Legs and lungs. Those are the only two things a cyclist truly needs As the lungs expand, taking in oxygen from the outside air, the heart dutifully supplies it to the appropriate muscles. In the process, collecting carbon dioxide to be expelled outside the body. If muscles don’t get the required oxygen, they will lose efficiency and demand recovery. Breathing efficiently is important to maintaining effort over time.
Cycling isn’t about explosive performance, like the long jump or dunking a basketball. One’s aerobic capacity, the ability to work at a sustained effort, is more a function of self-discipline than power. A recent study revealed sherpas on Mount Everest can produce 30 percent more power from their oxygen use. A purposeful adaptation to cope with the thin air.
We can’t guarantee a 30 percent improvement, but here are four techniques for breathing more efficiently on the bike:
- Mindful Breathing: Be mindful of your breath. Count in three seconds on the inhale and three seconds on the exhale. Then extend the exhale while keeping the inhale constant. The process of removing carbon dioxide is as important as getting oxygen from the inhale. We exhale 100 times more carbon dioxide as we inhale.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: Much like the opera soprano, breathing (singing) from your diaphragm optimizes performance. Yoga enthusiasts understand that deep (or belly) breathing engages the diaphragm. The contraction of the diaphragm creates more space for your lungs to expand. Thus allowing for more oxygen during the inhale.
- Nasal Breathing: Breathing through your nose sends air to your lungs as opposed to your stomach. Doing so regulates your breathing versus mouth breathing which leads to hyperventilating. Finally, nasal breathing has been proven to optimize the humidity and temperature of the outside air to best allow your lungs’ preferred level.
- Find Your Flow: A popular trick amongst long-distance cyclists is to connect cadence to heart rate. Count three RPMs for inhale and four RPMs for exhale. And stay there. The concept is dubbed flow, “[when a] person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Synchronizing cadence with your breathing, helps you stay in the zone.
And it’s never too late to start!
Linda Jackson was a successful 35-year-old businesswoman before a skiing injury brought cycling into her life. Over the course of the next seven years, Jackson won multiple races, qualified for two Olympics and was recently inducted into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame. The ability to move oxygen through your blood doesn’t decrease at the same rate as more muscle-laden capabilities. So jump on your Echelon bike and start your Hall of Fame Journey.
Author: Dru Cycles