Sycling Snippets

by Bobby Nefdt

7. The Importance of Breathing Correctly on a Bike

Oxygen debt and the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles results in a sharp decline in performance. Lactic acid can only be removed by the presence of oxygen. All too often I ride next to someone who is really labouring on a hill, panting loudly. Panting reduces the oxygen intake into the lungs which, in turn, increases the lactic build-up in the muscles. Breathing correctly, particularly when you are under stress, is vital. Panting does not clear your lungs of carbon dioxide and when you breathe in, doesn’t allow you to take in enough oxygen. You are probably using less than 50% of your lung capacity. It is important that before you start working hard you start to breathe deeper. Take very deep breaths and breathe out completely – empty your lungs, or as much as possible, and then breathe in deeply.

Have you watched 100m sprint athletes before the start of their race taking deep breaths and exhaling deeply before they start? They know that in a few seconds their muscles will crying out for oxygen as the lactic acid builds up. Avoid panting: taking quick, short breaths. If I am approaching a hill and I know that I will be riding hard up that hill, I would start breathing deeply and exhaling close to completely before I get to the hill in order to get more oxygen to my muscles.

When I am on the climb I would try to relax my upper body, hold the top of my bars (sitting as upright as possible) in order to open my chest, allowing me to breathe properly. Breathe in a steady rhythm, in and out, as deeply as possible and expelling as much air from your lungs as you are able. If you find yourself starting to pant, take a few extra deep breaths and exhale as much as possible. You may have to back off your pace in order to recover slightly so you can get back into a steady breathing rhythm. Remember, getting enough oxygen to your muscles reduces lactic acid build-up in your muscles and allows you to the ride faster for longer. BREATHE, DON’T PANT!