I would like to start a thread series called "Top 10 Questions of Running Beginners". I would like to encourage everyone to share their thoughts, opinions, comments, techniques and best practices so we all can learn from each other.
Its a good topic and we have kicked around the idea of "sticky" topics covering beginner basics but the mods (or the powers that be) never got on board with that. So we can try, but this might melt into oblivion like the rest of our attempts.
I think the NUMBER ONE question I've seen after a few years here is any variation of "Why Am I Out of Breath When I Run?" or "What is the Magic Trick for Breathing While Running?"
Although I am not qualified to go into a lot of precise physiological explanations of the cardiovascular system, VO2 Max, or whatnot, I can give a pretty basic answer which is the plain and simple truth: You struggle to breathe when you first start running because you aren't in condition.
So here are my own opinions based on my own experience - and remember I don't claim to be an expert.
1. Gasping for breath is a sign that your efforts are exceeding your body's ability to supply oxygen. Running is a very high intensity activity and your CV system has to be in condition to handle it.
2. Conditioning comes from consistent effort over a period of time. Just like building up any other muscle in your body, you work it easily at first, then gradually increase the effort as you get stronger.
3. There aren't any "Magic Breathing Techniques" that will take the place of conditioning. For the vast majority of us here who are casual, recreational runners, there isn't really any reason to worry about complicated breathing patterns or trying to breathe in cadence or rhythm except what comes naturally to you. Among competitive athletes who are going for maximum performance, there may be breathing techniques they use to push themselves to the very limits. For the rest of us, though, it isn't necessary and takes the focus away from what we need to be doing which is listening to our body while we are training it to run
Bottom line: If you "can't breathe" when you run, then you have just encountered your first running challenge. Running is hard! Even if you are in shape from other activities, running puts unique stresses on your body and only running can condition you for running. So be patient and above all ENJOY THE PROCESS OF GETTING THERE. Even if getting in shape is just a means to an end for you, remember to live in the moment and enjoy where you're at each time you run.
(DISCLAIMER: if you have asthma, lung problems, heart problems, or other medical issues, this doesn't necessarily apply to you!)