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Nose Breathing While Running: How to Breathe Properly While Running

Nose Breathing While RunningShould I breathe through my nose or mouth? It’s a question so basic, many runners forget to even ask. Of all the details runners may consider when evaluating how to improve performance, breathing usually isn’t one of them. While form, pace, stride length and other variables might all be subject to adjustment in a single run, it’s common for breathing to occur naturally, and without any second thought.

Unfortunately for those runners who don’t consider breathing to be something they need to pay attention to, they’re overlooking a key performance factor. Breathing is the process of taking in oxygen to fuel your activity, and there are right and wrong ways to do it. If you’re currently breathing inefficiently during your runs, you could be holding yourself back.

There are several misconceptions about breathing that have long been circulated within running circles. In this article, we’ll dispel these common myths and teach how you should be breathing to support your performance.

The common myths about breathing while running

Opinions on proper breathing can vary from one runner to the next. Some say nose breathing helps regulate your breathing and warms the air before it hits your lungs. Others insist that mouth breathing is a more natural style and increases your ability to maximize oxygen intake.

Some people may also struggle with breathing in a natural way. If you’ve developed a sense of comfort with one breathing style, it might be tempting to continue on in that fashion. It’s important to remember that, when it comes to running, what’s natural isn’t always what’s most efficient. It might be a rough transition, but if you determine that your current running habits — be them breathing or otherwise — aren’t in the best efforts of your performance, you should always try to change them.

Of course, sometimes it’s knowing what’s best that is the greatest challenge of all.

Exclusive bonus: Download our FREE Pilates Breathing Exercises Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the most effective pilates exercises to strengthen your diaphragm. Download yours for free here.

Nose vs. Mouth Breathing: Which is Better?

Fortunately for runners, there is a general consensus among running experts regarding how you should breath while exercising.

Mouth breathing is by far the best way to breath while running, largely because it brings in more oxygen than breathing through the nose.

But there are other benefits working in its favor: Forcing air through the nostrils can tighten your jaw and other facial muscles, and tension is never good for running. Mouth breathing, meanwhile, relaxes the jaw and can have a similar effect on the rest of the body.

Some runners do prefer to breathe through both the mouth and nose, maximizing air intake. But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to let your mouth hang open: You’ll be a better runner for it.

Remember: Always Breathe from the Stomach

Proper breathing isn’t entirely determined to the face. How you force air in and out of your lungs can affect how well you take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. To make the most of your breathing, make sure you avoid the nasty habit of chest breathing in favor of what’s called diaphragmatic breathing.

Chest breathing is a weak form of breathing. It’s too shallow to bring in maximal oxygen and doesn’t fully expel your lungs when you exhale. Instead, your breathing should be diaphragmatic, meaning the action of inhaling and exhaling extends down into your stomach. As you breathe, your stomach should expand and contract as your diaphragm forces air into and out of your lungs. Your chest, meanwhile, should remain mostly still, but you’ll take in more oxygen with every breath.

The next time you go running, be aware of your breathing and your natural inclination to breathe through your nose or mouth. If necessary, focus on making the necessary corrections and taking in breath through your mouth. It may be a struggle at first, but you should eventually be able to transition to a better breathing technique, and do so without thinking. With any luck, you’ll notice an improvement in your running efficiency and performance.

Exclusive bonus: Download our FREE Pilates Breathing Exercises Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the most effective pilates exercises to strengthen your diaphragm. Download yours for free here.

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18 Responses on “Nose Breathing While Running: How to Breathe Properly While Running

  1. Hi Coach Jeff

    Thanks for the tips tried out deep breathing not chest breathing and my running has improved

    Johny runs fast now

  2. I HV a problem with breathing in morning time becoz I was run since last 2 month bt in these days I have to face to take problem proper breath through my nose

  3. I’ve always had a problem trying to breathe through my nose since I have a deviated septum. I got corrective surgery and still have a very hard time breathing through it. I run with my mouth open and breathing very heavy. I thought I was just unhealthy or that maybe breathing that was was bad for me. Is it okay to breathe so heavy? I feel okay when I do it.

