Breathe out hard, breathe in easy.
by Fred Matheny
Here’s a technique I learned from 1984 Olympic road champion Alexi Grewal. Try it when climbing a long hill.
When you’re working hard, it’s natural to put the emphasis on inhaling lots of air. Instead, emphasize exhaling. Blow the air out aggressively, then let your lungs refill passively.
Why? Two reasons.
First, it gives you better air exchange. By emptying your lungs on each breath, they can take in more energy-producing oxygen.
Second, long exhales stop you from panting inefficiently.
When climbing, try breathing out fully for two counts (pedal strokes). Then let your lungs refill on the next two counts. This sets up a pedaling rhythm that puts you in control on long hills.
This breathing technique may feel awkward at first. But stick with it. Before long it’ll seem a lot more natural. Then when you start getting gassed on a hill, switch to it and feel your effort become smoother and easier.
Oro Valley Dragon Man says
I have been doing a partial version of this, for years, and can testify that is works. When I start getting out of power, I will forcefully exhale three or four times and take a moderate, but deep breath in in between, hold it for a brief time, then do the forceful exhale. I feel refreshed. According to Yoga and T’ai Chi techniques I’ve read about, I am depleting my body of low oxygenated air with the forced out breath, and forcing an infusion of high oxygenated blood with that short breath holding, thereby refreshing my energy, my Chi.
If you try this, or similar techniques, check yourself for lightheadedness, more than you would normally experience when climbing, and go back to normal breathing if you show any other ill effects. The last thing you want to do is actually pass out! Perhaps start practicing this, and any other breath modulation techniques, while not moving, just sitting quietly, and see how your body reacts.
Steve C says
Good comment Dragon Man, especially the warning on hyperventilation.
I’ve tried force exhaling. It works well but make it easier to purge too much CO2.
Neil Schmerling says
Thanks Coach Fred. I will need this and more advice as I am training for the PAC Tour Elite Ridge of the Rockies Ride. Maybe I will see you in Ouray or Montrose
Fred Matheny says
Neil—you’re a brave guy to sign up for the Elite Ridge! I’ve done the regular version—only 105 miles a day of great Rockies scenery—but the elite ride looks really tough. As you mentioned, the route goes through my hometown so I will try to check in with the group and maybe ride some of the route with everyone.
can you show this in video?