Cycling has a lot of advantages health-wise, but it can also be quite a challenge for your body. Even if you are in good physical condition, knowing how to breathe correctly can help a lot when out cycling. It all started with yoga and its followers that are promoting various advantages of focused breathing for quite some time now. Even so, there aren’t many cyclists that are willing to stop and think about how breathing properly may totally change the way you pedal.

A high-paced and laboured breathing is not really doing you any favours. When you take shallow breaths from your chest, rather than using your belly, limits your oxygen intake (which may cause leg cramps) and affects the amount of oxygen reaching your muscles. This eventually leads to your heart pumping harder and harder, trying to get that precious oxygen in your body, rising blood pressure and causing stress to your entire body. We know that cycling can alleviate stress but breathing correctly can help further.

Changing this habit can prove to be a hard task, especially if you’ve been cycling for a number of years. But there are a few things you can do to improve the way you breathe while cycling. Studies show that training can improve the efficiency of your breathing leading to an improvement of up to 10%.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you breathe correctly while cycling, that you can try on your next ride.

  1. Cyclists Superpower – Belly Breathing
  2. The biggest secret to improving your performance is to educate yourself in taking deep breaths, known as belly breaths or diaphragmatic breathing. The key to achieving that is to use your diaphragm, that flat muscle that goes all the way across the bottom of the ribcage, pushing air through your body. Every time you inhale, the diaphragm flexes and creates a vacuum that forces air through your nose and mouth, reaching your lungs.

    The thing is, your diaphragm can only perform as well as you allow it to. When you limit its functions, the breathing path follows the path of least resistance and finds its way upwards towards the chest. This, in turn, results in shallow breathing that won’t deliver enough oxygen to your muscles. That’s why it is very important that even before you focus on changing the way you breathe, you need to focus on standing up and allow your ribs and belly to expand. Also, work on strengthening the abdominal muscles to leave shallow breathing behind.

  3. Learn From Babies
  4. If you want a good example of how you should be taking your breaths while riding a bicycle, you might need to take an example from someone a lot younger. Watching a baby breathe will give a very clear idea of what you should be doing (and a warm fuzzy feeling inside). It’s similar to having a balloon in your stomach that expands and then collapses very naturally. Life and its pace, slowly change the way we breathe, leading to a lot of chest breathing that can barely supply your body with the oxygen needed for regular tasks, let alone something that pushes your body to the limit such as cycling.

  5. The Rule of Three, IN & Out
  6. diaphragm

    The rule of every breathing exercise you are willing to start is to first practice it off the bike. A normal person breathes up to 20 times per minute but recent studies show that you actually need a lot less for your body to perform. The correct digit is somewhere around 10 breaths per minute.

    If you manage to take it down to 10 breaths, the benefits will start to appear immediately. A lot of good stuff like a lower heart rate and blood pressure, better circulation due to expanded arteries, less inflammation in arteries and veins, and an entire change in blood composition that makes it a lot less acid. If you’re feeling unsure about all the benefits that slow, heavy breathing has over your body, take a look at what victims of panic attacks are instructed to do.

    If you spend up to 5 minutes per day to train the way you breathe, using the three-second inhale, three-second exhale rule, you will start seeing immediate changes. It only takes 5 minutes and you can do it anywhere; at work, at home, on your daily commute or even while watching TV. Just like anything in life, practicing this rule will lead to it becoming a habit, and it will totally change the way you breathe in your day to day life, biking included.

  7. Constantly Monitor Yourself
  8. Now that you know what you need to do in order to breathe like a pro, you can start applying these tips and tricks right away. Always remember that you need to focus on your breathing every couple of minutes until you manage to do it unconsciously. Whenever you ‘catch yourself’ breathing too shallow, force yourself to go back into heavy-breathing mode through your belly and you will see how your effort potential suddenly increases.

    The thing with breathing is that it should always feel natural and good, so it is very important to achieve a point where the belly breathing is not something you force on yourself but a way to help your body deal better with effort and stress. It’s natural that you will continue to breathe heavily when biking on a rough interval, say uphill, but as long as you can keep it under control and quickly get back to that belly breathing, you should feel a lot better.

    So, the bottom line for improving the way you breathe while biking is that it takes a lot of practice and self-control. It’s only natural that sometimes you let your body enter that ‘fight or flight’ mode when adrenaline is pumping, and you only want to see yourself over the top of that hill, but remember that if you want to reach the finish line, you must control the way you breathe.

  1. Cyclists Superpower – Belly Breathing
  2. Learn From Babies
  3. The Rule of Three, IN & Out
  4. Constantly Monitor Yourself