Runners tend to be self-motivated. Running year-round through snow, sleet, rain, wind, dark nights or early mornings takes a toll on the mind. Not to mention, running is stressful on the body. It can cause myriad overuse injuries like stress fractures, tendinitis and back pain.
Rather than pushing yourself to the brink every session, all runners need to schedule recovery runs into their training. These slower runs still count as workouts and add to your total mileage for the week, but won’t push your body to the edge. How to gauge a recovery run has a lot to do with keeping the intensity down and how you breathe plays an important role.
USING NOSE BREATHING FOR PACING
Figuring out your pace for a slower recovery run can be difficult. You can monitor your heart rate and use formulas to calculate the percentage of your maximum heart rate to stay at during the run. However, sometimes these pacing strategies add stress. Instead, keep it simple.
When you’re relaxing, you have less need for oxygen, so you can breathe through your nose. Even as you warm up for a run, your need for oxygen remains fairly low and you can still breathe through your nose. However, as you start to run and pick up speed, your heart rate and breathing slowly increase. The faster you run, the faster your heart beats and the harder you breathe. Your heart pumps faster to keep up with the demand for oxygen and to get rid of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of energy production. Your nostrils aren’t big enough to take in the volume of air you need, and you begin to breathe through your mouth.
Each runner has a different threshold where they start to breathe through their mouth. You can use it as a gauge for your intensity. If you’re running too quickly, you’ll feel the need to breathe through your mouth.
PRACTICING NOSE BREATHING
When you’re doing a lower-intensity run, try closing your mouth and only breathing through your nose. You can do this in intervals or for the entire run if you’d like to limit yourself for an extended period of time. It’s important you stay calm and work at the pace of your breathing.
Pay attention to the way you feel when you close your mouth. If you start to feel anxious, or like you’re struggling to breathe, resist the urge to open your mouth. Instead, slow your pace to the point where you feel like you can breathe through your nose without panicking.
This feeling takes some getting used to. It’s a balancing act between feeling like you’re struggling for air and running too slow. Your pace should keep you on the brink of discomfort throughout your run. It’s not meant to be a slow jog, rather a carefully paced run without pushing your body too far.
Research shows breathing through your nose makes exercise slightly more difficult, naturally lowering your performance. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science showed breathing through your nose makes your heart rate higher than breathing through your mouth, even at the same pace. It also noted that nose breathers had a lower respiratory exchange ratio, which is a measure of how hard you’re working.
As you grow more comfortable with the sensation of breathing through your nose while running, your pace should slowly increase. However, your pace should still be below the speed you can maintain while breathing through your mouth.
MORE BENEFITS OF NOSE BREATHING
If you find it’s exceedingly difficult to breathe through your nose, even after you’ve slowed down your pace significantly, you might have problems with the airflow through your nostrils. Allergies and congestion can make this method of breathing nearly impossible, since your nostrils will naturally be clogged.
Another problem you may be suffering from is a deviated septum. This would cause a shift in your nostrils to favor one side and weaken or entirely block the airflow through the other nostril. If you’re down to only one nostril, you’ll be severely limited with your air intake.
While breathing through your nose makes running more difficult, it has benefits that might make you want to breathe through your nose all the time. According to an article from Nursing in General Practice, breathing through your nose cleanses the air you breathe. It also warms and humidifies the air, which means your mouth and lungs won’t dry out as easily.
Nose breathing can also help your immune system fight infection. If you get the hang of breathing through your nose, you can do it on your more difficult training days as well. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Kinesiology & Sports Science showed that, after an extended training period, runners were able to match their nose-breathing pace to their mouth-breathing pace.