Question:   All of my life I have had trouble breathing when I run. After a quarter of a mile I feel my chest and throat tightens and my breathing becomes more and more laboured as I continue running which causes my chest to feel as if it is going to explode because I feel as breathing techniques to hopefully find something that will work for me so that I can go longer distances. But nothing has helped, is there anything I can do to control my breathing and lessen the chest tightening?   Jane


Dear Jane,

Some people find it helpful to synchronise their breathing with their running pace e.g. breathing in for 2 steps and out for 2 (or longer). Good breathing technique doesn’t just happen by accident, and in the same way that efficient swimming, cycling or running technique needs to be coached and practiced, so too does breathing. the most efficient way to breathe is deeply and slowly, because rapid shallow breathing is inefficient. I have also learnt that this poor technique (‘bad breathing’ as I call it) is surprisingly common, even in well-trained athletes, and that it can be a hard habit to break. This is because despite your best efforts to breathe more deeply and slowly, if your breathing muscles are unaccustomed to this (ie they are functionally weak), then breathing correctly may actually make you feel even more breathless. However, all is not lost, because ‘bad breathing’ and weakness of your breathing muscles can be corrected by specific exercises and inspiratory muscle training. It is called IMT  – this being Inspiratory muscle training and it does require a specific training device. The most common one is called Powerbreathe but I am sure there are other similar devices on the market.

Kind regards Angela Benjamin MSc. MCSP Chartered Physiotherapist

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