Andries Lodder biokineticist in Fourways
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Ask an Expert: Breathing Problems

Posted on August 16th, 2012 by Andries Lodder

Modern Athlete Magazine August 2012 Edition


“I need advice on low lung capacity and running/cycling. I was diagnosed with 66% lung capacity, I am 36 years old and though I do run and cycle I just battle the whole way with my breathing. Is there anything I can do to improve my breathing or running as I am getting very despondent – I don’t take anything for it as was told nothing would help me? Many Thanks Emma Chisholm”


Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to get back to 100% of your lung capacity, but fortunately with specific testing and training you can utilize the 66% you do have available to the best of your ability scientifically.

You are born with a particular maximum lung capacity which is called VO2max. VO2max stands for maximum rate of oxygen flow. VO2max is an important test for evaluating the cardiovascular capacity of an individual and is the maximum capacity to transport and utilize oxygen during training. It is also known as aerobic capacity, which reflects the physical fitness of a person. In your case you only have 66% of your VO2max, hence the importance on training smart.

Another test to consider is Lactate Testing. It is considered to be the single most important determinant of success in endurance related activities. Training at the right intensity is important to help you reach your goal. During training, your body uses glucose as energy. The bi-product of the glucose breakdown is lactate. To get rid of the lactate in your blood, you need enough oxygen (O2) to break down lactate and re-use it as energy. When you don’t have enough O2 and produce too much carbon dioxide (CO2), lactate can’t be broken down and it accumulates in the blood and eventually you reach exhaustion. 

Utilizing the information from the VO2max and lactate tests we can identify the most appropriate training intensity and type of training for you specifically, to build your fitness level on your own pace.

An easier method is just to start running slower and concentrating on your breathing during running. The practice of deep breathing may aid in increasing your lung capacity’s efficiency. Deep belly breathing lowers the diaphragm to expand to its max during inhalation and uses your abdominal muscles to squeeze air out during exhalation, resulting in carrying more O2 to the muscles per breath.



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