Host: Dr. Matt Minard

Episode Summary

Dr. Matt Minard is a Physical Therapist who enjoys both the physical and mental benefits of running. In addition, he’s passionate about helping others run safely.

Dr. Minard discusses breathing fundamentals as they apply to running. He explains the role of oxygen flow in deciding what breathing technique is most applicable at different stages of running.

Join the Learn 2 Run Club for training plans, mechanics education on how to run efficiently, and resources for physical therapists or running coaches.

Topics discussed in each episode are (or will soon be) available on the Learn 2 Run YouTube page.

Breathing techniques for runners

Top Takeaways

  • “Everything that has to with movement; our muscles are responsible for that.”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “Don’t restrict the stomach from going out and in.”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]

Episode Highlights

  • [01:56] Today’s topic is breathing.
  • [02:38] Understanding Breathing Mechanics
  • [06:55] Does breathing change at different paces?
  • [11:07] Applying breathing mechanics to the “running gears.”
  • [14:05] Should you brace your core while running?
  • [16:48] Should you breathe through your nose or mouth while running?
  • [21:34] How to apply breathing techniques.

Episode Notes

How to breathe properly when running


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Three questions we’ll be answering:

  • Does breathing change at different paces?
  • Should you brace your core while running?
  • Should you breathe through your nose or your mouth while running?

Breathing mechanics or techniques refer to how you can breathe efficiently. The main element of this is oxygen and the blood supply of oxygen to the tissues.

The principle of breathing based on Boyle’s law says the pressure in your lungs is lower than the atmospheric pressure for air to enter (inspiration). Then when the lungs expand, the pressure is relatively higher for air to exit (expiration).

This change occurs with chest movement fully controlled by the muscles.

Does breathing change at different paces?

Tired Man Resting After Running On Beach

The body always requires oxygen, whether at rest or in motion. However, we need to get more oxygen into our bodies at higher movement intensities.

Hence, there are two main ways to get more air into our bodies:

  • Diaphragmatic or Stomach Breathing
  • Chest Breathing

Pushing the stomach outward without moving the chest lets air in while bringing it back in without moving the chest lets air out. Try to breathe only using the chest, and see how much air you can get into the lungs.

Stomach breathing at lower intensities only requires the diaphragm. However, accessory muscles (chest breathing) increase the lung space to get more air in, but this takes up more energy.

Combined, these increase the amount of oxygen taken in. Therefore, restricting the stomach will lower oxygen intake.

In Season 1 Episode 9 (How to run faster), we discussed different gears regarding effort levels in running: gears one, two, and three.

  • Gear one is the lowest intensity, where you can still converse.
  • Gear two is when you can’t hold an entire conversation.
  • Gear three is the highest intensity, where you can barely get a few words out.

It is necessary to avoid chest breathing at lower-intensity activities which only need diaphragmatic breathing. Using the accessory muscles at lower intensities will cause us to fatigue faster as we burn energy unnecessarily.

It is crucial to be able to distinguish between stomach breathing and chest breathing. Chest breathing alone is never sufficient. Instead, it is better used to support stomach breathing but only to be used when necessary. Additionally, we should never restrict the chest.

Should you brace your core while running?

Athletic woman tired and exhausted breathing and cooling down after running

There is a difference between engaging your core and bracing your core. To brace your core, try pushing the belly button up and in towards the spine. Notice how you cannot expand your stomach out and in. Hence, bracing the core is not ideal for breathing while running or even generally.

The preferred alternative is engaging the core by leaning while running, and hinging at the ankles. If done appropriately, it engages the core automatically. You do not have to think about bracing your core.

Should you breathe through your nose or your mouth while running?

Black man breathing hard during run marathon outdoors

Place your right hand over your stomach and your left hand over your chest and try to get as much air as possible, only breathing in through your mouth. Then repeat the same, but this time only breathing through your nose.

You will notice you can breathe deeply through your nose, but you can get air in faster by breathing through the mouth.

However, at lower intensities, breathing through the nose has benefits as it can help to clean and humidify the air, increase airflow to blood vessels, improve lung volume, and slow down breathing. Hence, getting enough oxygen through the nose alone at gear three will be harder.

We recommend The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown for more information on this.

To apply these techniques, practice the motion of pushing the stomach out towards your hand in front of it when at rest. Another method to practice diaphragmatic breathing is using an elastic band when running and pushing your stomach into the elastic band.

Over time, as you gain mastery, you will take it off. Outside running, breathing is a tool that can control anxiety, and getting more materials on how to employ breathing for such and other purposes is advisable.

Dr. Minard has three courses with certification for physical therapists:


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  • Part A includes the mechanical aspect of Learn to Run systems.
  • Part B incorporates mobility and strength into the system.
  • Part C fine-tunes the system’s mechanics with drills, cues, and scenarios.

Learn 2 Run

You can download the five-week Running Program for Beginners. You can also use The Tennis Ball Necklace Experience and The Shoe Intake Form.

The Learn to Run System is available online and contains three levels: mechanics, tissue adaptation, and oxygen consumption. DM him “Adapt” to get $100 off for The Learn to Run System.

The free Learn 2 Run Courses:

To vote on the next topic that will be discussed, follow Dr. Minard on Instagram or send him an email.


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