Add Power Breathing to Your Chi Running - Chi Living

Add Power Breathing to Your Chi Running

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Dec 23rd, 2014, 2 comments

Add Power Breathing to Your Chi Running

What's the best use of your breath when Chi Running? Of course, everybody breathes when they run. But, how many people actually use their breath? Is there a way to get more from your breathing than just another lungful of air to fuel your muscles? The answer is a definite YES!

I've been talking for years about belly breathing when you run. It's one of the best ways in the world to get lots of oxygen into your lower lungs for a more complete oxygen exchange. When you belly breathe, you breathe out through pursed lips with a lightly forceful exhale. This insures that most of the used air is expelled from your lower lungs before your next inbreath, thus maximizing the use of your lung capacity.

But, there's an additional way to use your outbreath… and that's when you're issuing power, meaning you're in a heavy exertion mode and want to bring additional power into your running. Today's blog is an advanced ChiRunning technique. I'll be talking about how to exhale in a way that you get more bang for that outbreath buck.

You can use this focus when you're running uphill or when you're trying to hold a faster pace; and definitely when you're sprinting. In any of these cases, you can get more power from your outbreath by using short, quick, forceful outbreaths that are in synch with the rhythm of your arms and legs.

When I'm running in my faster zone I use a breath-to-stride ratio of 2:1, where I'm inhaling for two strides and I'm exhaling for one stride. This means that I'm breathing out forcefully, through my pursed lips, on every third stride. It feels like I'm trying to blow out a candle from three feet away… in one, short, quick breath. Since I'm exhaling on every third stride, it means I'm issuing on a different leg each time I exhale. I count it like a waltz; out…2,3…out…2,3…out…2,3 and so on.

In t'ai chi, when you want to issue chi power from your dantien you do it on the outbreath. Watching a martial artist throw a punch or a kick, you will always see him/her exhale at the same time. Issuing and exhaling are BFF's when it comes to creating force. This forceful outbreath drives your chi from your dantien, out through your arms and legs. It begins as your foot hits the ground and lasts until it leaves the ground.

In running, as each leg swings rearward, the same-side arm begins its forward swing to create counter-balance in your movement. Your dantien sits right in the middle, pushing your leg rearward and your arm forward. And, as I said earlier, you can use this issuing power to run up hills, hold a fast pace or to accelerate… the power comes from your dantien, not your arms and legs.

Practice this on your next run. Begin by first just breathing out on every third stride. Then, use a forceful outbreath through your lips and repeat for a minute. Then, either add speed (by leaning more) or find the nearest hill and practice this power breathing. This exercise works best when you can relax your legs and feel the energy moving from your dantien outward through your arms and legs.

This is an exercise to do when you need to issue power. When you don't need to be issuing, you can simply maintain a nice, relaxed belly breath and slip into a restful gathering mode.


  • running technique,
  • speed training,
  • running performance,
  • breathing pattern

2 CommentsLeave a comment below

Interesting idea, and it makes sense. I think I may do the 2:1 ratio when I’m running hard already but will be mindful and purposeful about it in the future.  Thanks!

You talk here about inhale:exhale at a 2:1 ratio. You also have this ratio on p.182 of Chi Marathon. However, on p.86, you suggest the reverse ratio of inhale:exhale at 1:2. I’m confused. Which is it?

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