Breathing techniques

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by PloddingAlong, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. PloddingAlong

    PloddingAlong New Member

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    Hi all, just wanted to say a big thanks to all who've helped me out so far with advice, especially about gearshifting and braking techniques, i'm really enjoying my cycling a lot more now that I am more confident in what I am doing.

    My main concern now is my breathing technique. I feel that the reason I struggle so hard on hills is not really due to lack of power in my legs, but the inability to get the oxygen into my lungs quick enough.

    I have to admit I was a long term smoker, and my lung capacity is pathetic, and I am overweight, but I am not going to give up improving my health. I quit smoking 4 years ago, and never looked back. I am losing weight steadily, over a 15lbs so far. What I am hoping for is maybe a better way of controlling my breathing so I don't get to the top of a hill and have to stop and go into panic/asthma mode because I cannot get the air in quick enough or in enough volume. The doctor said I may have exercise induced asthma , and gave me a pump in case of difficulties, but i'd rather avoid that if possible, only as a last resort.

    When doing a climb, how do you regulate your breathing properly ? Most climbs on my routes are not elongated, they are quite short, but quite steep. I hate having to get off the bike and walk it up, but when my lungs feel like bursting, I have no choice ! lol

    Anyway, thanks for any advice given, it will improve with time, I know that, it's a case of keeping going or plodding along lol :)
     
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  2. jpr95

    jpr95 Active Member

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    Shift down, spin faster. That will allow you to ride more slowly, which is less work and less taxing on your lungs. Otherwise, it's just a matter of your fitness--you'll get there eventually. If you can easily carry on a conversation while riding on flats, then you're not really improving your lung function much. More of your riding should be at a level where it is a little bit difficult to speak in full sentences. That will force your lungs to improve more quickly--and will then help on the hills. It just takes time, though. When I first got back on my bike 2.5 years ago, there were some hills near me that I thought would be the death of me (one that I almost couldn't walk because my legs were near total lock-up after riding halfway up). Now I can scoot right up any of them, even after not riding for a couple weeks (or months during the winter).
     
  3. bgoetz

    bgoetz Member

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    If you spin an easier gear faster, you are still putting out the same effort only using less force, so you will go pretty much the same speed and feel the same PE. Now spin an easier gear the same will get you less effort and lower speeds. What you are feeling on the hill is the fact that your power to weight is a much bigger factor on flat ground. So much infact that in order for you to stay moving you are at your threshold for pretty much the entire effort. Your response to riding at that level is that your muscles require more oxygen to which you are limited by either how much your blood brings to them or how much you supply to your blood, in either case the result is what you are experiencing. Everyone has a similar experiance when riding at this level, some are just riding significantly harder to get there, "It never gets easier, you just get faster". Sure once your body develops through strength gains, efficiency gains, weight loss, ect. you may actually be able to be comfortable and actually keep the bike moving forward, but for the most part you will just learn to deal with and even maybe enjoy that feeling. As to breathing, I have never been one to control my breathing, I just breath. The only thing I do sometimes is try to almost smile which opens my mouth a bit wider, but that is likely more habit than function. Besides oxygen supply may not be the issue, it could very well be uptake by the blood and muscles. So I guess I am saying just breath and try to get use to the feeling. One peice of advice would be to NEVER stop at the top of a hill, it is a horrible habit, you need to allow your body to come back to a "steady state" on it's own. More painful, yes, but it will help you adapt better to the stress.
     
  4. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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  5. jhuskey

    jhuskey Moderator

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    Try and vary your breathing with deeper breaths instead of just panting. Try and breath deep maybe every 15- 20 breaths or so.
     
  6. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    My bet is that you are just not used to that level of extended effort and breathing that hard feels new/strange/foreign to you. I used to be that way, my breathing felt downright out of control, enough so that I would slow.

    In the end, breathing is something that should come naturally and require little conscious control. It should become better with time and training. There may be some activities to help it along; I believe that my breathing improved the fastest after I took up swimming.
     
  7. PloddingAlong

    PloddingAlong New Member

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    wow thanks for all the great replies people, really appreciated. I have noticed a definate improvement over time, the one route I use I can more or less do it now without losing my puff anywhere along the route. Another one I do is the one that taxes me a lot more, lots of climbs, nothing to the experienced rider, but to me they are like mini challenges.

    I had a frightening time at the top of one climb a while back, and as one of you said above, it was exercise induced asthma, but it was colder than normal. Summer will be on it's way again soon enough, so if I keep my body temp high during winter rides does that help with breathing too ?

    Thanks so much.
     
  8. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    Cold air can be a challenge. I made myself a breath box for subzero rides. In addition to keeping inhaled air warm and moist, it keeps my goggles, glasses, face shield from fogging over. Scarves and face masks work too, but they do not direct exhaled air downward and can cause fogging.
     
  9. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    Just ride.

    There's no mystical breathing technique. Try exhaling a little more forcefully but in general you just inhale then exhale. Simple.

    What you do need to do is not try so hard... if you do that then it won't hurt so much. If you're in your bottom gear on a hill and you still have to ride at an effort that gets you to the point of feeling like someone pouring Dave's Insanity sauce in your lungs then you're going to hard. It's really that simple. You can always fit mountain bike rear gears to a road bike and run a 32 or 34 tooth sprocket. I do that in some long mountainous rides and even the guy that's probably the best climber in the Tour de France in the past decade, Alberto Contador has done that during the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) a few times...

    If your doc believes that you may have exercise induced asthma - get him to test it. It's easy to do and will only take an hour. It could well be that a simple inhaler will make life much much easier. In the grand scheme of things, if you do have asthma, the test will likely be one of the best per-dollar items you'll ever buy to increase performance legally.
     
  10. jpr95

    jpr95 Active Member

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    I should have clarified a bit. Shift down and spin faster, which makes it easier to back off the speed just a bit without stalling on the hill. It also makes any subsequent shifts easier on the drivetrain.
     
  11. PloddingAlong

    PloddingAlong New Member

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    Well I want to thank you all again, i've conquered my nemesis today and I am really happy about it. I do 1 of 2 routes regularly, and the one I did today is considerably harder than the other, and i've never been able to do it without dismounting on the bigger hills to get my breath back. Well I did it today, I managed to do the whole ride and only stopped the once in the place I always do for a drink :) I dropped down to the lower gears a lot earlier and kept saying to myself stop going at it so hard and just keep a nice easy pace. Before I knew it I was at the top of each climb with more in the tank and my breathing was so much slower than normal.

    So a big thank you from me for all the great advice, I really enjoyed the ride more than normal, without fear of asthma hitting me.

    And I found a baby mole that had waddled into the road, so I picked that up and put it on the grass , so I did my bit for the wildlife too ! haha
     
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