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  1. #1
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    Breathing Technique help/advice?

    I love my SS. I'm also not that good at it. But that's another story...

    When I power up some short steep climb (longer ones too), I'm usually gasping for air at the top because the climb was so hard, and more importantly probably because on hard efforts I find that I've usually been HOLDING my breath.

    I was wondering if anyone has any good advice/help/suggestions/articles about good/effective breathing techniques?

  2. #2
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    Beauty of the singlespeed. One pedal stroke, one breath. It just ends up that way for me.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by slip20
    Beauty of the singlespeed. One pedal stroke, one breath. It just ends up that way for me.
    I tried that, but I pedal faster than I breath, and it feels weird when they are not in sync.

    Do you breath small short breaths, or long deep breaths? (question to everyone...)

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    I tried that, but I pedal faster than I breath, and it feels weird when they are not in sync.

    Do you breath small short breaths, or long deep breaths? (question to everyone...)
    Personally I don't think about it... I just breath as much as necessary. I guess.

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    Personally I don't think about it... I just breath as much as necessary. I guess.

    --sParty
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    Decades of late night phone calls finally paying dividends?
    Dang... busted!

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  7. #7
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    Practice belly breathing when you're off of the bike. Learn to draw a deep, full breath. Then when you need it, on the bike, you'll understand how it should feel. If you find yourself panting during a hard effort, calm down and draw a deep breath. You'll get to the point where you can do this even when you're about to explode.

    Slip's advice is not too far off. If you practice the above, you may find that you slow a bit when you focus on your breath but at least you'll be able to keep going, one pedal stroke/breath at a time.

  8. #8
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    +1 to above. I also make sure I draw in a long deep breath through the nose, and slow deliberate exhale out the mouth. This keeps me from hyperventilating after climbing, but also sets up the pace so you can time your cadence.

  9. #9
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    +2 on the breathing

    The rhythm is great. The SS is great because it immediate hits you over the head with what you're not good at. Breathing was just another item in the long list my SS told me I sucked at. Good thing is you get better fast!

  10. #10
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    This is like the dirty little secret of every singlespeeder. I feel weak mentally thinking of my heavy breathing every time I make it up a climb.


    Maybe swimming would help?

  11. #11
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    Technique for breathing? Inhale and exhale. I don't ever think about breathing. If I'm totally beat and about to pass out after a climb, it's usually because I'm a weak pansy who needs to ride more---not because of my breathing technique.

  12. #12
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    Wow! Give this a try. Breath in, breath out, in, out, in, out, repeat.

    Next week we'll discuss how to walk. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right...

  13. #13
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    All silliness aside, there is one little trick you may want to try. Take about 3 deep breaths while your still seated, just before the steep climb starts and continue this breathing as long as you can. This should give you 3 -4 pedal strokes and you'll already be in controlled breathing mode before gasping begins. It's kind of like drinking before you're thirsty..
    Just one more rep and I get the toaster!

  14. #14
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    I found when i 1st made the switch to SS, i was busting a lung getting to the top of hills. But now I've been doing it for a while, i find that I'm clearing climbs that nearly killed me the 1st time i tried. My advice is to just give it time, and keep at it. You'll be fine without any Mr Miyagi style techniques.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiggs

    Next week we'll discuss how to walk. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right...
    Right....what??!! Ugh, suspense is killing me.

  16. #16
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    There is a tendency to syncronize breathing with leg movements. I'm no doctor or what ever, but I think it goes back to our four legged ancestors (way back there) who inhaled and exhaled with every compression and extension of their spine when running (think cheetah) so it is sometimes hard to fight it.

    I took some martial arts classes when I was in HS from a guy who also taught breathing exercises. Breathing with your abdominals is good as it is a concious effort that allows you control. I have found on long, epic climbs that timing your inhale with a count of pedal strokes is helpful and I try to make inhaling take longer than exhaling. I also use the trick of one long inhale and two short exhales. You have to make an effort to control it at first, but eventually you can build muscle memory.
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  17. #17
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    I learned belly breathing in high school band, and I think it helps. I know my legs fail (in the sense that you "fail" a bench press or something) before I get winded.

    Which I guess means I need to work on my muscle conditioning >_< I've never had an issue unconsciously holding my breath, though.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiggs
    Wow! Give this a try. Breath in, breath out, in, out, in, out, repeat.

