Runners often talk about pacing as it relates to their breathing (i.e. “conversational pace”). It’s also a great way to measure how hard you’re working on a run. Understanding breathing patterns helps a runner identify when they’re working too hard or not hard enough. This familiarity comes with increased miles and workouts at varying intensity / Gears. Understanding and utilizing these tips will make running more enjoyable for the competitive exerciser.


Heart rate correlates with breathing rate at a rate of about 4:1. Thus, if your resting heart rate is 50, your breath rate is about 12 breaths per minute. Nurses will usually write this down when taking your blood pressure or pulse. If you are fit, this resting number will be low, just like your heart rate. These numbers are easy to calculate and understand while resting, but getting your heart and breathing rates elevated takes a lot of activity. Additionally, the body experiences higher levels of stress at this level of intensity which makes recognizing and understanding this concept more difficult- thus less experienced runners will overlook these factors.


The best method to truly understand your own breathing is to wear a running/GPS watch you can use to quickly glance at your pace while feeling your breathing. You can measure your breathing in a number of ways. Consider the following factors when at each pace:
– Conversational pace: can you say a full sentence without taking a breath?
Nose only: are you able to inhale and exhale through your nose only? Nose/Mouth combo: the yogi concept of ‘in through your nose and out through your mouth’…
– Mouthbreather: taking big breaths, trying to gather more oxygen while you’re anaerobic.
– Steps per breath: how many strides to inhale and how many to exhale.


It’s helpful to pick one of these concepts per workout and to run without music or headphones. You should find yourself getting into a rhythm in order to stay on pace. This will help you zero in on the concept and understand how your breathing rate can help you better understand your feeling. Knowing your breathing ‘feeling’ will help you stay on pace while running to stay at your desired effort level. (For example, I usually settle into a rhythm of 4 steps per inhale/exhale and can hold for an hour or two; right below my aerobic threshold.)


Finally, knowing how your breathing rate can tell you your working pace, you can use this breathing knowledge to understand how hard you’re working in the competitive exercise world. Think about looking for objective measures of breaths, steps, and reps per minute. This too will help you stay on your goal pace through the workout..