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09/12/2011 07:42 EDT | Updated 11/06/2011 05:12 EST

Breathing Tips For New Runners

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When taking up running, newbie runners often have a number of concerns: discovering the ideal pace, finding the best shoes, choosing a pre-run snack, figuring out the proper running form -- just to name a few. One other important aspect of finding your "running feet" is learning how to breathe properly as you run.

Breath awareness and breath control can help us run to our full potential. Breathing is something we often overlook until we're literally "running" out of breath. So how can a newbie runner stay connected with the breath and use the breath to support a strong running form?

Here are a five breathing tips for newbie runners:

Find Your Base Breathing Rhythm

Discover a breathing rhythm that supports a steady running pace, and that you can easily coordinate with your strides. For example, breathe in for two/three/four paces and exhale for the same number of paces. This breathing technique will help you maintain a steady pace, a pace that you can always return to with the aid of the breath.

Use The Breath As A Performance Gauge

If you are intentionally pushing the limits of your body in order to get faster, it will become harder to breathe deeply and steadily. And when your breath becomes shallow or laboured, your heart rate increases. For the purpose of improving your cardiovascular performance, it's acceptable to be working harder to breathe. But if your breathing is laboured over a long period of time from overexertion, you're unnecessarily taxing your heart and muscles. Use your breath as a gauge to determine whether you need to slow down your pace and breathe a little more deeply or whether you are consciously challenging yourself to improve your endurance.

Breathe To Encourage Relaxation

Muscle fatigue can be a challenge for new runners. If your muscles are screaming in pain halfway through your run, focus on relaxing different areas of the body with each exhalation. Start by letting your shoulders relax away from your ears and allowing your face and jaw to relax. Then work your way down your body to the hands and feet. Obviously, you'll need to utilize the muscles necessary to put one foot in front of the other, but by mentally relaxing the rest of the body along with the breath you're more likely to find an ease in your movements.

Use The Breath To Stay Present

At the beginning of a run, it's tempting to think about how much further you have to go, and how long it will take to get there. But if you are already thinking about the end of your route, your run will feel far longer than it needs to. Plus, you're missing out on the rest of your run. By staying conscious of your breathing, you're able to be present, listen to your body's signals and fully experience all the aspects of your run.

Breathe Into Hills

Most routes will have hills, and hills can throw you off your pace, test your breathing rhythm, and challenge your muscles differently than a flat surface. By concentrating on maintaining a rhythm to your breath -- which might well be a count or two less than your base breathing pace -- you can use the breath as a constant source of energy to propel you forward and up the hills.

By having an awareness of the breath and learning how to control it, we can bring energy to the body, reduce muscle tension and become more conscious of the body's signals as we run.

Annabel Fitzsimmons is a freelance writer, runner, yoga and Pilates teacher and a mother of two young children. Her online yoga, Pilates and meditation studio is at www.clearspaceonline.com. She blogs -- as MeditatingMummy -- about taking yoga off the mat and into motherhood. Contact her by adding a comment below.

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