    • If it works for you Paul, then you are probably okay. Many people run with their mouths open, and especially if you have the deviated septum, it may be even easier for you to use your mouth to breathe. If you are breathing so heavy, you may want to consider slowing down a little on some of your runs to make sure you are recovering correctly. Some of your runs each week should be very comfortable breathing, where you are able to hold a conversation while running. Hope this helps!

  4. Previously i to have some confusion in breathing while jogging in morning,but now my confusion as been clarified i understood that both by nose and mouth is the correct way to breath while jogging……

    Thank u for u r advice couch

  5. Hi I have a strange thing going on at the moment I find it hard to breathe through my nose as it starts to get full of snot then I have to blow it out its annoying and seems to effect my performance when going faster.

    For example i would be breathing in through either nose or mouth with a good rhythm but then i have to blow the snot out and i lose my rhythm then sometimes it slows me down

    • Hi Mike, the famous snot rocket…..many runners have this on a regular occasion. You will find that you get more “efficient” at it, and this will require less energy to complete, so your breathing will be less disrupted….or maybe you just are a little more congested than usual. It is often worse during the winter. No need to panic :)

  6. I always had problem running when breathing thru my mouth Cus I find my mouth is really dry and makes me stops my running. I am now breathing thru my nose when running Cus that’s sort of still leaving come moisture in my mouth. Do I have time still need to change the way I breath?

    • Hi Alif, sorry to hear that, there is always time to change your breathing if you need to. As we mentioned though, most important is that you breathe from the stomach, and that can be difficult to do with your nose. If you begin gradually, and change to mouth breathing over time, your body will adjust. Hope that helps!

  7. I have a deviated septum and bad allergies which restrict nasal flow. I always have to breath through mouth when I run. I notice that I get nauseous at the end of hard races that are 3000 or 5000. Is this due to not being able to get much air through my nose or is it just coincidence? Thanks so much for your thoughts

    • Hi Cherise, a lot of people feel nauseous at the end of races, that is unlikely to be related to your deviated septum and allergies. Unfortunately that is just one of the side effects of pushing yourself hard!

  8. I used to run half-marathon distances breathing with my nose only. I think it was partly due to temperatures below 0 Celsius for half a year where I lived then, that I switched to breathing through my nose, and also because when breathing through my mouth, my lungs ached. But soon after switching to nosal breathing I realised that it is economy of using the fuel/air that enables you to run effectively, fast, without stopping over long distances. It was akin to meditation. I tried a few times to swap back to mouth breathing, each time ending up exhausted after half a mile and with burning pain in lungs. I remember utilising a method I called ‘saving breath’, when I was gradually reducing number of breaths against number of steps, cutting down from 3 steps a breath, to finally 5 steps on a single inhale. This way I could easily effortlesdly run 10-mile distances every day without stopping, Yes, now, almost 20 years later it reminds me of my driving style, very economic with very light foot on accelerator pedal, saving loads of fuel.

    • Thanks for sharing Jarek, it is great that you have found what method works best for you. Keep using it, and I like the analogy of being similar to a car, great way of looking at it!

  9. I used to go for jogging in morning,I usually jog for 2-3 kms..I normally take breathe from my nose(in and out both) but after about becomes difficult for me to run and i keep my mouth closed while running,i am doing this for reducing my weight.please suggest proper way to take breathe while running so that i can run for more distance,can reduce weight and also increases stemina

  10. Thank you, I am a beginner runner a day although my body seems it can go further my lungs disagreed. Now I will work on my abdominal breathing…this was very helpful

  11. Hi,
    Thank you! for this informatiove article. I always switch to mouth breathing while running hard and thought something was wrong with me. This article is such a relief.

    Thank you!

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