Breathing too fast

So, I seem to have a propensity toward breathing at a very high rate when I get to ‘around my VO2 Max hr/effort levels. I have analyzed my efforts for a very long time and it is just something that happens around 155 hr and above. It is a significant step up in breathing rate. My max hr is around 178 or so, I’m 52 racing age with a longtime racing and training base fitness. I’m at 4w/kg right now and an FTP of a bit over 300w. I’ve tried to belly breath and slow it down when I feel it coming on, but I naturally start to pant at the higher outputs on anything over about a 60 second effort that drives my hr up. I consciously try and slow it down, deeper breaths with my diaphram, but I reall feel like I’m not getting the o2 I need unless I start breathing significantly faster. Full deep breaths at a fast pace do not allow me to keep the effort up.

I feel I have trained myself into this state , but not sure how to change it or if I should just do what comes naturally.

When I was Swimming a lot I’m the guy in the pool that had to breath every right arm stroke.

Thoughts on this? What negatives are thereto very fast breathing (Co2 buildup?)

I don’t have asthma, no allergies etc. heathy.

An app like Freedive might help train your lungs?
Even if it’s not made for cyclists I found doing both exercises(CO2 Tolerance and O2 deprivation) once a day helped me make better use of my lung capacity.

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Sounds like you are focusing on the INHALE. Focus instead on the exhale. Someone may know where @Jonathan mentioned this in a podcast. I do this. Exhale forcefully and the inhale will take care of itself.

During very hard efforts, this is me in the pool. But that is because of the exhale I do and the need for more O2.


Yes, try a forceful exhale rather than slowing the inhale or breathing in deeply. Someone may correct me but I believe that the breathing rate is controlled by the need to remove CO2 and not driven by O2 uptake. The idea of the forceful exhale is that you are “blowing off” CO2 faster. Makes for a more efficient breathing cycle rather than “panting” although at very high exertions all bets are off!

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Agree with the above comments – I used to hyperventilate regularly on the bike - and focusing on the exhale is key - and yes, forceful is important, but to me, so is duration. One thing I learned from yoga is trying to keep a 1:2 ratio of duration of inhale and exhale helps to keep me in a good place. Also, make sure you REALLY focus on this during recovery. And find your position on the bike where you can capture and dispense the most air. For me, TT position, with face about 1’ from the fan is optimal to get some good back breathing.

All this from someone who every year fails the spirometry test during my physical (machine always says exhale harder/longer).

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You’re describing ventilatory threshold 2 (VT2). This is commonly associated with power outputs around VO2 max. Do you have evidence that slowing down your breathing will be beneficial? Your breathing rate is tied to your cardiac output which is in part tied to your oxygen demand from your body. Why should you change what comes naturally to YOUR body? Embrace it.

Hyperventilating does not build up CO2, rather the reverse, you blow off more of it. O2 is not really the limiter. You feel the need to breath fast because the CO2 is building up in your blood. There’s plenty of O2 left in your lungs if you hold your breath slightly longer. There’s a trade-off between all the variables… Effort expended breathing, vs effort in the bike, vs has exchange rate in your lungs and your tolerance. I can pretty much always get my HR to drop a bit when I control my breathing, I just can’t keep it up forever, and eventually there’s a level of effort where it’s just not under your control.


My thoughts too, but when I’ve been riding around the pros, and say we are on a long extended climb, really pushing, I just breath really fast, at my upper effort levels that I can sustain.
I’ve been told many times to slow my breathing down. But it just doesn’t feel natural.

The muscles needed for breathing use blood, so if they work harder than they need to they use cardiac output that could otherwise go to your legs. In VO2 intervals you really need as much oxygen going to your legs as possible. Same with brain; even under max exercise it still wants a few %. I try & empty my mind. Pro duathletes, I’ve read, actually start slowing down skiing before each shoot, so they can get their brain going.
I find double intakes works when I go too quick. Then it sorts itself into 1 long intake when you’ve calmed down. So I breath in normally and then breath in again. Breathing out slowly happens naturally. I’d guess it takes about 20 seconds.

Oh, the other thing I’ve found helps (but only sample size 1 & no control group) is that when I go on recovery runs I only breath through my nose. Not only does it limit how fast you run & stop you exceeding recovery zone, but it also makes you forcefully take deep breaths.