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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Seems like a simple concept. Inhale, exhale then wash rinse and repeat all day 365 days a year. You've been doing it since you were introduced to your parents in the delivery room, and yet most people are doing it incorrectly. Given that it has been approximated we breath 20,000 times a day, it would behoove you to listen to this reporter and make sure you get it right.

Want to know if you're breathing correctly, try the following:
In a standing tall position, take a deep breath. What did your abdomen do? If it inflated and you could hear your breath in the back of your throat, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

If your chest tightened up and your shoulders elevated, kick yourself in the butt because you are breathing incorrectly. While you are in the morale majority here, it isn't a group of people you want to play with. The biggest reason is because this breathing pattern leads to increased anxiety, stress and tension. We know this is a direct link to increased frequency of getting sick and injured.


Breath correctly, and your potential as an athlete/active human being is limitless. Breath incorrectly, and you'll never get out of your own way. Ever seen Tour de France coverage when the riders have their jerseys unzipped looking like they are in the third trimester? This is a perfect example of correct breathing.

In 2006, a photographer captured yours truly breathing correctly at the Tamarancho Fat Tire Festival MTB Race. 100 degrees outside, zipper all the way down, belly puffed out like Jabba the Hut. When I saw it, it looked like my kit should've been made by the EasyUp tent people and not Voler. Not until my wife Jill (opera singer) pointed out that I was finally breathing correctly did I stop freaking out about looking less than svelt. It was probably no coincidence that I inhaled and exhaled my way to the top step of the podium for the first time in that race.

"While improper breathing patterns can create a variety of physiological problems (reduced availability to oxygen, respiratory alkalosis, 'anxiety breathing', headaches, and general fatigue, etc.), these poor patterns can also have biomechanical implications as well," says Mike Robertson ("The Deep Front Line," Robertson Training Systems).

Some of these implications include tightened chest muscles, forward rounded shoulders, tightened hip flexors, low back pain, knee pain (yes, from poor breathing), locking up of the thoracic spine region and potential for reduced glute function. all because you are breathing incorrectly.

"Limiting your breath to the chest not only reduces the potential intake of oxygen to the body but also the diaphragm remains tense leading to tightness around the aorta, the main blood vessel in the body. It can also lead to restricted movement around the large bowel, making both high blood pressure and constipation possible (Chiropractic Treatment and Breathing)."

Poor breathing technique is almost always detrimental to good posture, and how could it not be? Especially since we know it causes stiffness, shoulder tension, improper spinal column position, rigid pelvis and on and on. Want to throw your body out of alignment and perform poorly? If you do, breath incorrectly. Want to release tension, perform your best and be able to relax instantly? Then read on.

"Poor thoracic spine movement, increased forward head posture as accessory breathing muscles (SCM, scalanes, Upper traps) take over, altered shoulder function and scapular position/mechanics, increased tone of the erector spinae muscles and decreased pelvic floor strength leading to potential instability at the lumbar spine," says Robertson.

As far as the geography of breathing, the muscles that allow us to inhale and exhale include the diaphragm (where you want to breath, daily), transverse abdominus (deep abdominal wall) and internal obliques. These muscles are covered in fascia (the connective tissue surrounding your muscles), and it connects to other parts of your body such as the spine, hip flexors, muscles of the hips, upper legs, superficial abs and your shoulders.

On top of helping you breath, these muscles are also meant to provide a foundation of support to help you move correctly. One of their most important functions is working with your lungs to help the respiratory function. Strengthen these muscles and you will improve the way you breath. Improve the way you breath, and it would be very difficult to not see a performance improvement as well.


Ok smart guy, so you've told me my breathing sucks, and that I'm a flawed human being if I breath in my chest. That's all well and good, but how do I fix this?

I'm glad you asked, here's one of the best ways courtesy of Mike Robertson ("7 Keys of Balloon Core Theory"):

"Imagine a fully inflated balloon. What is the pressure like in this balloon? It’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Now imagine compressing the top and bottom of this balloon as we’ve been talking about. What happens to this pressure? It goes up even more, right?

Now what happens if you didn’t tie off the top of the balloon and just let go of the balloon. Not letting go so the balloon will fly off around the room but just about.