    Next week we'll discuss how to walk. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right...
    I totally just fell right now, why can't it be next week already?

  19. #19
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    to the OP.... it will improve with practice........SS will make you strong.... and then it will make you stronger.... just breathe.... you know how to do it... you have been doing it since you were born.... your body will adapt faster than you realize.... just ride... and don't give in to the temptation to go back to gears.....

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    ...I'm also not that good at it....
    <snip>
    When I power up some short steep climb (longer ones too), I'm usually gasping for air at the top because the climb was so hard....
    This too, shall pass

  21. #21
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    doping helps.

  22. #22
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    You all seem to think I'm new to SS... that's not the case. I'm not saying I'm good or anything, but I really like it and have been doing it a while.

    Maybe my issue is left over from HS swimming. I swam the 50m freestyle, which is just head down all out no breathing (or at least no one taught me I should breath). I sometimes have panic attacks that get worse when I feel like I'm not breathing which brings on the panic (nice circle).

    I think the best advice so far would be to breath in for a certain number of pedal strokes, and then out for the same number or less. That means I'll have to count in my head for a while, which will suck, but maybe I'll get used to it. Also Brad's suggestion to kind of pre-breath at the bottom of the hill is good.

    Anyone want to elaborate on belly breathing?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    You all seem to think I'm new to SS... that's not the case. I'm not saying I'm good or anything, but I really like it and have been doing it a while.
    I would guess that most have seen you post before, but maybe not. The big thing is that people love to give advice, regardless of how many people have said the same thing as them, or how many times they have said it in the past.

    When I climb on a SS there are two things that I think about. Maybe they will help with your breathing. The first is rhythm. I like SS for climbing because I can settle into a climb with metronome like pedaling pace and I think my breathing naturally mirrors that. Some others touched on this.

    I also think climbing is like lifting weights. People tend to hold their breath when they lift. You might not have weights available, but you can do push ups. I don't know if this will help you, but maybe two a couple sets of push ups a day. Breathe in on the way down, out on the way up. I don't know if it will help, but.... well, best I got.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by umarth
    I would guess that most have seen you post before, but maybe not. The big thing is that people love to give advice, regardless of how many people have said the same thing as them, or how many times they have said it in the past.

    When I climb on a SS there are two things that I think about. Maybe they will help with your breathing. The first is rhythm. I like SS for climbing because I can settle into a climb with metronome like pedaling pace and I think my breathing naturally mirrors that. Some others touched on this.

    I also think climbing is like lifting weights. People tend to hold their breath when they lift. You might not have weights available, but you can do push ups. I don't know if this will help you, but maybe two a couple sets of push ups a day. Breathe in on the way down, out on the way up. I don't know if it will help, but.... well, best I got.
    Focusing on breathing more consciously while doing things with effort will be good practice. I think I was hung up on how fast my cadence is (too fast for breathing), but doing a certain number of revolutions per breathing cycle sound like what I should work on.

  25. #25
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    [QUOTE=...

    Anyone want to elaborate on belly breathing?[/QUOTE]

    Belly breathing refers to consciously drawing a breath deeply, extending the belly as you do so. While we know that the breath doesn't go into the belly, when we focus on allowing the belly to extend, what we're really doing is allowing/making the diaphragm move down more purposefully, which means we draw a larger breath into the lungs.

    While the folks are clowning this thread pretty mercilessly, there's something to be said for being able to focus on one's breathing and, in doing so, calm the body and increase our energy output.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    Focusing on breathing more consciously while doing things with effort will be good practice. I think I was hung up on how fast my cadence is (too fast for breathing), but doing a certain number of revolutions per breathing cycle sound like what I should work on.
    I almost forgot.... My favorite training technique is finding a hill about a half mile long, pegging it as hard as I can, then chugging a tall boy at the top. Repeat until blackout.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by voodoochild
    Belly breathing refers to consciously drawing a breath deeply, extending the belly as you do so. While we know that the breath doesn't go into the belly, when we focus on allowing the belly to extend, what we're really doing is allowing/making the diaphragm move down more purposefully, which means we draw a larger breath into the lungs.

