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Can Nasal Breathing Improve Endurance?

Your breathing technique is an essential factor to your running performance, and breathing ‘incorrectly’ could ruin an otherwise productive running session, or make it harder to complete a virtual running race. The solution is to pay more attention to how you breathe while running and master your technique. In this post, we’re going to explore the benefits of breathing through your nose while running, and discover if nasal breathing can improve endurance.

The Science of Nasal Breathing

In the 1960s, Russian physician Konstantin Buteyko concluded that low CO2 levels from excessive breathing were pathological and developed numerous exercises to combat the issue. Although his work isn’t supported by research, many people with asthma reported an improvement in their symptoms due to his exercises, which were particularly popular in the 1990s.

Since then, Irish author Patrick Mckeown has continued to explore nasal breathing and puts forward that the exercises can improve endurance and performance in aerobic sports such as running. Take a look at his website for more evidence on nasal breathing. However, that being said, other researchers looking at respiratory factors in exercise do not support his theory that nasal breathing can improve your running performance and only note the benefits of these controlled breathing exercises in patients with respiratory diseases. Other runners have also noted a quicker recovery of your respiration rate after running after practising breath-holding times.

How do you Practice Nasal Breathing?

Nasal breathing is centred around the goal to reduce volume breathing. So, the idea is to continue to take the number of breaths per minute, known as the respiration rate, as you usually would when running although the volume of each breath is restricted as it is only through your nose. You’ll experience mild ‘air hunger’ which is an uncomfortable feeling of being slightly short of breath, but the aim is to practice the technique and develop a tolerance to that sensation. Nasal breathing should be combined with other breath-holding techniques, known as control pauses and maximum pauses. Breathe through your nose as much as possible to experience the benefits and develop a greater tolerance to air hunger.

Mckeown suggests wearing a mask designed to limit airflow through the mouth at rest, or even during a run if you can do so.

What are the Potential Benefits of Nasal Breathing?

Mastering nasal breathing when running is suggested by some to improve your aerobic and anaerobic capacity and can urge your body and brain to increase your speed, power and endurance thresholds.

Some potential benefits of nasal breathing are believed by supporters of the exercise to include; your secondary respiratory muscles experiencing fatigue less quickly, and being able to run faster for longer without tiring.

Using Nasal Breathing to Improve Endurance

Nasal breathing has recently increased in popularity. However, it's clear the science of using nasal breathing to improve endurance when running, is not supported by enough evidence. The majority of experts highly recommend a combination of oral and nasal breathing to ensure efficient gas exchange when exercising.

Your ventilatory threshold refers to the point at which you cannot breathe deeply or quickly enough to give your body the oxygen it demands. As you reach this point while running, your body’s response is likely to be one of stress and panic causing you to struggle for breath further and gasp with ‘air hunger’. However, it is possible to adapt your response by practising how to control your breathing while running.

If you're new to running, try to maintain an easy pace and inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. After a few weeks of consistent running training, you should notice your ventilatory threshold increase. You can then begin to try more focused breathing with rhythmic patterns when running and keep a steady flow of oxygen to your muscles.

Improve your Endurance with ACE Race’s Virtual Running Events

At ACE Races, we offer a wide range of virtual running events designed to challenge our members and help you to reach your fitness goals. Improve your endurance when running and take part in one of our virtual 5k races, virtual 10k races, virtual half-marathon races or virtual marathon races!

Whether you’re new to running or regularly train, our virtual races offer an opportunity to work on your technique and improve your running performance. Enter one of our virtual race events today, and receive a custom-made medal once we’ve confirmed your results.