Catch your breath. Easier said than done! Most people don’t realize just how hard it is to get your pace and breathing right when you begin a running program. We tend to start out running way too fast, just as we did in our childhood when we thought running meant at full speed. The key is to find your happy “conversation pace”, meaning the pace at which you can run and still talk. Here are a few tips to help you catch your breath.
Begin by walking at a comfortable pace for a few blocks. Gradually increase your pace until you are at a slow jog. You should be moving at a pace that is a little faster than your fast walking pace. If this is comfortable for you and you can still breathe, then try the talk test. If you can’t talk, then you are still going too fast. You should be able to hold a conversation while running at a slow pace.
If you are brand new to running, it may take a few weeks to get your “conversation pace” exactly right. You may need to do the run/walk method until you can run without stopping. Begin by warming up with a brisk walk, then slowly transition into a slow jog, but remember to try to keep it slow enough so you can breathe easily and still hold a conversation. See how long you can go, then slow back down to your walk. Repeat this a couple of times with plenty of rest time in between.
Don’t over do it! We tend to think that running has to be at a fast pace. Stick with it and over time you will be able to run without stopping to breathe. The key is to slow down!
As you progress into longer running, make sure you aren’t shallow breathing, or taking short breaths without fully inhaling. Try this test: take some abdominal breaths by inhaling so that you feel your entire lung and rib cage expand with air. I always imagine my ribs expanding deep down into my lower back, and then breathe out until all the air has been expelled. Do this deep abdominal breathing a couple of times every mile. It will help to ensure you are getting enough oxygen to your muscles, and it will help reduce side aches.
With practice, you will be able to breathe and run efficiently. Over time, you will begin to run further and faster, all while breathing comfortably.