    While the folks are clowning this thread pretty mercilessly, there's something to be said for being able to focus on one's breathing and, in doing so, calm the body and increase our energy output.
    I couldn't agree more. I find that compared to the rest of the people I race with, those of us who utilize the full capacity of our lungs outperform those who don't, even though they are generally equally fit. The first lap is always close but the following laps we start to gap them and I believe it is because our breathing is more under control. They think our breathing technique is some sort of hippie/yoga/voodoo garbage.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    Focusing on breathing more consciously while doing things with effort will be good practice. I think I was hung up on how fast my cadence is (too fast for breathing), but doing a certain number of revolutions per breathing cycle sound like what I should work on.
    Don't forget those late night phone calls.

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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    Don't forget those late night phone calls.

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  30. #30
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    Try making your exhale longer and more even than your inhale.

    When I learned to SCUBA dive, it teaches you that the body craves to breathe not because of the absence of oxygen but the presence of CO2 in your blood.

    With this knowledge, I try to extend the exhale time by pursing my lips and exhaling a longer, controlled breath. That way, the time it takes for the CO2 to transfer from the blood in the alveoli in you lungs to the ambient air is extended, releasing more CO2 than would a rapid exhale.

    This breathing method is not instinctive and may take some mind over body practice.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by hchchch
    Try making your exhale longer and more even than your inhale.

    When I learned to SCUBA dive, it teaches you that the body craves to breathe not because of the absence of oxygen but the presence of CO2 in your blood.

    With this knowledge, I try to extend the exhale time by pursing my lips and exhaling a longer, controlled breath. That way, the time it takes for the CO2 to transfer from the blood in the alveoli in you lungs to the ambient air is extended, releasing more CO2 than would a rapid exhale.

    This breathing method is not instinctive and may take some mind over body practice.
    Thanks, cool advice.

    I really worked on my breathing tonight, and it felt less awkward than the other day. (This is only my second ride with the intention of working on breathing better.)

    I was trying to inhale longer than my exhale, but I found that if I breathed in through my nose and held it for a second, I was more relaxed on the breath out. But I think this kinda jibs with what you are saying. I will keep working on it.

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  33. #33
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    "During stress and anger, we tend to inhale and hold our breath. The most significant, therapeutic aspect of this breathing is the exhalation – which is at least twice the length of the inhalation. The exhalation alerts the body that it can relax and resume essential body functions and not remain in a state of "fight or flight"."

    That's similar to what hchchch was saying about scuba. I think this makes a lot of sense to me personally.

  34. #34
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    While I believe that belly breathing is our natural way of breathing we seem to have forgotten how to do this. You mentioned that, "During stress and anger we tend to hold our breath." So true, but also during intense focusing. I notice this in all my sports and what really helps is Intentional Practise outside of your sport. When you sit quietly focus on your belly expanding and like stated before on long slow exhales. Forget the inhale it will take care of itself. What really helps me is yoga, it demands that you breath deeply. Yogic masters have always said that our life force or "prana" is carried into our bodies by our breath. Yoga also helps to keep me flexible in case I crash ha ha. I'm going to plug a little book by John Capouga, it's called, "Real men do Yoga." It"s about professional athletes who practice yoga. A great read with a great chapter on breathing.

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  35. #35
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    As others mention, I try to synch my breathing with my pedal strokes. Concentrate on taking slow, deep breaths. I do this for both road and mt riding and it works for me.

  36. #36
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    Breathe stupid! Breathe--you forgot to breathe again!

    Quote Originally Posted by straw
    While I believe that belly breathing is our natural way of breathing we seem to have forgotten how to do this. You mentioned that, "During stress and anger we tend to hold our breath." So true, but also during intense focusing. I notice this in all my sports and what really helps is Intentional Practise outside of your sport. When you sit quietly focus on your belly expanding and like stated before on long slow exhales. Forget the inhale it will take care of itself. What really helps me is yoga, it demands that you breath deeply. Yogic masters have always said that our life force or "prana" is carried into our bodies by our breath. Yoga also helps to keep me flexible in case I crash ha ha. I'm going to plug a little book by John Capouga, it's called, "Real men do Yoga." It"s about professional athletes who practice yoga. A great read with a great chapter on breathing.

