How to Clear Your Lungs Before Running

Three Methods:Clearing Your Lungs with Breathing ExercisesClearing Your Lungs with Supplies from Your KitchenClearing Your Lungs with Medications

Clearing your lungs out before you run will help to make your run more efficient and comfortable. Your lungs supply the rest of your body with oxygen; when your lungs are impaired or contain mucus, an insufficient supply of oxygen will reach the rest of the muscles in your body. You may be able to clear your lungs out with breathing exercises, with vitamins and nutrients, or with medications.

Method 1
Clearing Your Lungs with Breathing Exercises

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    Practice controlled breathing. Controlled breathing, as the name suggests, is when you deepen your breathing in order to clear out any phlegm that may be in your lungs.[1] To perform controlled breathing:
    • Take two to three big breaths. Try to inhale as much air as you possibly can, and then exhale as much as you possibly can. Taking these deep breaths will help to get air behind the phlegm so that you can spit it out later.
    • Take four or five regular breaths, and then two or three more deep breaths. Repeat this step once more, switching between regular breaths and then deep breaths.
    • After your last set of deep breaths, begin making huffing motions, as if you are trying to clear your lungs (which you are).
    • Take two to three regular breaths, and then try to cough up the rest of the phlegm.
    • Repeat this whole procedure as needed or until you feel your lungs are cleared.
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    Use a controlled coughing technique. Coughing is the body’s natural way of eliminating secretions from the lungs.[2] You can still easily perform this coughing technique when you are already running. To perform controlled coughs[3]:
    • Find a chair or bench where you can sit. Lean forward with your arms placed across your stomach. Leaning forward promotes maximum lung expansion.
    • Take one deep breath and hold it for three seconds. As you breathe in, you should feel your stomach getting bigger against your arms.
    • Open your mouth slightly and make short and sharp coughs. While doing this, exert pressure on your diaphragm by pushing your arms against your stomach in an upward motion.
    • Inhale through your nose in a gentle and slow manner. Inhaling in this way will help to keep secretions from going back into your lungs.
    • Spit out the secretion.
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    Have someone pat your back firmly. When someone pats your back, it can help to loosen up the phlegm in your lungs. Ask someone to perform the following:
    • Have the person place his hands in a cup shape. Have him tap your back while his hands are in the cup shape. Start from the middle of the back and move upwards.
    • This motion can help loosen the phlegm and cause it to be excreted through the mouth.

Method 2
Clearing Your Lungs with Supplies from Your Kitchen

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    Use peppermint to clear your lungs before you go running. Rub peppermint oil or vapor onto your chest to help loosen the phlegm in your lungs. Peppermint is effective against phlegm because it contains menthol, which acts as a decongestant.[4] Peppermint is also considered a ketone, which helps to dissolve mucus.[5]
    • You can also drink peppermint tea, or inhale steam that is infused with peppermint oil.
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    Drink plenty of water before and after running. Rehydrate yourself to liquefy sputum or secretions.[6] Water can also help to reduce the stickiness of the secretions in your lungs, making them easier to cough up.
    • Try to take sips of water frequently throughout the day. The amount of water each person needs to stay hydrated differs from person to person. However, an average adult male generally needs 3 liters (0.8 US gal) of water, while the average adult female generally needs 2.2 liters (0.6 US gal) of water.
    • Drink very cold water if you are experiencing an unproductive cough (where no phlegm is coughed up). The cold water can help to calm your cough. When you have an unproductive cough, the cough can irritate your throat, rather than helping to clear your lungs.
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    Up your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is known to prevent lung spasms associated with coughing and can also help to improve lung function. Lime is a good source of vitamin C. Add lime juice to the water that you drink.
    • Other foods that contain vitamin C are peppers, guava, dark leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas and papaya.
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    Consume vitamin A. One of the functions of vitamin A is to help repair and rebuild your internal mucous membrane, which in turn can help to strengthen your lungs. Carrot juice is rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in your body.
    • Other foods that are high in Vitamin A are sweet potatoes, dark leafy vegetables, squash, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe melons, red peppers, tuna fish, oysters and mangoes.

Method 3
Clearing Your Lungs with Medications

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    Take expectorant medications to clear your lungs. This type of drug will help loosen the congestion in your lungs, chest and throat.[7] This helps to facilitate easy elimination of the secretions in your lungs.
    • The most common generic expectorant is guaifenesin. You can take this drug as part of your running preparation.
    • The immediate release formulation dosage is 200 to 400 mg by mouth every four hours, or as needed. If you take the sustained release formulation, take 600 to 1200 mg by mouth every 12 hours.[8]
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    Try acetylcysteine (mucus destroying) medications. This is another type of drug that will help you to eliminate the secretions that have built up in your lungs.[9] The main action of this medication is to thin your mucus secretions so that your body can more easily get rid of them. However, this medication can be challenging to take with you on runs, as you need a nebulizer (or inhaler) to take the drug.
    • Use the nebulizer to inhale 5 to 10 ml of acetylcysteine every four to six hours.[10]
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    If you have asthma, talk to your doctor about albuterol. Albuterol is inhaled to help increase air flow to the lungs.[11] If you have asthma or exercise-induced asthma, which is triggered by strenuous exercise, your doctor can prescribe you an inhaler. Make sure you aways have this medication with you, especially if you are going for a run or participating in other exercise.[12]
    • Albuterol relaxes the muscles in your airway, which becomes restricted during an attack, and allows air to travel to your lungs as normal.[13]
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    Know when to contact your doctor. If you experience a constant obstruction in your lungs that affects your ability to run, or other parts of your daily life, you should contact your doctor. Other situations in which you should seek medical help include:
    • If you cough up blood. This can be a sign of internal bleeding in your respiratory tract. If the blood is bright red, you may have a problem with your upper respiratory tract, while coffee brown blood could mean damage has been down to your lower respiratory tract.
    • If you are having night sweats or your cough is accompanied by fever for one week. This can be a sign of tuberculosis and other serious medical conditions.
    • If you have been dealing with this cough for more than six months. This can be a sign of chronic bronchitis.


  • Seriously consider talking to your doctor before trying to run when your lungs are congested. There may be an underlying condition causing your congested lungs.

Article Info

Categories: Respiratory Health