European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 115, Issue 11, pp 2395–2405 | Cite as

Runners maintain locomotor–respiratory coupling following isocapnic voluntary hyperpnea to task failure

  • Abigail S. L. StickfordEmail author
  • Jonathon L. Stickford
  • David A. Tanner
  • Joel M. Stager
  • Robert F. Chapman
Original Article



Evidence has long suggested that mammalian ventilatory and locomotor rhythms are linked, yet determinants and implications of locomotor–respiratory coupling (LRC) continue to be investigated. Anecdotally, respiratory muscle fatigue seen at the end of heavy exercise may result in an uncoupling of movement–ventilation rhythms; however, there is no scientific evidence to substantiate this claim.


We sought to determine whether or not fatigue of the respiratory muscles alters locomotor–respiratory coupling patterns typically observed in highly trained individuals while running. A related query was to examine the relationship between the potential changes in LRC and measures of running economy.


Twelve male distance runners ran at four submaximal workloads (68–89 % \({\dot{V}}\)O2peak) on two separate days while LRC was quantified. One LRC trial served as a control (CON), while the other was performed following an isocapnic voluntary hyperpnea to task failure to induce respiratory muscle fatigue (FT+). LRC was assessed as stride-to-breathing frequency ratios (SF/fB) and degree of LRC (percentage of breaths occurring during the same decile of the step cycle).


Hyperpnea resulted in significant declines in maximal voluntary inspiratory (MIP) and expiratory (MEP) mouth pressures (ΔMIP = −10 ± 12 cm H2O; ΔMEP = −6 ± 9 cm H2O). There were no differences in minute ventilation between CON and FT+ (CON, all speeds pooled = 104 ± 25 L min−1; FT+ pooled = 106 ± 23 L min−1). Stride frequency was not different between trials; however, breathing frequency was significantly greater during FT+ compared to CON at all speeds (CON pooled = 47 ± 10 br min−1; FT+ pooled = 52 ± 9 br min−1), resulting in smaller corresponding SF/fB. Yet, the degree of LRC was the same during CON and FT+ (CON pooled = 63 ± 15 %; FT+ pooled = 64 ± 18 %).


The results indicate that trained runners are able to continue entraining breath and step cycles, despite marked changes in exercise breathing frequency, after a fatiguing hyperpnea challenge.


Entrainment Running economy Endurance athletes Respiratory muscle fatigue Stride frequency 



Body temperature and pressure, saturated


Rating of perceived dyspnea


Breathing frequency


Fraction of expired carbon dioxide


Fraction of expired oxygen


Forced expiratory volume in one second


Forced vital capacity


Isocapnic voluntary hyperpnea


Locomotor–respiratory coupling


Maximal volitional expiratory mouth pressure


Maximal volitional inspiratory mouth pressure


Maximal voluntary ventilation


Running economy


Respiratory muscle fatigue


Rating of perceived exertion


Revolutions per minute


Step frequency


Standard temperature and pressure, dry


Volume of expired carbon dioxide


Minute ventilation


Maximal rate of oxygen consumption


Tidal volume



The authors would like to thank Drs. Bruce Martin and David Koceja for their invaluable feedback on the project. This research was supported in part by an Indiana University School of Public Health Student Research Grant and a University Graduate School Grant-in-Aid of Doctoral Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abigail S. L. Stickford
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonathon L. Stickford
    • 1
  • David A. Tanner
    • 1
  • Joel M. Stager
    • 1
  • Robert F. Chapman
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Performance Laboratories, Department of KinesiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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