How to Improve Your Breathing on the Bike

For cycling, Jackson recommended getting a rhythm established. For flat ground tempo training that might automatically include a three-out/two-in breath count with strong emphasis on the extension of the out-breath. In his CD called Zooming, Ian worked with a musical director to create an original score in which Jackson weaves his verbal suggestions as you turn the cranks. Using your best ear phones and riding a trainer in pitch darkness you may, as I did, swear that the one hour and ten minute CD could not have been more than a few minutes.

An important component of training and correct breathing is how our bodies are positioned and supported both on and off the bike. Posture affects breathing, and conversely, breathing affects posture. We start our cyclists in the correct posture on the bike with our signature PowerFiTTE? positioning which enhances the ability to draw breath in and out with less effort. Off the bike our cyclists practice breathing techniques that, when seated or standing, naturally brings them into an improved posture to accommodate the exercise.

Try this on your next trainer ride: Turn out the lights and settle into a cadence of 90-95 rpms in a moderate gear. Use instrumental music to maintain the beat if desired. Then:

More: The Science Behind Mixing Training Intensities

  • Breathe in for 3 downstrokes of your pedals, letting the air in without undue effort.
  • Breathe out for 6 downstrokes, forcing the air out with an audible "sss-sss." Press your belly muscles towards your spine on each out-breath.
  • Breathe in again for 3 downstrokes, let air come in naturally without force.
  • Breathe out for 6 downstrokes with the intentional and audible, "sss-sss."

Continue this pattern and let your concentration go to the rhythm of breathing. After a bit of practice, you will find that your intentional thinking turns to an automatic and almost hypnotic state, breathing and pedaling fall into sync with ease. See how you do in the first 30 minutes or so, and note how you feel.

Ian Jackson firmly believed that when these techniques finally get out they would turn the sports world upside down, which may explain the language in his Upside Down analogy. Sadly, he never saw this happen in his lifetime, and it is up to us to make sure his legacy as a top trainer remains intact.

More: 4 Ways to Bike Like Lance

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John Howard is one of the pioneers and true legends of American bike racing, with palmares including: 3-time Olympian, Ironman world champion, bicycle landspeed record, USA Cycling Hall of Fame, and elite and masters national champion. John is also an active cycling coach and the author of Mastering Cycling. Check out more information about John and his coaching at fittesystem.com and JohnHowardSports.com.

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