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The key to strengthening your lungs is through the diaphragm.
Proper breathing is essential to the improvement of running. As an aerobic exercise, running requires a steady intake of oxygen in order to maintain energy, promote blood flow to power muscles, as well as increase performance and endurance. Performing breathing exercises can help you strengthen your lungs so you don't tire out on your run as quickly.
Use Your Belly
Most individuals are considered to be chest breathers, meaning they only breathe with their chest muscles. However, chest breathing greatly impedes your body's consumption of oxygen, especially while running. Belly breathing is a fundamental exercise to strengthen the lungs and improve running. Belly breathing refers to breathing that uses the diaphragm, allowing maximum intake of oxygen into the body for use in the heart and lungs.
The easiest way to master this technique is to start lying on the ground. While lying on your back, breathe deeply so your belly rises with your chest as you inhale, and lowers while you exhale. Continue to practice this while lying down until you feel confident to move upright. At this time, further master the exercise by holding in breaths for several counts - as many as you can without exceeding seven - prior to exhaling. Holding the breaths will help strengthen the diaphragm.
Stand to Expand
This Pilates exercise will further use the diaphragm for maximum oxygen intake. First, position yourself by standing with your arms at your sides, feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent slightly. Next, inhale deeply using your diaphragm while raising your arms in a sweeping motion over your head so your palms are facing and biceps are next to your ears. Slowly exhale and lower your arms to your sides, returning to the original position. Focus on breathing with your diaphragm as you complete this exercise four times. Practice this exercise two or three times a week prior to running.
Find Your Rhythm
Rhythmic breathing can greatly improve your running while simultaneously continuing to strengthen your lungs. Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchick, authors of "Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter," recommend practicing this technique with a three to two pattern. This pattern is ideal for easy to moderate runs. Perform this exercise by inhaling to the count of three and exhaling to the count of two. Once you are comfortable with this pattern, apply it to your run. In doing so, you should be inhaling every three steps and exhaling for every two. Alternate footsteps to avoid breathing or exhaling on one side only for proper balance.
Put it into Practice
Learning to breathe properly can greatly increase your performance while running. Nevertheless, it is always important to discuss new exercises with your doctor prior to adding them to your routine.