A Breathing Trick to Improve Your Running

Did you know that swimming can actually improve your running? It's true! Get-Fit Guy has a simple breathing trick you can do in the water.

Ben Greenfield
1-minute read

Every Wednesday I do a pool workout that includes something called “controlled-frequency breathing.”

Basically, what this means is that I take 3 strokes, then breathe, then 6 strokes, then breathe, and finally 9 strokes, then breathe. This is actually pretty tough (especially the 9 stroke part!), and I don’t need to swim very hard at all to feel like my cardiovascular system is taxed. Up until this point, I’ve done this workout simply because it “feels” like it increases my breathing efficiency and economy, but now it turns out that research actually backs up what I was feeling.

A new study entitled “Controlled-frequency breath swimming improves swimming performance and running economy.” noted that

“…respiratory muscle fatigue can negatively impact athletic performance, but swimming has beneficial effects on the respiratory system and may reduce susceptibility to fatigue.”

In the study, subjects swam with “regular” breathing (every 2 strokes) or controlled-frequency breathing (every 7 strokes). And sure enough, the controlled-frequency breathing crowd experienced a 9% improvement in running economy!

Even if you struggle with breathing every 7 strokes, you can simply go for a swim in which you breathe less than you have the urge to. I’ve noticed an improvement from using this type of session just once a week and the nice part is that it’s much easier on your legs than going for a run, but still makes you a better runner!

Do you have more questions about how to use restricted breathing to enhance your fitness? Head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy and join the conversation there!

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.