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February 14, 2014 Comments (2) Musings, Training

Are you a mouth breather?

Being late to the game, I’m only now reading Scott Jurek’s “Eat and Run,” which I have really enjoyed. In the book he brings up breathing through your nose while running and its benefit. I had an immediate flashback to my high school cross country coach telling me that breathing through my nose was better – but I never tried it – finding it way harder to breathe exclusively from my nose. After being reminded of it from Mr. Jurek and reading about the potential benefits, I’ve been practicing nasal breathing more when running. Here’s what they’re saying:

  • Your nose filters the air and your mouth doesn’t.
    • Yeah, those nasal hairs serve a purpose and it is to filter the air you breath in. Why not get filtered, cleaner air when you’re working hard to breathe? Not only that, your nose warms and humidifies the air before it reaches your lungs, making it more palatable for the lungs to accept the air. 
  • Breathing from your mouth brings in too much carbon dioxide.
    • Your body’s balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide will be off if you are breathing heavily through your mouth while running, which will make your body work harder than it needs to.
  • Mouth breathing elevates blood pressure and heart rate.
    • Do you really need to increase HR and BP when you’re pushing your body for long distance? Not really.
  • Eating is easier when you breathe through your nose.
    • Do you ever stop to eat during a race and find it hard because you are also trying to breathe through your mouth? I’ve found I’m able to eat faster and with more ease when I can breathe through my nose.

Granted, a few of the studies that have been done were on smaller testing groups – In the end, breathing in a way that works for you best is what matters, but I’ve found incorporating some nasal breathing into my running and racing has allowed me to race calmer, easier, and more relaxed.

Are you a mouth breather? A nasal breather? Both? What benefits do you feel?

2 Responses to Are you a mouth breather?

  1. Jeremy says:

    Most everyone thinks of fueling as how much water and calories they take in. If you are on top of it, this means several sips and a few gels per hour. However, there is another, more dire piece to this fueling equation. Oxygen. You can skip a gel and make it up later. However, just one missed breath and we are suffering. The mouth/nose distinction is irrelevant. We need so much air to run our best. We should take it in as much and as deep as possible. It should sound pretty obnoxious. I supersaturate my blood with oxygen with huge breaths even when the going is easy. This quantity of air is much easier to take through the mouth- a bigger hole than the nostrils. I have even began to train using a device that builds more power in the diaphragm and lung-support muscles to increase the volume of air with each breath.

    Nose breathing is still useful. It is used for relaxation and as a limiter to performance when one is trying to hold back energy reserves for later. Much running can be done efficiently on downhills using just nose breathing.

    Don’t take my word for it- Pam Smith won Western States and set the 100 mile World Record this year. Go read her advice on breathing and how it has changed her running.


  2. Gordon says:

    That article is ludicrous. Unless you are sitting on your easy chair…

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