How to Breathe When Cycling


Cyclists tend to focus more on their heart rate rather than on the breathing process, because heart rates are easier to measure. There are many theories and breathing techniques, although they all aim to maximize the volume of oxygen intake. It is important to know how to breathe when cycling so you can use the lungs to the maximum potential and increase performance. In the beginning you will have to concentrate on the breathing, but soon it will become a habit.

Deep breathing
Breathing deeper rather than taking many shallow breathes can increase the lung capacity and the oxygen uptake. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and pulls the lungs upwards. The rib muscles expand the chest also, dropping the air pressure and drawing air in. On exhalation the diaphragm and rib muscles relax and the lungs return to the initial position. When you cycle harder the abdominal muscles also help expel the air.

Breathing from the tummy allows us to use the diaphragm at its full potential. To learn this technique, place your hand on your stomach and exhale completely for three seconds. Inhale slowly for two seconds allowing the air to fill the lower part of the lungs. The diaphragm will go down and your stomach out if you are breathing correctly. Use this technique while biking and try to focus on keeping the breath steady.

Synchronizing the breathing with the actions of the body is another useful technique. It is important to know how to breathe when cycling and be aware of the way you are pushing the pedals. Identify the rhythm and pace your breathing with the spinning. The inhalation and exhalation will become steady and calm.

Measure the cadence
Keeping the cadence at about twice the respiration rate will discourage shallow and rapid breathing that reduces the volume of oxygen intake. Use this technique especially when going uphill (when the cadence drops) and breathe normally downhill. You can also exhale on each pedal stroke.

Sharp exhales
Most people that don’t know how to breathe when cycling use sharp exhales. Deep breathing with rounded breaths allows you to get more oxygen. It is easier to let out a fast sharp exhale when you are going uphill but too many of them can lead to hyperventilation. The last thing you want is to be light headed on a climb. Sharp breathes release more carbon dioxide from the lungs than deep breaths. Break the climb into four parts and in the middle of the ride use 3-4 sharp exhales.