Belly breathing can help improve endurance when running.
Your ability to run -- whether you are on a leisurely jog or running a marathon -- depends upon proper breathing. Breathing with your chest underuses your diaphragm muscles and limits your oxygen supply, which is crucial to energy production. Belly breathing helps improve your oxygen levels while reducing stress on the diaphragm and its supporting ligaments.
Belly Breathing Basics
Just as you exercise to strengthen your leg muscles for running, you can tone the muscles required for breathing. Belly breathing works the intercostal muscles between your ribs as well as your diaphragm muscle, which separates the abdomen and chest. Strengthening these muscles with belly breathing can help you run longer using less effort, increase your endurance and prevent fatigue. Belly breathing also requires you to perform isometric contractions of your stomach muscles, which can help improve abdominal muscle tone.
Stop midway through your running routine and place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. The hand on your stomach should move as you fill your stomach up with air. Imagine that your belly is a balloon and you are filling it up every time you inhale. Flatten your stomach and deflate that imaginary balloon every time you exhale. Keep your chest still as you breathe -- the hand on your chest should barely move up and down as you inhale and exhale.
Make it a Habit
It can be difficult to remember to belly breathe when you are running, especially if you are preoccupied with keeping your pace or beating your best time. To make the belly breathing habit easier, practice when you are not running. For example, lie down on the floor and belly breathe for a few minutes each night. You can also do Pilates, which encourages belly breathing, lengthens your spine and stretches out the intercostal muscles.
Slow your running pace if you can hear yourself breathing while practicing belly breathing. Running too fast can make you feel out of control and decrease your oxygen levels -- which defeats the purpose of belly breathing. Because belly breathing works your diaphragm muscles harder than chest breathing, you may be more prone to side stitches. Stop running, press in and up on the sore spot, and take a few deep breaths if you experience a side stitch while belly breathing.