Belly breathing or chest breathing while running?

Belly breathing

I have been using my chest to breath all my life! In running, I have also been using my chest to breath! Isn't it the correct breathing method while running? Don't tell me I have been breathing wrongly all my life!! :(

I have been looking for breakthroughs in running a full marathon! Unfortunately, no matter what I do - I always hit the wall in full marathon races at around KM 30 - KM 32.

My pace starts to drop drastically. My cadence also becomes low. And my legs start to feel like jelly! My breathing also starts to become very short as if I'm going to run out of breath anytime soon! From inhaling and exhaling through the nose, I start to open my mouth to catch more oxygen!

Breathing sound also becomes heavier and deeper - to the point of disturbing other runners running close to me! So embarrassing! I remember one time I exhaled out so loud that the 2 female runners in front turned back to look at me thinking I was scolding them!! I wish there was a hole for me to bury my head like an ostrich at that point!! Really malu embarrassing lah!!haha!

My throat gets dry easily and I start to cough badly. 

Oh one more thing - I can't maintain my usual consistent breathing pattern anymore after hitting the wall!

Oh gosh!! No wonder I always suffer after KM 30. No proper oxygen in the body, how to continue running smoothly and energetically? Sob sob!! How to continue improving my time like that?

Any running sifu out there who can share with me the secret of breathing properly after km 30 and how to "climb over the KM 30 wall" ? I don't want to hit the wall anymore.... Sigh!

Is belly breathing... the solution?

According to Wikipedia, "belly breathing, abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and abdominal cavity."

It goes on to say that "Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing. This deep breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing."

Wikipedia also states that "diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing is also known scientifically as "eupnea", which is a natural and relaxed form of breathing in all mammals. Eupnea occurs in mammals whenever they are in a state of relaxation, i.e. when there is no clear and present danger in their environment.

According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, "Belly breathing allows one to take normal breaths while maximizing the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream."


Did I read, "maximizing the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream?"

Hey - may be this is a possible answer to my long quest for a breakthrough in running? I'm so excited! I am willing to try anything that can help me for endurance running... haha!

I'd better put in some effort in learning this new breathing to see if it helps me.

Below are some illustrations of how the belly breathing works:

expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing

My training on belly breathing so far

I'm truly grateful to some running sifus whom I got to know recently. No one has pointed out to me before about how I should breath. And all the while, I just breath through my chest. Sob sob!!

The running sifus have been extremely generous and gracious in sharing their knowledge and running experience with me. They have spotted a few of my wrong running forms and techniques. Without any hesitation or me asking, they are so willingly teaching me the proper running form and technique. They have even gone to the extra mile of "reminding" me constantly when I run with improper running form / technique. :)

I wanted to officially call them sifus by kneeling down and offering them Chinese tea as in the movies. But they don't want me to be their disciples. haha! They just want to share their knowledge and help me improve. Hence, I can only do my best to offer them 100 Plus during training as much as I can. :) I guess runners prefer isotonic drinks more than chinese tea! lol!!

Anyway - back to my training on belly breathing!

Well - after trying for 3 Sundays, I still find it very difficult for me to breath through my belly.

Every time I breath, it seems that my chest want to expand instead of my belly!! haha! I think it has to do with me always wanting to "suck in the air" in the stomach so that I don't look fat!! lol! So it's usually to expand the chest (and to make chest bigger) and belly or stomach smaller!! 😛

Even as I write this, I find it funny that I do that! I'm so vein to a certain extent! Want to have big chest (through cheating using the chest breathing) and small belly (through sucking in the air).

Okay - I shall forget about my vanity and focus on changing my breathing from chest breathing to belly breathing while running! :)

Yes - the training hasn't been easy! And I can manage to do may be 20% of the 30 km distance only so far!! What an awful result! How to not hit the wall at KM 30? Sob sob!!

But I'm determined to continue my effort in learning this belly breathing that will maximize the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. 

I want to  master this belly breathing so that one day I can climb over / overcome the K 30 wall comfortably with smooth breathing, consistent cadence, and a big smile to the finish line!! Hopefully with PBs too!! :)

Please don't laugh at me! Whenever I find a new running technique I can learn from the sifus, I get very excited! Isn't running full of learning too? There is so much to learn!!

If you see me next during training..

Next time if you see me training on Sunday and see me breathing wrongly through chest, please shout at me! Hit me if you want!

But just don't ask me to do belly dancing instead, ok? hahaha!!

Hopefully in due time, I can update about any improvement (if any) in my belly breathing!

By the way, if you have any other running tips / advice that can help me improve, I am forever grateful!! Thank you!

Written by Vincent Khor on March 5, 2017


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