How to breathe...

Okay, hoping someone can offer me some advice here please. Although on the 'large' side, I am reasonably fit, doing various classes/ gym sessions a week, and a couple of power walked marathons in the last couple of years. I'm signed up to do the Race for Life in June, but more than that, want to be able to run for exercise afterwards, maybe even challenge myself to do more....

I am doing the couch to 5k, and have got to the point where I ran 8 minutes, walked 2, ran another 8, on Sunday. Trying not to over-analyse it, and, on the advice here on this forum, have slowed my speed right down. Legs are fine, body feels fine, but my breathing seems to be a problem. What I noticed on Sunday, is that I am very good at breathing out, but really not very efficient at breathing in enough!!! I am asthmatic, which I'm guessing is part of the problem, but wonder if there are any techniques that might be useful to help me? I really get the feeling that once I have the breathing right, everything else will follow in time.


  • In and out works for meimage
  • Seriously, if you're having trouble taking air IN, are you on the right meds?

    Taking the ventolin inhaler helps too. A couple of puffs just before you start should open the airways up enough to get you sucking some decent air in.

    And well done for signing up for the RfL. Run 8 walks 2 sounds good to me!

  • Thanks! I do take my brown preventers twice a day, but wonder if a puff of the blue one before running might make a difference. I'd have a chat with the asthma nurse at my surgery, but getting an appointment... image

    Yes, chuffed to bits at being able to run even for 8 minutes. Spent 40+ years thinking I just wasn't made to run; but determination will, I think, get the better of me.
  • Even Paula Radcliffe takes her inhaler before a race. It really DOES make a difference.

    I sympathise. My asthma is unstable at the moment and I can't really work out why. Tell a doctor though and they simply say "well don't run then"image

    Very helpful.image

  • Mine's a little worse than usual because I also have hayfever. Probably why the running's so hard.

    Need to find a GP that runs, don't we?
  • imageThere's one on here!

    She's pretty brill actually. But don't tell her I told you so.....image

  • LOL, do you know her then image?

    aha, lightbulb moment. Just called asthma uk advice line, who were incredibly helpful! I didn't realise there's another sort of inhaler that I might need to be on (was only diagnosed 3 years ago). Have now called my surgery, and 'only' have to wait three weeks image (RFL is in six) before I can see someone about it!
  • Hi Tina

    As a doctor (not the GP mentioned above) and an asthmatic, I would definitely recommend using your ventolin pre-run - two puffs good technique and you should see a big difference.

    The thing that has probably helped me most, however, is learning to breathe in through my nose rather than mouth. I used to get really wheezy but forced myself to start nose-breathing and now can do it for at least the first 15 mins of a run which changes everything. Basically the air needs to be warmed and humidified before going into your lungs, otherwise it is irritant and causes inflammation and, you guessed it, tight, burning chest. Your nose is much better at this than your mouth. It will feel hard at first as there is more resistance but just get yourself to do it every other breath or something and then build it up. Obv not if you are congested!!

    Finally remember that you are built to exhale for twice as long as you inhale. The natural tendency as you get more out of breath is to cut off exhaling prematurely. This means you get hyperexpanded and find it increasingly difficult to inhale! A simple way to get the rhythm is 'in for two steps, out for four' although obviously you don't want to have to think about this all the way round - just get started then relax and forget about it until you get short of breath.

    I still will get wheezy in really cold weather, but otherwise never have symptoms, and have actually come off all my preventer inhalers as the only thing setting off my asthma was running and the above measures have solved it.

    Good luck!
  • That's really useful, thanks! I might just try counting it for a bit to see how that goes; if I can get the hang of it I won't need to count for long.

    Interestingly, did take blue puffs before spin class last night, and it made a big difference, so will try it with running as well in the interim.

  • KatyVKatyV ✭✭✭

    Tina - bit late to the party but my experience when I started running 3 years ago pretty much identical to yours - I was cross-fit via the gym and 20+mile racewalking, but struggling a bit with breathing when starting to run short fast distances. I find ventolin before running really helped at the start, then after a few months I stopped needing it regularly (did not use it at all in my first marathon) though I do need it running outside in hayfever season. I'm off the preventatives too.

    Wondered how are you getting on now?

    Do you have a peak flow meter? As my aerobic fitness increased I saw my peak flow volumes go right up.

  • Hi Katy

    Yes, I have a peak flow meter; apparently my peak flow for age/height is very good which is one of the reasons they took so long to diagnose me in the first place; but yes, it has definitely improved even further over the past year since I stepped up the exercise.

    Have my appointment with Nurse on Tuesday, but in the meantime have been using Ventolin before exercise and it has helped.... to the point that I actually managed week 5 day 3 of C25K .... 20 minutes continous running, on Monday. Chuffed to bits with that, I can tell you!!image

  • KatyVKatyV ✭✭✭

    That's fab, well done you image it's a great feeling when you can measure your own progress like that - which is why I mentioned the peak flow meter as my regular peak flow capacity increased through running from being 420 on a good day to 550+ now.

    Good luck for Tuesday. Does your asthma nurse recommend running? Every one I've been to has looked horrified when I say I run (even though it is the one non-medical thing which has ever helped)

  • not sure, seem to see a different nurse every time, although one of them is a power walker (like I was/ am). That's one heck of an improvement; my peak flow has gone from 450 to 470.

