Breathing: does it really matter?


Can you guys help me understand why it’s helpful to consciously alter the cadence and depth of breathing while training? Why bother even trying to think about breathing? It seems to me that just letting the medulla and pons do what they do makes more sense. Aren’t you just going to feel short of breath if you think about your breathing?


If it’s placebo I don’t wanna know about it, because my RPE is lower when I focus and deliberately breath “right” and that’s all I care about. Someone smarter than me will have some science I bet.


Your muscles need oxygen via the blood to perform well. During high intensity exercise is can be easy to take short shallow breaths, which does not fully exhale the carbon dioxide from your lungs. Thus less fresh oxygen in, less fresh oxygen to your muscles and a real performance detriment.


But doesn’t the brain do this for us already? Do we need to think about it? I would think it would take more of a conscious effort to limit minute volume during high intensity exercise than the natural inclination to keep up with the demand.


Deep breathing and pressure breathing can help with oxygen absorption. As with anything, practice can help make them 2nd nature.


Anecdotally, I find that training my breathing when exercising helps me to regulate my breathing when I’m on SCBA (firefighter) and the air tank lasts longer. Which makes me think that the controlled deeper breathing allows for better uptake and less wastage.


My short reading and personal testing shows strong and deep exhales can lead to 3-5 bpm drop for the same effort. I do them about every 3rd breath, but just get into a rythm most of the time. It does help to think about it throughout the workout. Trying to form a habit.


There was a pro Euro racer back in the day (c.1970’s) who, when approaching the line for a sprint finish, would let out a monster exhale so loud all the other racers could hear, and once they heard they knew they were going to lose.

Sorry, I read the article years ago and have since forgotten all pertinent information. But it seems like even decades ago “breathing” had its place.

Every function of the body is automated but that doesn’t mean we can’t consciously train those functions to perform better, breathing is no exception.


Not to sidetrack this discussion, but I’ve been curious why Chad always focuses on the exhale. The guidance always speaks of clearing the waste but I don’t think I’ve ever really been told to focus on big inhales, aside from the instructions on belly breathing. Any speculation?


What he said.


I might be completely wrong but, it’s also my understanding that O2 is required to burn the fuel. If you’re not able to burn that fuel, be it fat, sugar or whatever, surely that massively effects your performance?

So breathing well is key.


I believe it’s because if you do a massive exhale, your lungs naturally create a vaccume and it’ll suck in loads of air without you thinking about it.

I honestly do find that if i focus on breathing, i’m far less likely to get a stitch from fast short gasps.


Focussing on breathing in training can also help train the muscles of respiration so that when you really need them to be stong in race, they are!

If you focus on exhale, the inhale takes care of itself.


The feeling of out of breath is from the buildup of co2, so proper breathing is about getting rid of that more so than getting in o2.


This is how we’re trained to breath while swimming. Get rid of everything you can and the inhale works itself out since it is a natural counter reaction.


i remember a certain cyclist who never won the tour 7 times used to say if you focus on the big exhale the body will naturally fill the lungs back up with oxygen more than just short out in breaths. i believe its just a way to focus you on the breathing so you dont forget to breath when your going really deep! which can happen… despite our natural ability to breath subconciously.


Not sure about this one. It takes a lot for the CO2 level to build up, and usually a high CO2 level means your lungs are chronically ill or you are a healthy person who suddenly became unhealthy. I see lots of people who feel short of breath with a normal or even low CO2 level. My understanding is the sensation of shortness of breath comes from many different signals sent to the brain, O2 and CO2 levels for sure but also respiratory muscle use/fatigue, stretch around the pleura etc. And like pain we all sense it differently.

I wonder if there is a study that has shown that a specific breathing technique improves delivery of O2 at high effort compared to just telling the subject “go hard!” I’m too lazy to try to find it. :grinning:


Pre-breathing if that’s the right name is a well known/used technique to increase oxygenation in the blood for say diving - I don’t think the science of breathing is contested?

When training, I believe it would be worthwhile because you know an effort is coming up before your autonomic nervous system does…you also know the end, which the rest of your body does not. So, yes it’s rational to regulate your breathing in training…and racing where applicable.

For long aerobic events, not so much - I certainly don’t unless here’s a very steep section to overcome.


I disagree, I think it’s just as applicable (maybe more so) for aerobic level work too.

I’ve used focused breathing to drop my 3 bpm during extended Endurance level intervals on long rides. My guess is that decrease will lead to less overall energy burn and possibly lead to more efficiency.

If true, it could lead to good payback for people doing long events like centuries and longer.


Hilarious thread title…