What happens to the pressure and the air in the balloon in this case? It leaks out rapidly; the pressure drops quickly and makes a funny farting sound.

Compare this to keeping a tight seal on the top of the balloon and only letting out the smallest amount of air. In this case the air comes out in small bursts and the pressure stays high.

Remember this when breathing during the most challenging point in your lift (or exertions) and purse the lips to only allow a small amount of air to escape and thus maintain as much IAP as possible."

Some of the better ways to learn how to breath correctly include hiring a voice coach (this is probably the best way, yet not very practical), meditating and learning how to play a wind instrument. Alright, you've got your assignment: place your hand on your belly and breath into it until you can do it automatically. I dare you to not feel better once you master this!
 

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Two skinny J's
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Yup, lots of good stuff to be learned for sure!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Awesome! Glad you guys like the prose. Please don't hesitate to send over any topics you'd like to know more about, and I will be more than happy to write about it!
 

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Yesterday tired old man, Today retired old man
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Thanks, I have bin trying to think about my breathing as I ride, I might not have it right yet, but I seam to get a better ride and the legs feel better, and I feel like I can go longer.I think there is something to this breathing thing. By the way I use a Cpap machine at night.
 

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I was just thinking about breathing on my ride yesterday. Glad I found this.
 

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this one very helpful. I've always had a hard time sticking to "proper" breathing when running and riding
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
If you know anyone who plays a wind instrument or sings, ask them to teach you to breath! If you can breath correctly, you can crush PR's!!
 

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Yesterday tired old man, Today retired old man
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At 67-1/2and 230#, the only thing I might crush is a saltine
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Funny story, apparently you can't eat 10 saltines in a minute. Well, a 10-year-old friend of ours was hell been on proving me wrong. The only thing he proved is that you can get your jaw muscles as sore as any other in the body!!!
 

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Deranged Touring Cyclist
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Great post! I tried this on my ride yesterday and was surprised and pleased, even though I kept forgetting and going back to chest-breathing. A habit I'm definitely looking to change! I also found that your technique makes it much easier for me to breathe through my nose - something that's usually a problem for me. I look forward to applying this technique more fully in the future. Great, immediately beneficial information! Thank you! :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
newleaf150 said:
Great post! I tried this on my ride yesterday and was surprised and pleased, even though I kept forgetting and going back to chest-breathing. A habit I'm definitely looking to change! I also found that your technique makes it much easier for me to breathe through my nose - something that's usually a problem for me. I look forward to applying this technique more fully in the future. Great, immediately beneficial information! Thank you! :thumbsup:
Howd it go on the rides with the breathing this weekend?
 

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I noticed a difference. When I forgot to focus on belly breathing I noticed my body feeling spastic or chaotic. I could not keep my cadence up as long until I resumed breathing right. It will take more practice and focus but I did feel the difference.
 

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INTEGRATE said:
Howd it go on the rides with the breathing this weekend?
It goes very well! I'm on vacation in the mts with my bike, and proper breathing really helps to offset the increased altitude. I'm really trying to build the proper breathing habit, both in and out of the saddle. Thank you for a post that continues to really benefit me!
 

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Years ago, 25 to be exact, I was very heavy into martial arts. Our instructor went beyond the normal training that most places give you and did a lot of meditation and yoga mixed into the training. One of the most important things he taught us was the art of breathing properly, especially when fighting. I don't do martial arts anymore, but many of the lessons I learned have carried over to the things I do today, especially in cycling. Proper breathing leads to a faster recovery and more endurance.
 

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Found a synergy between my pedal rhythem and my breathing. Takes focus but when it is on you.can tell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
omnivox42 said:
Found a synergy between my pedal rhythem and my breathing. Takes focus but when it is on you.can tell.
Definitely good stuff once you get it down!
 

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Thanks for this topic.

Very important topic. If you practice yoga, this is one of the first things to learn and you always start a session with this kind of controlled breathing, including keeping your lips pursed. I never really understood that part of it so the ballon analogy was really helpful. A trick I learned a long time ago, is when on long climbs, is to exhale on the down stroke on one leg for three times and then switch to the other leg for three strokes. This combined with proper breathing seems to really help get over the big hills.
 
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