Pain in lungs vs. pain in legs

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    Hello everyone,

    I’m currently experiencing a change in my fitness and I’m happy to hear some thoughts about it. I start with a little context. I’m turning 34 this year and I’m a runner since 2008. I really became committed to training around 2016. Before that I was mostly running with no real structure. From 2016 to 2021 I was able to reduce my 10k time from 39:48 to 36:25. I also have experiences in Marathon and Ultra distances.

    Now my situation. Most of the time in my running life I could run short intervals at a pace where my lungs would burn. Of course I would not do this all the time. But finishing a set of intervals at this pace always felt like an achievement. This changed around last year. I can’t reach that state of “burning lungs” anymore. This is because before reaching that state, my legs start to feel so sore that I’m not able to commit to a faster pace. It almost feels like an invisible barrier. When reaching that invisible barrier I really feel that I was able to push through that barrier earlier in my career, but now I can’t. This problem is not exclusive to interval-training. The barrier appears at all kinds of tempo training in Zone 4 and Zone 5.

    I have some theories about that and I’m happy to hear your thoughts.

    1. Too much volume physically
    During the last years I was able to increase my volume more and more. Now I run 6 times a week achieving a volume of around 75 – 90 km / 46 – 55 miles. Maybe my body is more tired overall and that’s why I can’t reach that high peaks of efforts anymore.

    2. Too much volume mentally
    During intervals I tend to think about how much intervals are in front of me and what runs are left for the rest of the week. Maybe some unconscious instance in my head creates that “invisible barrier” because it wants to have some energy left for what’s ahead.

    3. Vegan diet
    I follow a vegan diet science 2019. Despite I created all my PRs with a vegan diet I may have a nutritional problem. Vegan diets are known for producing iron deficiency people. And iron is known for transporting oxygen to the muscles. Including the muscles in my legs. I’ll do some blood work next to get more information.

    4. Aging
    I don’t want this to be true, but is this what aging feels like?

    Does anybody has some thoughts on that? Are these possible causes? Are there some more possibilities? And does someone has a suggestion on how get a handle on this and resolve this?

    Thanks for the help!


    So I am not a coach, doctor or any specialist, but seeing as you have not got an answer I thought I would throw my hat in the ring. I am a 56 year old vegan half marathon runner (1h55).

    If you are worried about vitamins then take a (vegan) multivitamin for a month and see if that impacts it.

    Re the age thing. I came to running later in life, but I cant physically run as fast as I could. My legs just wont go fast enough, even down hill. So age may come into it. When I was 6 and I fell out of a tree I bounced, now I have to be careful tying my shoes 🙂

    If it is really bugging you I would get some professional guidance to see if they can get you over this or to confirm that this is the new norm and how to adapt. Invest in a coach for a few months. It might also be worth discussing with your Dr – perhaps you had a symptomless virus?

    Lastly – try the new masters 8020 plans?



    Hello FatDad,

    thanks for your reply!

    Thanks for the tip. I’m currently in week 3 of testing out Athletic Greens. Do you prefer a certain Multivitamin? Out of curiosity. May I ask you how long you’ve been on a vegan diet? Of course I know about Rich Roll or Scott Jurek, but its also interesting to hear experiences of some more “average” runners (Please don’t take this as an offense. I include myself in this category too.).

    As everyone else I had Corona last year around May. I first started to notice the change in fitness in July or August. So maybe this is a possibility too. I will check that out with my Dr.

    8020 plans:
    I did not check them out yet. I used the Level 3 8020-Plans from the Book for my 10k races. These plans are so awesome. I had the most fun and the best results using them so I will also check out the new ones.

    Best regards,



    To answer your question, I’ve been vegetarian for 40 years and Vegan for over 30 years – over 20 years before I started running as a hobby so I don’t know if it makes any difference. .

    As I am sure you are aware, you can get all the vitamins you need from a good vegan diet (with the possible exception of B12 if you don’t like yeast extract). I follow a terrible diet! In the UK I have recently used Centurium (over 50), Holland and Barret own brand and if I am feeling rich Solgar. Solgar would be my preference (32p/day). If you just want iron then I have had a Dr recommend Floradix, but it tastes of cherries which I cant stand.

    I had not heard of Athletic Greens before – fantastic if it works for you, but its the same price (in the UK) as a coach. Personally I would try the coach over the vitamins (you can even get an 8020 certified one via this site).

    Quite a few years ago my mum paid for me to go to a ‘proper’ nutritionist who got a few blood tests done and said I was deficient in one specific vitamin, and I took a supplement and did feel better. Of course I did not keep it up. There are a lot of quacks – so perhaps your Dr can recommend a nutritionist.

    Unfortunately the new masters plans are only available to subscribers at the moment (i am not one).

    Hope that helps.


    Creatine, also a potential source of problem for vegetarians, has an effect mitigating the symptoms you are describing.

    I wouldn’t take it on a daily basis. Instead I treat it as a cup of coffee; something to get me over a tough interval session when I feel down. It works for me. I find it is useless Zone III & below, and a significant help for Zones IV & V.

    Another place to look is deciding if you are recovered sufficiently going into the hard sessions. I find that I often need to do the foundation runs at a recovery effort to assure I am ready for the hard days. The coaches have frequently mentioned on the forum that the Level I/II line is soft, so there is absolutely no reason not to ease up when necessary.


    Hello FatDat and Charles,

    thank you for your responses.

    Creatine was something I had not think about. I will look into that. Thank you.

    Recovery could be a problem to. I do a little bit of active recovery with cold showers and a foam roll. Maybe I should research this more too. I like the volume I run right now because of the other effects it has in my life. So reducing volume is a step I try to avoid yet.

    Leyla Porteous

    Hey Phillip,

    My initial thoughts here is that you have simply developed your aerobic fitness to the point where you are now hitting your strength limiters in your training. I would ask the question about strength training at this point and ensuring that you are adhering to the 80/20 intensity balance in your weekly training load to prevent excessive fatigue impacting performance. As you develop as an athlete there is a point of diminishing returns, and you can’t just keep adding more and more and expecting the same sensations and performance gains – at this point you are starting to reach your potential but also your strengths and limiters start to become more obvious. Becoming stronger may be where you need to focus, 2-3 sessions of run specific strength, plus mobility, core strength would be a good option for you to test this theory.

    I am not of the opinion that your age is a factor at this stage, in terms of diet, there is always room for improvements in this area – but again I don’t believe your diet is related to this aerobic vs strength endurance relationship you have described. It’s always a good idea to get some base line blood work done to determine any deficiencies rather than supplementing with guesses.

    Coach Leyla

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