Breathing for Cycling Performance Part 2

In part one I shared some tips on how to recognize ragged breathing and when your about to POP! Popping or exceeding your anaerobic threshold is something all cyclists have experienced. Its also usually the first time we start wondering if we have reached our maximum potential as cyclists.

The good news is that a cyclist’s anaerobic threshold can be improved even in later years. We may also be able to improve lung capacity.

So in this article I will introduce you to a breathing exercise that could improve your O2 intake and training that will improve your anaerobic threshold. As with all exercise you should consult with a health and or fitness professional before embarking on any training program.

To improve oxygen uptake try Hypoxic Breathing.

The word hypoxic means “with inadequate oxygen.” “The theory is that you can simulate the advantages gained by training at altitude by breathing less, limiting your oxygen intake rather than breathing thinner air. Over time, the body begins to adapt to the lower levels of oxygen by producing more red blood cells (responsible for bringing oxygen from the lungs to the muscles) in order to use more of the oxygen from the air that you breathe in. With more red blood cells, you can utilize more than the usual 40% of the oxygen you breathe in. Once the athlete returns to sea level, then he or she should be more efficient thanks to the increased red blood cell count.” The Examiner – Claire Lunardoni

Here is a typical Hypoxic breathing routine.

  • Start with 10-15 minutes and build up to 20-30 minutes.
  • While seated you want to have 4-5 sharp exhales followed by 4-5 relaxed inhales
  • Now you want the strongest possible exhale. Do this by sitting up straight and when you get to the bottom of your exhale push into your abdomen for a count of 20-30 seconds.
  • Now naturally inhale in until you feel you have reached your lung capacity then pull into to your abdomen for a count of 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat the 2 breath cycles for 10-15 minutes.
  • Try this routine for 4-6 weeks in the off season
  • If you feel dizzy stop this exercise and write down the time you did complete. If you were seeing stars do not repeat this routine and see your Dr.

To improve your anaerobic threshold you need to ride at or just above your anaerobic threshold.

This is done in very short high intensity intervals AKA HIT intervals. I have a couple of effective training Protocols for raising your anaerobic threshold. I have 2 favorites, 2x2s and Tabata Intervals. Just like with the Hypoxic Breathing exercises we should select appropriate places to train. It is highly recommended to do these intervals on a trainer, as they WILL take you to the ragged edge of your physical abilities. Timing is also very important when implementing HIT intervals. These HIT intervals should only be attempted after a minimum of 12 weeks of base/aerobic training.

2x2s Intervals: 2 minute efforts followed by 2 minute rests

  • These intervals are recommended to be done on the trainer in a cool room
  • Warm up for 10-15 by spinning at high easy cadence
  • In the big ring and middle of the cassette work up to your anaerobic threshold by the end of the 2 minute interval
  • Drop to the small ring and spin easy for 2 minutes and focus on your breath you need to get your HR down to your low Zone 2
  • When doing 2x2s for the first time only do a maximum of 1 set of 5 repetitions.
  • Cool down by riding an additional 10 minutes in the small ring spinning easy.

Tabata intervals: 10 second efforts followed by 30 second rests

  • These intervals are STRONGLY recommended to be done on the trainer in a cool room
  • Warm up for 10-15 by spinning at high easy cadence
  • In the big ring and middle of the cassette sprint all out for 10 seconds
  • Drop to the small ring and spin easy for 30 seconds and focus on your breath you need to recover as much as possible
  • When doing 2x2s for the first time only do a maximum of 1 set of 5 repetitions. Pros have a hard time with doing 2 sets of 6!
  • Cool down by riding an additional 10 minutes in the small ring spinning easy.

Note about the the above routines

These routines should only be attempted once a week and you should pick one or the other. DO NOT use both in the same week, as it will greatly affect your training stress. These efforts are meant to be very short and very intense.

After 6 weeks of the above mixed in with the rest of your build training I am positive you will find that you are less likely to pop at the top of your least favorite climb. You might even be able to work at the front of the pace line longer and even get into the break away group!

If you find the above sounds like something you could benefit from in your training but not sure how to apply it or when you should apply it I can help you. I invite you to participate in a free webinar on structured training. Click here to learn more.

If you feel that you want the benefits from the above and from structured training but do not want to go it alone click here.

I look forward to meeting you all at the webinar!

Until then have a great ride!

Coach Rob

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