BVR Training Series Part 3 – Breathing and Technique

In the previous edition, club coach Lawrence Bookham covered training that’s aimed at improving your running fitness. In the final one of the series, he talks about breathing and technique…

Breathing and Breathing Rhythms

If you have asthma or any breathing related issues, you should discuss this with your GP before attending your first speed session due to the extra demand it places on your lungs.

The amount of air that you breathe each minute is the total of the size and number of breaths you take each minute. As you begin running, you will start to increase the number and size of these breaths and your breathing rate will synch with you stride rate. For most people jogging they would breathe in three steps and out for three steps. Often untrained runners will stay with this rate even when they feel the need to breathe harder, by increasing the size of each breath. Obviously as you run harder, you will feel the need to ventilate more, which is when you should switch to a faster breathing pattern. For runners, there is an optimum pattern which is taking two steps while breathing in and two steps while breathing out (this is referred to as a 2-2 breathing pattern).

A faster breathing rate would be more costly in terms of energy expenditure of the breathing muscles, and at some point the ventilation demands along with the energy cost ends up favouring a breathing rhythm around the 2-2 mark. Taking three steps per breathing cycle (2-1) probably would allow for the greatest amount of air to be moved per minute while running, but is usually not necessary until you a working very hard, such as in the latter part of a 5k or 10k race. I would suggest that if you are breathing at this rate early in a race then you have set off way too fast. Most accomplished runners breathe using the 2-2 pattern as it comfortable and allows for a sizeable amount of air to be exchanged in the lungs. I recommend practising this pattern in easy runs, and certainly in threshold, intervals and reps, so it becomes second nature.  


Technique, Style and Form

This is what your body should be doing when you run:


  • Staying stable, face relaxed
  • Staring at the horizon



  • Your arms are like pendulums and work to counter lower body movement  – opposite arm to opposite leg.
  • Avoid excessive rotation of upper body, allowing arms to rotate back and forth with relaxed shoulders
  • Arms bent at 90 degrees or slightly less, hands relaxed, try and keep your elbow in this position.
  • Don’t let your arms cross the centreline of your body. 


Hips, Pelvis and Core

  • Pelvis must stay stable in order for your legs to have something to push against.
  • Lead with your hips – power in the push off phase comes from extending the hips, resulting in greater force application backwards.
  • No bending at the waist – ‘run tall’



  • Your whole body leans forward from the ankles – be careful not to bend at the waist.
  • Mid foot striking/ forefoot striking is no better or no worse than heel striking, it just needs to be under your body’s centre of gravity.
  • Your heel should to hit the ground at some point for loading and unloading of the Achilles tendon.