But what about other forms of exercise, like running or cycling? Anecdotally, you may have heard that breathing in time with your stride can help reduce your risk of developing a stitch while running. Another common tip is to focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth while you're moving, to keep your breathing measured and even.
It's possible, though, that focusing too much on your inhale-exhale during exercises like running can actually work against you. At least, that's the word from John Henwood, a running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City. "When you're thinking about your breathing so much, you can get overstressed, and you have less space to think about your pace or water stops or everything else," he says.
That's why he doesn't recommend trying to stick to any particular breathing plan while you're actually on your feet. Instead, put in a little prep work to tone up your breathing before you head out.
"I see a lot of people trying to breathe through their chest, which takes more effort. That's when you can start to feel like you're choking, like you're not getting enough air," he says. A better technique is belly breathing, which is exactly what it sounds like—taking deep, full breaths so your stomach, not just your chest, expands with each inhale.
Try practicing belly breathing before you head out for a run. "Lie on your back, keep your shoulders down and your chest out and still. As you breathe in let your belly rise up, and as you exhale, let it fall back down," Henwood explains. When you're actually working out, whenever you think of it or when you feel yourself struggling to catch a breath, make sure you're still breathing deep like this. But don't make a point of fixating on it.
The goal, Henwood says, is for belly breathing to become your default while you run. When you're taking deep breaths, you can relax and let your body take over, so all you have to think about is getting to the finish line.