How to Improve Your Lung Capacity to Run Faster

Run faster is maybe, the most important goal for every runner, but to achieve it, you must have to do many things, for example, improve your lung capacity.

The worldwide running fever is unstoppable and every year more “soldiers” are added to this army of runners, the truth is that not everyone has good health and many beginners barely last a few minutes in the race, there are even those that “deflate” as they run. The reason is in their lung capacity that, like the body, can be improved with training. We’ll tell you how to strengthen your lungs and improve your breathing capacity.

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Is it possible that we don’t know how to breathe? Inhaling and exhaling air seems like an automatic action that we are supposed to do without having to think about it, but it turns out that every time we practice a sports discipline we realize that we do not know how to do it, because we get tired very quickly or begin to experience the fearsome side stitch.

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Where should we breathe? Through the nose? Through the mouth? Do we take air through the nose and release it through the mouth? Should expiration last longer than inspiration? No, breathing is not an easy task.

It is a mechanism that goes from your nose to the smallest artery. And if doing so is typically so vital and complex, can you imagine what happens while we run?

Cardiopulmonary system: pure synchrony

The primary function of the heart is to provide oxygen to the whole organism and, at the same time, release waste products such as carbon dioxide.

To do this, the heart collects blood low on oxygen and carries it to the lungs where it is oxygenated and released from carbon dioxide. Then, the heart pushes this oxygen-rich blood to all body tissues.

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The lungs receive the air we breathe through two branches called bronchial tubes that take it to small sack-shaped structures surrounded by a dense network of blood capillaries called pulmonary alveoli.

The walls of these cells are so thin that gases can easily pass through them. Then, the lungs fill the blood with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide to release it from the body through exhalation. All this in seconds…

What determines the rhythm of the breath?

The frequency and depth of respiration vary according to the rate at which tissues consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, that generally depends on the degree of physical activity.

The respiratory center of the brain sends impulses to the respiratory muscles regulating its activity. In other regions of the central nervous system, the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is quantified; As soon as it rises slightly, a signal is sent to the respiratory center that immediately modifies the frequency and depth of the breath so that the level of this gas returns to normal.

At rest, you inhale and exhale about 15 times per minute, but when you do aerobic exercise, the respiratory rate doubles and the amount of air that enters the lungs at each inspiration becomes five times more.

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What is lung capacity, and why it is crucial for a runner?

Lung capacity is defined as the volume of air in the lungs after a voluntary maximum inhalation. This can be increased by training the lungs to withstand large amounts of air.

Runners need a large amount of oxygen; therefore, their lungs must have the ability to take large amounts of air so that this vital gas travels to all cells and can continue walking. The more you breathe, the higher the amount of air entering your lungs and consequently, the bigger your lung capacity. Believe it or not, this can determine the pace of your run and the distance you can go.

Sedentary people get tired while trying to run, not only because they do not have strong legs or arms, but also because they cannot breathe after a few minutes, this means that their lungs have reduced capacity.

One of the ways to know if you have a large lung capacity is to observe the time it takes you to recover after finishing your run. If you recover quickly, your lungs are in good condition.

Yes, you can breathe through your mouth.

One of the most common myths about breathing when running is that you have to do it through your nose, but this only works if you are very slow. Once you start to accelerate, you must pull enough oxygen and for this, inhaling through the nose is insufficient.

Spanish medalist Chema Martínez, interviewed by ElPaí, says that at first everyone thinks that it would be logical to take the air in through the nose and expel it through the mouth, but if we do so, we will soon realize that “It is not enough to give the body the oxygen it needs. You get more through your mouth, and the faster you go, the more oxygen you need. The important thing is that oxygen enters, regardless of where. It is a matter of efficiency.”

What about side stitch?

The side stitch is actually a contracture of the diaphragm caused by bad breathing. This does not mean it is produced by breathing through the mouth, in fact, the cause in an arrhythmic breath. If it happens to you, you can release the air squeezing the pain area. 

But it can also come through the liver. A high-intensity effort is capable of causing this organ to ache and manifest itself like the side stitch. The solution is to slow the pace when the pain appears and breathe deeply and rhythmically.


Tricks to improve your lung health

• Stay away from smokers. Tobacco smoke causes your lungs to lose function, so it is not only essential not to smoke, but also to stay away from those who do.

• Climb stairs. Something necessary for your training as a runner.

• Learn to breathe. Do it deeply to fill every corner of your lungs and then take out the air. Remember to allow your chest and belly to expand.

• Do Yoga. Breathing in this ancient discipline is fundamental to your practice. In a Yoga class, the first thing you will need to learn is how to breathe, you will gain lung capacity, and it will also be a great complement to your training as a runner.

• Run a little more every day. And don’t forget to go a bit faster.