as an indicator of your intensity. If you're running too quickly, you'll feel the need to breathe through your mouth. The higher threshold would easily show your air hunger increase.
To start your practice of nasal breathing during running, do not necessarily need to wear your running shoes. What I mentioned could all be done indoor or with daily activities.
- Belly Breathing
- Breath-hold after exhalation
- Mouth Tapping for sleep
You can try all three all at once, as breathing is what we do every day. Once you adapt and correct your way to breathe, I am sure you can enjoy the benefits in a short period.
To use nasal breathing during running, start slowly. Then it increases your pace gradually to get used to nasal breathing. It is normal if you want to breathe through your mouth if the intensity goes too high.
Keep the speed if you can, try not to breath through your mouth during the whole practice. Your performance would go skyrocket once you are well trained with nasal breathing.
Next time when you go out and run, try to have your mouth shut and breath all through your nose.
Thank you again for reading - Happy Running and Nasal Breathing.