Just Breathe

The Chicago Marathon is just around the corner! Are you getting nervous? Excited? Well remember,



If you are getting nervous, it is common to see a change in breathing pattern. When we are nervous, we tend to take short, shallow breaths into our chest (“chest breathing”) opposed to slow, deep breaths into our abdomen (“diaphragmatic breathing”). “Chest breathing” can negatively affect you during your marathon because you are spending more energy on breathing and lifting up your ribcage. During a marathon, you don’t want to waste energy lifting up your ribcage, save it for your muscles moving you closer and closer to the finish line!


Read below for 3 steps for improved breathing to help you finish your race strong!

1) Learn to Breathe in Resting Positions


You can’t expect to know how to breathe with your diaphragm when running if you can’t do it in resting! Try these steps to help you learn how to best breathe into your abdomen at rest


  • Lay down and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen.
  • Breathe in through your nose and let your hand on your abdomen rise.  This allows your diaphragm to contract to create room for your lungs and push the pressure from your breath into your abdomen.

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  • Let your chest relax and decrease use of your accessory muscles.  Your accessory muscles in your upper chest are your scalenes, the sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, and intercostals.  These muscles are only to be used during cardiovascular activity or fight or flight emergencies.


  • Move your breath into your abdomen, your low back, and your sides.  Use your trunk like a whole cylinder allowing for all of your muscles to be stretched.


If you are normally a “chest breather” learning how to breathe into your abdomen will take time and may not feel natural at first. Embrace this breathing sequence and challenge yourself to relax your upper chest and let the air easily transition from your nose into your abdomen. Practice, practice, practice!


2) Apply Your Breathing Technique to Pre-Race Training


Now, attempt to use this same breathing pattern in standing, lifting weights, yoga/flexibility, and even jogging.


Breathe in through your nose, let your abdomen rise, and relax through your chest, and blow out through your mouth. Try to make your exhale longer than your inhale and pair your exhale with increased exertion. For example, breathe out when folding deeper into a yoga pose, breathe in between reps of weight lifting.


Now, try this in a jog.  During cardiovascular exercise, your chest will rise more, but try to relax this and transition the air through to your abdomen. Focus on breathing through your nose and out through either your nose or your mouth.  Slow your breath down and relax your shoulders as your arms lightly swing from “hip to nip.”



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Again, if you are naturally a “chest breather” learning to breathe with your diaphragm AND run may be difficult. Try pairing your inhales and exhales with your stride. Try not to gulp for air through your mouth or force it out – let your breath be natural and guide you.


3) Check Yourself During the Race


The excitement is high – but take the time to reassess your breathing pattern every 1-2 miles. It makes all the difference come mile 19!


    • Questions to ask yourself:
      • Am I holding my head above my rib cage looking slightly down for best airflow?
      • Is my jaw relaxed and slightly opened for air to easily exhale from my abdomen?
      • Are my shoulders relaxed away from my earlobes so my ribcage isn’t lifting so high?
      • Are my arms swinging through a small range no higher than my chest so I am not arching my back or moving up and down too much?
      • Am I taking more steps when I exhale than when I inhale?


So now that you know how to breathe in resting, we look forward to seeing you apply it to your last bit of training! Use these techniques during the finals days of pre-race runs, rest days, and cross-training. Changing your breathing is not a simple feat, so dedicate the time and energy to save you time and energy on marathon day! Remember, one breath at a time – use the  5 questions during your practice and during the race! Best of luck!


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