    Cheers
    Straw
    I do design work at my computer for long stretches, and frequently am really against the wall deadline-wise. When I am drawing in Illustrator or Photoshop, I have discovered that I don't breathe--or breather super-shallowy. I have gotten dizzy this way--but most importantly I found myself doing this on the bike too! Especially when riding with a group, and the going heats up. Been working on breathing in everything I do, and (as silly as it sounds) you wouldn't believe how much faster you ride when you get out of the habit of shallow, fitful breathing. Since a good bit of us work on computers at long stretches without breaks, I bet I am not the only one that does this.

  37. #37
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    Bar Width Anybody?

    I have seen some discussion about the relation between bar width and better breathing. It seems to me that when I put bar ends and wider bars on my bike my breathing seemed a little less "tight" (for lack of a scientific term) Also the "in the nose-out the mouth" helps to focus me a little and distract me from my aching back and legs.!

  38. #38
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    Could be. Plus wider bars help with leverage quite a bit on an SS IMO.

  39. #39
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    You could always do what Willie Nelson does. Take a deep breath, then hold it...hold it...hold it............then exhale.

  40. #40
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    I just try to remember to breathe...like a bench press.

    What do I know, I throw up a lot...you don't want to see me on my Ss road bike! When my lactic threshold is met, it's over, people driving by me honking and laughing.
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    This is a great discussion. Think about it. Deep breathing is free, it will make our bikes go faster and we can all do it! Reminds me of a story in one of Dr. Andrew Weil's books. Seems in his early years he was studying cranial sacrum therapy with a very vibrant elder doctor who appeared quite young. Andrew asked him, "what is your secret to your youthfulness?" The doc didn't say anything he just took a deep breath that in Andrew's words, "seemed to go on forever" which he followed with a slow exhale.

    Yours deeply
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    This is a great discussion. Think about it. Deep breathing is free, it will make our bikes go faster and we can all do it! Reminds me of a story in one of Dr. Andrew Weil's books. Seems in his early years he was studying cranial sacrum therapy with a very vibrant elder doctor who appeared quite young. Andrew asked him, "what is your secret to your youthfulness?" The doc didn't say anything he just took a deep breath that in Andrew's words, "seemed to go on forever" which he followed with a slow exhale.

    Yours deeply
    Straw
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  43. #43
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    I have a bit of asthma, and really struggle with getting winded easily.

    I think I need to get out and ride by myself a little more often and try a couple of the techniques mentioned here.

    I generally ride with a group, and there is pressure to keep up with the guys in front of me, and not mess up the momentum of the guys behind me, so it's almost a bit of a panic (for lack of a better word) for me to just get up the hill and survive! Meanwhile I'm so out of breath that I can't even talk.

    Good thread, thanks Brad.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by fightnut
    I generally ride with a group, and there is pressure to keep up with the guys in front of me, and not mess up the momentum of the guys behind me, so it's almost a bit of a panic (for lack of a better word) for me to just get up the hill and survive!
    I've been there myself. I hate that feeling. But if it's a regular group of guys, you'll probably just fall in the right spot in line after a while. Hopefully then you can not stress about other around you and you can just focus on your breathing and having a good ride!

  45. #45
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  46. #46
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    My wife also suffers from asthma. She is into yoga which incorporates deep breathing but she never thought to transfer the breathing over to cycling. She was always complaining about how quickly she got winded. One day I asked her if she was breathing properly, I got smacked and told I was an idiot, and then I explained about the deep breathing. She instantly knew was I was talking about and she was very excited after her next ride she was on as she was able to ride longer and harder before her lungs told her to stop. Hopefully you have the same success.
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    In nose, out mouth.

  48. #48
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    Singlespeeding is the art of harnessing desperation. You are constantly backed into a gear ratio corner, down to your last match; wolves of anerobic threshold, mockery by your peers, and personal defeat constantly circling. The gnawing oxygen debt, the vacuous gasps of one's lungs, the sudden deafening roar of gravity and the heaviness of everything without air. Breathe like your car has plunged into a lake and, hopelessly sealed inside you gulp vast breaths, each fearing to be your last, that each might be the one breath you will have to bring you back to the surface.
    You must learn to claw, eyes bulging, lungs aflame, raw metallic taste in the back of your throat to the top of climbs, and make all these things secret. The world at large must only see a crazy man, a mutant, a cyborg atop a bike with only one impossible gear. And they will stare and shake their heads and wonder how you got to the top first, never knowing, never understanding that it was the only way up, that you could not have made it any slower, that all the drivetrain handicaps they presume you to burden yourself with are the very advantages that have made you fast and hard as coffin nails.
    **** censorship

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by subliminalshiver
    hard as coffin nails.
    That was awesome.

