Belly Breathing – Running Technique to Push Harder

Belly breathing can help road running, trail running, stair climbing, bicycling, and many other activiites. Try it!
Belly breathing can help road running, trail running, stair climbing, bicycling, and many other activiites. Try it!

Here is a technique that will crank up your running performance considerably with one simple change.

I was in the middle of reading about six triathlon books by Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Dave Molina… the gods of triathlon, and particularly the Hawaii Ironman. It was here I learned about belly breathing as a technique to improve my running. What’s amazing is that it is an instant improvement, and easy for anyone to implement.

Recently, the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in England examined fatigue levels of marathon runners respiratory and leg muscles. What they found was a direct link. Runners with strained breathing (chest breathing), showed the most weakness in leg muscles. Researchers concluded the more inefficiently the respiratory muscles (diaphragm and intercostals) had to work, the more the muscles of the legs would find it difficult to push harder.

When you breath at rest, like sitting in a chair at home typing on the computer like I am now, you are probably belly breathing. Your stomach goes out with each inhalation of breath. Your stomach is totally relaxed and your breath flows evenly in and out.

When you’re running, your breathing changes. There’s tightness in your stomach and chest. This is brought on by a number of things, physical and mental. You need to counteract your natural instinct to tighten your abdomen. You need to relax it.

Belly breathing means your belly, your intestine area really, expands as you take every in-breath. It cannot expand if your muscles make the area tight. Practice running with total looseness in the stomach. What you’ll notice when you start to accomplish it is:

1. Breathing is Deeper. You’re able to inhale more air into your lungs because your stomach muscles aren’t tight and restricting airflow.

2. Breathing Rate is Slower. If you choose, you can breathe more slowly as you implement this. You’re breathing in more air, so you need not breathe as fast. This is up to you, I usually don’t slow my breathing down, I just keep on at the same rate and slightly increase my rate of speed as I run to take advantage of the extra oxygen my muscles are getting as a result of breathing with my belly.

3. Body Relaxes More. You feel considerably more relaxed as you run. Tightness in the abdominal area makes you feel ‘you’ more. It makes you feel like a separate entity from what is around you. It makes you feel your body and you more. When you are relaxed and breathing easily, you’ll feel less separate and more in the flow of the run. It’s a great feeling.

4. You Revert Back to Old Breathing Style. You’ll revert back to non-belly breathing often. This is something that doesn’t come naturally to most of us. We can change for part of the run, and then as we get relaxed, our body goes right back to the way it is used to breathing. I find this constantly happening to me as I run, climb steps, bicycle, whatever it is that I’m doing for my workout. Check yourself every couple of minutes and strive to make belly-breathing a natural part of every workout. Eventually it gets to a point where you don’t have to think about it at all, it just happens.

I think belly breathing gives an immediate 10% increase in performance, and about a 20% better feeling of flow than running without it.

What do you think? Do you use this technique? Does it help mentally? Physically?


[Image credit – Robin McConnell at Flickr]

How BAD Do You Want To Win?

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Kilian Jornet, the young trail runner – ultrarunner from Spain. His talent is ridiculous. He has set records for climbing many of the top mountain peaks in the world. He is 25 years old. Today I was watching a race up and down the Dolomites in Italy. Kilian was neck and neck with this guy for most of the race. I’ve never seen mountain race this close. It came down to the final sprint.

The entire race up the Dolomites video below is inspiring, but if you just want to see the guts of it – fast forward to 2:49 and watch until the end of the race. Amazing. Kilian puts on the afterburners and Usain Bolt couldn’t have beat him in that sprint.

He wanted it THAT BAD.

How Bad Do You Want To Win?

Check out my review of Kilian’s book – RUN OR DIE – here.

