Here are five top tips for optimising your breathing during exercise from Professor Alison McConnell, author of “Breathe Strong, Perform Better”

  • Slave to the rhythm: There’s a perception that breathing will take care of itself, but synchronising the rhythm of your breathing and running can increase both comfort and efficiency. For example, during running, a 2:1 ratio of steps to breathing works well for moderate intensity running.
  • Deep and slow: Practice increasing the number of steps or pedal revolutions per breath, so that you breathe slowly and deeply (the most efficient pattern) – don’t allow your breathing to ‘run away with you’. Once you’ve got the hang of it, practice mixing-up the rhythms so that you can respond flexibly to variations imposed by changing terrain.
  • Get heavy breathing: Specific resistance training of your inspiratory muscles reduces breathing effort and improves performance. Devices such as the POWERbreathe® require less than 5 minutes training per day and deliver laboratory proven results.
  • Dumbbell running: Using hand weights or resistance bands, pump your arms as though you are running for 30-60 seconds. Practice breathing deeply and slowly throughout. You can add a breathing muscle trainer to this to make it more challenging


  • Aero ‘mash-up’: The ‘aero’ position in cycling impedes breathing, so doing some ‘heavy breathing’ (see tip 3) whilst in the aero position can help you to breathe more easily.

By Alison McConnell


Alison McConnell

Alison Alison-McConnellMcConnell holds a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Birmingham (UK), a Masters degree in Human Physiology and a PhD in Respiratory Physiology from the University of London (UK). Alison was Professor of Applied Physiology at Brunel University in London from 2000 to 2015, and is now Professor of Exercise Science at Bournemouth University. She is a Fellow of both the American College of Sports Medicine and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) and is a BASES-accredited physiologist. Alison is the world’s leading authority on breathing muscle training and  has pioneered research on its ergogenic influence in both health and disease. Her guide to breathing training for sport, “Breathe Strong, Perform Better”, was published by Human Kinetics Inc. in 2011. Alison’s guide to respiratory muscle training in patients was published by Reed Elsevier in 2013.