Managing your breath during the race

One of the most important things when it comes to going the distance, perhaps even more so than endurance, is the ability to master your breathing.
The body obviously consumes much more oxygen during intense effort. Improving your cardio may end up being of little use if your breathing is unable to keep up.  Fortunately, this isn’t a big deal, because, with training, almost everyone can adopt good breathing techniques. Much like everything else when it comes to running.

Training to breathe well during a race
If you are training every week or several times a week, your body will probably end up naturally adopting a breathing rhythm that works for you. But if you don’t carry out specific exercises, this rhythm will probably not be optimal, and the later you pay attention to it, the more difficult it will be to correct.
First of all, it is important to have an understanding of different breathing techniques:

  • Abdominal breathing. This is the most important type of breathing, and the one used most often in running, because it allows you to make the most out of your lung capacity. Abdominal breathing enables you to go the distance and facilitates recovery, but generally requires greater conscious effort when running.
  • Thoracic breathing. Although not used most of the time when you are running, it shouldn’t be completely overlooked. It requires less effort and therefore can be better adapted to certain sequences, such as the final sprint.

The following exercise will help you identify which of these two types of breathing you use: 
Lie down on your back, place one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest. Take a deep breath. If you feel your chest rising first, you naturally have thoracic breathing. If you feel your stomach rising first, you have abdominal breathing. Being able to identify both types of breathing and training yourself to control them is essential for good running performance, but the benefits of being able to control your breathing don’t stop there. Stress, physical fatigue and even emotional fatigue can also result from poor breathing.

Managing your breathing during the race
First of all, there is no perfect respiratory rate, and it is essential that you find the rate that is best for you. This involves training. All you need to do when you go for a run is to test different respiratory rates, even if they don’t initially seem very natural. You know you’ve found the right rate when you are physically tired after finishing a normal training session but are not out of breath. It might take several weeks or even longer to find the rhythm that suits you, so don’t rush! The most important thing is to be ready on race day.

Now that we’ve mentioned the big day, although it’s good to know your cruising speed, a race is rarely one long smooth journey. During the various climbs and descents, as well as the accelerations, the effort you put in is not linear and neither is the amount of oxygen you need. It is essential to breathe in and out more quickly before you begin to increase your speed. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with a rapid depletion of oxygen, which risks forcing you to stop to get your breath back ... and you might lose all the good progress you’ve made.