  • I started the C25k just after Xmas and aged 40 and I'm proud to say I can actually now run for (almost) all the 5k. It now takes me about 38mins to complete the 5k compare to the 50mins at the start. I too have asthma and am on symbicort. No blue or brown inhalers for me anymore and i have to say improved asthma.

    When I first started i had difficulty even running for 30 seconds. I did get stuck around the 8mins to 12mins run but stuck in a 10min run/2min walk for a few weeks plus i had to repeat some of the weeks just to get my stamina up!

    My asthma nurse has also told me to keep on with the exercise. I go kick boxing twice a week too image

  • Hi

    I to am asthmatic, use brown inhaler twice a day and when I go running I take two puffs of the blue ventalin inhaler before I go out.

    While out I breath while counting my feet, a breath per footfall.  I have worked out that 2 in 2 out works best for me, but did start with 3 and 1, but guess it is whatever works for you.  It does take practice and sometimes counting out loud helps too. 

    From my military days I had suggested to me to not think about breathing as such, but count my feet, 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 on the left foot landing and the breathing will follow.  Again can seem weird but does work.  Kind of like if you watch films and watch squad runs where they have chants, its the same sort of thing.

    I hope that firstly makes sense and is of somesort of help to you. image

  • I almost always use my blue inhaler before running. I also find that if I'm going to be doing a hard training session like intervals, I need a slow warm up of at least half an hours jogging otherwise my chest just seizes up when I start sprinting.

    I count steps for breathing too, two in, two out for a hard but sustainable run. One in two out for a harder effort and one in one out for a flat out sprint finish in a race.

  • Thanks all of you! Appointment is this afternoon, so hopefully will have a little more help.

  • What Colin says about worry causing it to flare up is definitely true, at least for some of us. I was tensing up and expecting my asthma to kick off and I think that was contributing to the problem a lot of the time. One night the coach at our club was cycling along behind me watching my technique and he told me to relax my shoulders and drop them down so I could swing my arms more freely. I thought I HAD been reasonably relaxed but as soon as I tried to do what he said I could feel the difference in my chest. Since then I've had less of a problem. Not sure it was purely down to that one thing though, as round about the same time I asked my doctor for better drugs and was put on a budesonide inhaler as well. But keeping my shoulders loose and low definitely feels better in my chest while I'm running.

  • Hi Everyone, I'm new to this site as well as new to running and am also an asthmatic using symbricort inhaler, rwd I'm sure you're right as I tense up expecting my breathing to be difficult and quite often it is, I will try relaxing my shoulders and seeing if that makes a difference.

    I'm running a half marathon in Cornwall in Aug this year and am worried I've taken on too much but have a programme printed off and am up to 4miles now, I did it in 40:42 this morning but really found it hard, I have to keep going tho as running for my grandson to walk (raising money for his op as NHS won't fund)

    Good luck to everyone with their running, will also do my peak flow which I haven't even thought about, my husband is convinced my breathing is better with doing the running


  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭

    This is a great thread, i'm a newbie to running two weeks, and am finding this so useful, taking my ventolin inhaler just before running is a big help.

    The idea of breathing in through your nose.  I find it hard to do that all the time, but when i'm starting to feel tired a few breaths in that way i find does help. 

    I've not taken my preventative inhalers in a few years, but always have a couple of ventolin inhalers around in case i've got a cold etc... Hay fever season is awful.  I'm taking a anti-histamine tablet in the morning and putting a suirt of a different one up my nose just before i go jogging otherwise I have a very unplesent continual stream from my nose that also makes it more difficult to run.

  • Hi booktrunk, isn't nice to know your'e not on your own, I find breathing through your nose doesn't give me enough air but I think I might practise and it could well get easier.

    I always admire people who run or keep fit in any form and feel pleased that I am one of them, even though I've only just started, we are at least trying to keep fit and that's what counts, so well done and keep it up.


  • This is a great thread, relaxing, ventolin to start and enjoying to me is the way forward, and with time, definately feel the benefits image

  • Like most of the others have said so far, I take a puff of the blue inhaler before I go out for a run. If it is partcularly cold or windy I may need another after, say, a mile. But mostly I focus on my breathing. I tend to run without music or distractions so that I can hear my breathing. I find a particular rhythm and breath to it (if I feel wheezy). For me I have a particular Buddhist chant (I am not a Buddhist), but there is a particular chant that suits my breathing. If doing a 10k I do chant it at  one speed, if doing an Ultra event, I slow it down. Simples image  I worte a bit about my experiences here 

  • well, a couple of months on, and I have made progress image

    I tried the 'green' Serevent inhaler (long term reliever) for six weeks, but unfortunately it didn't seem to make much of a difference. Last appointment at Asthma Nurse they said to stop that, but have upped the dose of my brown preventer inhaler; and it has worked!! Because of the doseage I do now have to use a spacer, which isn't exactly handbag friendlyimage, but planning takes care of that. More importantly, it has enabled me to exercise for longer and at higher intensity.

    Tonight I went and joined the beginners section of our local running club, and ran for just over half an hour without feeling like my lungs were about to explode!! I am so proud of myself, really feel that  anything is possible now.

    So; moral of this story? Get asthma under control, do not let it stop you from doing anything.image


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