Breathing Techniques for a 400 Meter Run

Woman at starting line
Breathing technique is important in all sprint races. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

The 400m run is one of the four main sprinting track and field events. In the 400m, runners are placed in staggered starting blocks to ensure that everyone covers the same distance. The 400m is the longest of the sprints and requires speed, power, pacing technique and proper breathing to achieve optimum results.

Racing Strategy

Different runners have individual strategies on how to perform well in a 400m sprint. One common way to run the race is to break hard out of the blocks and continue running hard all the way through the first turn. Relax the pace just a little as the track straightens out, and then speed up again around the second turn. Sprint at full speed down the final straightaway to the finish.

The Start

How you breathe at the start of the race helps determine how well you get away and can make a difference in a close race. Breathe gently and evenly during the “On your marks” part of the start. Hold your breath when the starter calls “Set” and then exhale sharply at the sound of the gun as you explode forward.

Cadence Breathing

Cadence breathing is one way to manage your breath during a sprint. A cadence refers to organizing your breaths into a rhythm as you run. Establishing a cadence makes the breathing second nature, but also efficient. Choose a 3-3 or 4-4 cadence for your race, depending on how fast you run and what is most comfortable. A 3-3 cadence means you inhale for three strides and then exhale for three strides, and repeat.

Natural Breathing

Some runners prefer just to breathe naturally in the 400m sprint. This means running your race and letting the breathing take care of itself without worrying about it. Many would argue that establishing a set pattern or rhythm to the breathing is more efficient and enables you to run your fastest race, but in the end it is up to you. No specific method works best for everyone, and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your breathing during the race. Experiment with different breathing techniques until you find one that works best for your running style, and then go with it.

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