You’d expect that breathing all our life makes us an expert at breathing. It doesn’t.
In endurance sports, getting enough oxygen is vital. Here is a breathing technique that works extremely well when cycling. It has been reported to boost oxygen levels up to 25%. When muscles don’t get enough oxygen, they quickly fatigue and can’t maintain the effort.
1) Exhale normally.
2) At the end of the exhale when the air flowing out slows down, pull the stomach in and rapidly force the remaining air out of the lungs. The more CO2 left in the lungs, the more remains in the lungs during the in breath and this reduces oxygen absorption. Keep this exhale short, but strong. The exhale should sound very loud, embarrassingly so.
3) Relax. Let the air come back in without making an effort.
4) When the air flowing back in starts to slow down, breathe in normally.
5) Near the end of the inhalation as the inflow of air again decreases, strongly suck air in very quickly until it feels like your lungs are about the burst and hold this air in for about a second. This does 2 things: it increases the air pressure in your lungs well above normal air pressure. The higher air pressure in your lungs increases the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed.
6) Relax. Let the air flow out all on its own accord without making any effort.
7) When the out flow of air starts slowing down, repeat step 1.
This technique reduces the amount of effort required to breath while maximizing the amount of oxygen taken in and CO2 exhaled. It reduces oxygen consumption by limiting the amount of time and effort it takes to use our muscles to breath.
It helps to count during the breathing exercise. The count during the inhale and exhale should be an even number. So if the inhale takes 1…2…3… the exhale should take 1…2…3. On each 3, either a strong inhale takes place or a strong exhale takes place.
When pedaling, you want the opposite leg going down at the start of the exhale. So if the first exhale is with the left leg going down, when you start the next exhale the right leg should be going down. This is actually quite simple to do. On 1, left leg goes down. On the count of 2, right leg goes down. On the count of 3, left leg goes down. Repeat.
We tend to push down harder on the leg that is pushing down on the pedals when we exhale so alternating like this helps to balance the power between the legs. It also gives one leg more of a rest so that when the next breathing cycle repeats, it can push a little harder.
Concentrating on the breathing pattern and alternating the pedalling takes attention off the effort. If you are doing the exercise properly you may notice 2 things… your vision gets brighter because vision is the first thing that is affected by a lack of oxygen. After doing this exercise for a while you also may find your chest muscles feel sore after a ride. Its just that we aren’t used to working them so hard (unlike our legs).
When you get into the rhythm, time seems to pass effortlessly as does the miles.