5 Steps To Effective Running & Breathing At Altitude

Don’t feel out of breath with these 5 great steps to breathe right while running at altitude.

It’s natural to feel a bit “winded” when you’re being active at higher elevation. It’s simply your body’s chemical response to the growing atmospheric pressure at higher altitudes.

Our atmosphere contains a chemical makeup which results in every breath containing 21% oxygen molecules. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the highest peak or the lowest valley, each breath contains this ratio. What changes is the atmospheric pressure, which results in less molecules being contained within the volume of each breath. You’re still getting 21% oxygen, but there are less molecules of it, which means you aren’t receiving as much as you would at a lower elevation with less atmospheric pressure. And it often results in feelings of lightheadedness and being “out of breath.” This is super inconvenient when you want to do some of our best running and exploring, in some of the most beautiful high mountain areas, such as the Sawtooths.

But there are ways that you can control the impact of elevation on your breathing.  Follow along as we share 5 Steps to Effective Running and Breathing at Altitude.

  1. Keep a slower than usual pace.

Be sure you start a slower pace than normal. Even if you feel like what you consider “normal,” the environment is not. Start slow and allow yourself to feel how the elevation may be effecting you. No sprint starts here.

  1. runner-feet-mdBreathe in pattern with your steps.

Once you begin to feel how the elevation impacts your effort and breathing, begin to pattern your breathing with your steps in some way. Trying inhaling for 2 steps and exhaling for 2 steps. If that feels good, try inhaling for 3 steps while you exhale for 3. Try switching it up, inhale x 2 + exhale x 3 or inhale x 3 + exhale x 4. Your body will tell you what’s best for you.

  1. Focus on deep “belly breathing.”

As you run, inhale deeply – focus on allowing ab muscles to loosen as you inhale and contract (firm up) as you exhale. This technique is called “belly breathing” and it helps ensure that you take full, deep breaths while preventing side pains caused by improper breathing.

  1. runner-breathing-mdConcentrate on effort, not pace.

Relax your body and mind. Recognize that the strain in breathing and muscle aches are normal for runs of this length, especially at elevation. Take in the scenery and recognize that you are in control of your pace and your finish.

  1. Use pressure breathing to release CO2.

Pressure breathing can help you remove greater amounts of CO2 as you exhale. When you remove more CO2, you provide a better environment for oxygen exchange within your lungs which results in better oxygen supply for your body.

You’re always in control of your breathing and your pace, so use these steps to improve your breathing and run more effectively at altitude.

The Redfish Lake Memorial Run is an awesome opportunity to test your running strength and high-altitude breathing technique. The Race begins on May 23, 2015. Learn more and register at https://redfishlake.com/redfish-lake-lodge-memorial-run/.