Breathing While Running | 80/20 Endurance

Breathing While Running

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    Curious to hear about others’ breathing cadence while running. Without getting into different methods to improve breathing, does anyone else focus on regular breathing throughout most of a run or do they just go by feel?

    Of course, I breathe as demand requires, but I wanted to settle on a pattern I felt most comfortable with. This helps me focus and it lets me know how fit I am. For example, coming off injury or a break it may take an extra few minutes to get settled into comfortable breathing at the start of a run.

    It took me a while to find a breathing rhythm I preferred, synchronizing each breath with a foot strike.

    – Very slow runs and warmups – 3-inhale/3-exhale
    – Mid-Zone-2 to High-Zone-4 – 2-inhale/3-exhale (most preferred)
    – Sprinting > 60s – 1/1 (gasping)

    Anyone else bother thinking about this stuff?



    Hi Dan,

    Great question! Since I started doing my easy (Z1/2) running by perceived effort, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to this. I try to maintain deep (diaphragmatic) and controlled breathing. Here’s the basic approach I’ve been using:

    EASY (Z1-2)
    4 inhale / 4 exhale. I find that this keeps me from pushing harder than I should on the easy runs. Also, I want to make sure that I’m not feeling desperate for air and the end of each exhale. My cadence is generally in the 177-180 range, if this makes any difference.

    For something like a marathon effort, I’d probably use 3 inhale / 4 exhale. Still mostly easy, but not so much of an all-day pace. Just saying this because I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks. Not long enough to use it for a marathon or any kind of marathon training.

    MODERATE (Z3-4)
    3 inhale / 3 exhale.

    Hard (Zone 5) – 2 inhale / 2 exhale.

    These are referring to workouts where the moderate or hard intervals aren’t race distance. When it’s a race or time trial, I’m expecting for breathing to be more difficult towards the end. But I still try and keep it as controlled as possible and gradually taper towards faster breaths. For example, with a 5K, I’d hold 3/3 as long as possible. Then switch to 2/3. Then 2/2. Then probably 1/1 for the last stretch.

    In the same way, I try to gradually and comfortably move to slower breathing when going from a moderate or hard effort to an easy recovery. So, for example, I’ll start with 3/3. Then 3/4. And then 4/4, once I comfortably do so.

    I’m not claiming that my approach is the only way, but it was worked well for me. Hope this helps!



    I breathe by feel most of the time.
    My sports doctor once told that during hard workouts you need to focus on exhaling a lot more. The harder you go the harder you need to push out CO2 from lungs to get fresh O2 in bloodstream. We all know what happens when system needs to work in aerobic deficit 🙂


    Alan, thanks. This confirms what I was thinking. I also try to use the inhale/exhale counts to keep at a slower pace on the Z1/Z2’s, … try to maintain longer counts on fast runs as long as possible (especially while doing intervals on a treadmill), … and I also may try to do the reverse and take longer counts to slow the pace although, admittedly, I go from fast to slow less often. I don’t listen to music. Focusing on the breathing works best for me. Maybe that’s because I am unable to run > 3 min in Z-1 breathing only through my nose.

    Also, I think it is worth mentioning that I never overly force myself to breathe one way or the other. It’s just kind of a gentle give/take to see how I would respond. Other methods (oxygen advantage, Wim Hof, …) may suggest other more extreme methods to control breathing during exercise, but I’ve backed away from those.

    VEPN, thanks. I like to mostly breathe 2-inhale/3-exhale. I wasn’t sure if I was just breathing incorrectly but that has always felt the most comfortable. Now I know why! Appreciate it.

    Thanks, guys!

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