After three years of failing, I’ve finally learned to run while breathing through my nose. This happened last summer. How did it happen? Well, I was on my way home in my car when I suddenly felt like running. I didn’t have my running shoes with me, so I decided to run barefoot. Suddenly, I went from only being able to breathe through my nose for at most one kilometer (0.6 miles), while constantly fighting the sense of not getting enough air, to being able to run four kilometers (2.5 miles) without stopping.
I could probably have continued for longer, but I wanted to be careful with my knees and feet since there’s a bit of adjustment to be done when running barefoot.
Three reasons for the major difference
I pondered a bit on why it made such a difference, and concluded that there were three factors.
- Become grounded. The first reason is that you are more grounded when running barefoot. The body is constantly being charged with negative ions (antioxidants) from the ground and it’s possible that this affects your breathing positively.
- Run slower. The second is that I run slower when I run barefoot (because it hurts my feet a little, as there are pebbles and pinecones where I run). This is, however, not the whole truth, because I have tried to run slower in my running shoes, and that hasn’t helped much.
- Better posture. The third reason is that I take on a whole new style of running when I run barefoot. Instead of putting my heel down first, like you do when you have running shoes on, you put your whole foot down at the same time. This causes you to lean slightly more forward. I tried running heel first as I ran barefoot, and it immediately became harder to breathe nasally. It felt as if there was a block in my upper spine when I did. You also don’t lift your feet as high when running barefoot, because then it hurts more when you land on the foot, and this saves some of your energy.
Running is much more pleasant now
When I had learned the running style barefoot I tried running in barefoot shoes, rather than running shoes (it is too cold to run barefoot in the winter, and you avoid getting slivers in your feet) and that worked fine as well. It wasn’t quite as easy as when I ran barefoot, but not too far from it.
Maybe I won’t ever reach the same speed as I did when I breathed through my mouth, but running is much more pleasant now. My pace per kilometer likely isn’t that much worse either, since I don’t have to stop as often.
So far, I’ve only run on flat ground, so I don’t know how breathing nasally would work on inclines, but I suspect it’s only a matter of training. I’ll have to find out next time I run on hills; there aren’t that many in the area where I live.