Some of Kilian’s race results over the past few years (Source – Wikipedia):

2005 (at 17 years old):
1st, and 2. in the combined ranking at the “Cuita al Sol” race (in Catalonia)
1st, and course record, Dôme de Neige des Écrins (in France)
2nd, “Cross Vertical”, in Andorra
2nd, Prueba de Copa de España“ race, Buff-Salomon Vallnord

2006 (at 18 years old):
1st International Championship team race, SkyGames (FSA)
1st, French Championships of Mountainrunning, “junior” class race, FFA
6th, World Championship of Skyrunning

Champion of the year and four times 1st, Skyrunner World Series
1st, Mount Ontake Skyrace (in Japan)
2nd, Orobie Skyrace team race (in Italy) together with Jordi Martin Pascual and Xavier Zapater Bargue

Champion of the year and three times 1st, Skyrunner World Series
1st, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 166 km and 9400m of positive height gain across France, Italy and Switzerland

Champion, Skyrunner World Series
1st, 23rd Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon (in Borneo – Malaysia)
1st, Ultra Trail Andorra
1st, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

3rd, Western States Endurance Run
1st, Sierre-Zinal “La course des cinq 4000” 31 km (in Switzerland)
World Record, Mount Kilimanjaro Ascent and combined Ascent/Descent (5:23:50, 7:14:00)
1st, Grand Raid de la Réunion

1st, The North Face 100, Blue Mountains, Australia. Course Record
1st, Western States Endurance Run
1st, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 166 km and 9400m of positive height gain across France, Italy and Switzerland

1st, 26th Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon (in Borneo – Malaysia)(2:11:45)
1st, Pikes Peak Marathon, Colorado, USA.
1st, Grand Raid de la Réunion

1st, Transvulcania, Spain

Running Styles – Gazelles vs. Gliders

I found these videos where a guy takes a look at the Ironman Kona Triathlon competitors and analyzes their running style, putting them into one of two groups:

1. Gazelles.
2. Gliders.

Gazelles have a lot of travel through the air as they run because at push off with the rear foot, they push up and get a little more air than Gliders do. They don’t have as fast a turnover as gliders.

Gliders have less travel through the air – nearly a foot less in some cases, and yet it looks like they are using less energy to move forward. Hard to say because the Gazelles are getting more air.

There are amazing Ironman marathon runners of both styles, among the women and men, so, basically it comes down to which style fits you. However, for shorter races, 5K, 15K where you want to go under 6 minute miles, Todd Kenyon says you must run like a Gazelle because your stride turnover cannot get you moving that fast without the extra foot of air travel you get, versus the Gliding style.

Have a look at the videos, they’re remarkably well done. Thanks Todd. Cheers!

1st Video – Gazelle Runners vs. Gliders, a comparison of running styles

2nd Video – Gazelle Runners vs. Gliders

Women Ultra Runners – Victoria Arnstein

This video blew me away. I’d been watching Michael Arnstein, that’s Vicky’s husband, run ultra running races for a few months and really getting into the whole idea of eating more fruit than I did, and I was eating a lot already. Some days I eat just fruit now and it’s quite a nice way to go through the day. Anyway, Michael’s site is:, and I highly recommend it, and all of his Youtube videos:

I found this video of his wife running her first ultra-marathon. Fifty MILES of ultra running. I was absolutely blown away. I didn’t really know that she was a runner, so that’s what really got me. But still, they have three young kids and I had just never thought of her as someone that would be into attempting ultra long runs. So, with that in mind, watch the video below. She is so inspiring…

Here’s what she wrote in the description at Youtube:

Here’s my experience running 50 miles in a new personal best.Victoria Arnstein here, and I want to say how nice it was for my husband Michael Arnstein aka, The Fruitarian to put this whole video together for me. He spent a lot of time on it and it shows. He also gave me lots of support after he came he finished the race in 3rd. I was happy to have him there. I was also running on a couple of stress fractures and didn’t even know it in my left pelvis and my right ankle with tendinitis in my paraneal.. I would have to say my Vermont 100k was exciting, but this 50 miler was tougher in a way bc I ran faster against great ultra veterans. It was some race..Tussey Mt Back was so beautiful as well. Run like a Mother..Mothers are tough when we have to be!

Need Motivation? This 71 Year Old is Super Fit

A friend, Alfred, fast climbing 1,237 steps in 17 minutes. Not even his fastest time, we stopped a few times to arrange the video shooting.

Is this motivation enough for you to get out and exercise?