Three Breathing Exercises Every Runner Should Do

We don’t give much thought to breathing as runners, it’s an autonomic process that just occurs. Breathing can play a vital role in controlling perceived effort, staying centered and injury prevention for runners. Runners who have strained breathing have weaker leg muscles (1).

Just like we strength train our hamstrings and glutes we can train our diaphragm and intercostal muscles for deeper breathing. The diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen, is the most important muscle used for inhalation. The intercostal muscles help move the rib cage and assist in breathing.

Most of the runners take shallow breaths and practice chest breathing. Chest breathing can be a hard habit to kick since most of us spend many hours hunched over our computers, shortening the chest muscles, inhibiting deep breathing. A good way to switch to deep belly breathing is to do breathing exercises when you are not running.

Here are a few exercises that every runner should be doing.

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing activates your diaphragm. You can practice this exercise in a seated position or lying down on your back. Lying down on the floor is a better option because gravity isn’t working against your body.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
  • Inhale as deeply as you can. Imagine filling up your belly like a balloon.
  • Deflate the balloon, emptying all the air from your stomach.
  • Take 8–10 breaths for a pre-run warm-up or any time of the day.

Combination Breathing

Second breathing exercise is combination breathing with pursed lips. Combination breathing makes breathing slower and intentional. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

  • Come into a seated position or lay down on the floor.
  • Inhale through your nose for two seconds.
  • Purse your lips like you’re blowing a candle and exhale for 4–6 seconds.
  • Repeat this exercise 8–10 times.

Rhythmic Breathing

This breathing exercise is my favorite because you can do it while running. Try to practice a 3:2 breathing rhythm. Inhale for 3 strides and exhale for 2. Every time you exhale you will land on different foot. This breathing pattern reduces the chances of injury and muscle imbalance. It’s a great technique for increasing lung capacity.

  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Take 3 steps on inhale and 2 steps on exhale.
  • Repeat for 10 breath cycles and repeat as you can.
  • Try to increase the number of breath cycles in each round.


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About the Author

Aesha Tahir is a health and wellness coach and a certified personal trainer. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science and is certified by the NASM as a Personal trainer. She is a certified USA Track and Field Running Coach and Road Runners of America Coach. She is a 200-HR Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a group exercise instructor specializing in barre, spinning, strength training, boot camp, and yoga classes. She has over five years of experience in the fitness and wellness arena with focused expertise in coaching, corrective exercise and injury prevention, individualized fitness programs, and group fitness programs. She is also an aspiring public speaker in the fitness and wellness world who believes in this quote; “To be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible.”



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Aesha Tahir

Aesha Tahir

Coach, writer & runner. Exercise science, group fitness and positive psychology for every athlete. Book a Call with