    But I'm hardly a tough guy, and remain out of shape. But maybe I'm just not riding enough.

  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by RidinginSF
    +1 to above. I also make sure I draw in a long deep breath through the nose, and slow deliberate exhale out the mouth. This keeps me from hyperventilating after climbing, but also sets up the pace so you can time your cadence.
    +1 to your +1 and to your's Straw.

    Don't want to get all metaphysical, but I like "Prana" breathing in yoga. Directing your breathing like this really helps me.

    Here's one link of many:

    http://www.kundaliniyoga.org/pranayam.html

  51. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    That was awesome.

    But I'm hardly a tough guy...
    That is a choice you make for yourself, not an intrinsic quality, nor is it predicated upon what kind of shape you are in.
    **** censorship

  52. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tolk83
    I found when i 1st made the switch to SS, i was busting a lung getting to the top of hills. But now I've been doing it for a while, i find that I'm clearing climbs that nearly killed me the 1st time i tried. My advice is to just give it time, and keep at it. You'll be fine without any Mr Miyagi style techniques.
    +1.

  53. #53
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    You need a few more adjectives in your writing to clarify.

  54. #54
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    Best advice I ever got:

    Control your breath. Do not let it control you.

    I find the super deep breaths actually make me feel more dizzy, out of breath (hyperventilate) than medium, measured, controlled breathing.
    “I don't like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there”

  55. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiggs
    Wow! Give this a try. Breath in, breath out, in, out, in, out, repeat.

    Next week we'll discuss how to walk. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right...
    Actually, there are very specific methods for teaching breathing techniques for athletes; five minutes on Google will amaze you on the amount of science behind breathing and more specifically, breathing for athletic performance. There are many good recommendations posted here and here is what works for me and has worked for many athletes ranging beginner to world class. As much as breathing is automatic it can be trained as well; Learning to control your breathing gives you control of your body and mind. In a nut shell, the typical cyclist or runner inhales and exhales on the same count, a one to one pattern: one inhale for every two strokes/steps, one exhale for every two strokes/steps, one inhale for every three strokes/steps, one exhale for every three strokes/steps etc ... you get the picture. The challenge with this is it gives the inhale more control/power (thus creating anxiety) over the exhale and it creates a lop- sided power distribution: inhale/exhale will always be on the same pedal stroke (right foot/left foot). Instead, always exhale longer than inhale to create a two to one, three to two, or six to three count. Example: exhale for three strokes and inhale for two strokes or exhale for six strokes and inhale for three strokes. (During max heart rate efforts such as sprinting, short duration, a one to one would be fine) This type of breathing will 1) put the emphasis on exhaling thus allowing the inhaling to happen automatically, without effort and anxiety and 2) will alternate or cycle your breathing distribution from right then the left and not always on the right or the left. Sounds complicated but it really isn't however, it does take some time/practice to make the transition. Often you'll hear a top athlete say that they focus on the exhale and not the inhale, this is how.

  56. #56
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    ... and if we just ...

    Quote Originally Posted by subliminalshiver
    Singlespeeding is the art of harnessing desperation. You are constantly backed into a gear ratio corner, down to your last match; wolves of anerobic threshold, mockery by your peers, and personal defeat constantly circling. The gnawing oxygen debt, the vacuous gasps of one's lungs, the sudden deafening roar of gravity and the heaviness of everything without air. Breathe like your car has plunged into a lake and, hopelessly sealed inside you gulp vast breaths, each fearing to be your last, that each might be the one breath you will have to bring you back to the surface.
    You must learn to claw, eyes bulging, lungs aflame, raw metallic taste in the back of your throat to the top of climbs, and make all these things secret. The world at large must only see a crazy man, a mutant, a cyborg atop a bike with only one impossible gear. And they will stare and shake their heads and wonder how you got to the top first, never knowing, never understanding that it was the only way up, that you could not have made it any slower, that all the drivetrain handicaps they presume you to burden yourself with are the very advantages that have made you fast and hard as coffin nails.
    ... oh yeah, this is sweet and says it all!!

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