Our club legend Jack Yuen has agreed to start writing a series of blogs for our web site to keep you entertained and informed while you’re in lock down. So here’s Season 1, episode 1.
Correct your breathing on the bike.
I started racing in my early 20s
I am 63 this year and I still find myself a novice racer in many aspects. But I am thankful that I am wise enough to acknowledge that my lack of knowledge vastly exceeds my decades of experience.
I am adamant that this old bloke still has plenty to learn.
I remember vividly about a year ago when Peter Milostic rode up next to me and said “…I noticed that you left foot goes all wobbly when the pace picks up. You are losing a lot of power and you should seriously look at correcting the problem…”
It was only a week before that when Kevin Berkeley pulled me aside after a race and said “.. I think your saddle is too high. Are you getting any knee pains?”. My knees were fine.
But my allen key came out and my saddle went down 15mm. That is a lot of a change for a rider who always thought that the saddle was at the right height.
But I got much better control of my wayward left foot. I also feel a better power output.
I wish more of my fellow racers would have had the courage to offer their insights into what they thought I needed improvement on.
No one has told me in a race to “shut my mouth up” yet.
But I wish someone had.
My breathing problem
I had an annual breathing problem.
I usually race the Saturday criterium in Bathurst before the Sunday B2B.
Every year, I get dropped early in the race. This happens like clockwork as soon as the pace picks up and I start sucking the air through my mouth. Mt chest tightens up and I start coughing.
After I withdraw from the race, I then spend the rest of the afternoon coughing and wheezing. Somehow, racing in the dry afternoon conditions in the country air pushed my breathing into asthmatic territory. Strangely, this problem is not apparent when I am racing in Sydney.
Heading into the B2B weekend this year, my son asked me what my strategy in the criterium was going to be. He was sick of my excuses for consistent bad results on the Saturday afternoon.
“Nose breathing” I said to him.
(Unfortunately, the Saturday afternoon criterium was called off due to the rain. So, the jury is still out).
I did stick to ‘nose breathing’ on Sunday and got a top 10 result.
The mouth is built for eating and the nose for breathing
Google “nose breathing during cycling” and the first result says “Breathe in through the mouth, out through the nose”
When the pressure is on, we think (and feel) that we need more oxygen and take in big breaths. And the mouth has a bigger opening which makes for faster air intake. Therefore, we all ‘suck it in’ through the mouth.
But what if this was exactly what caused the dryness and coughing when I raced in Bathurst?
I heard someone on a podcast about 6 months ago mention the benefits of nose breathing over sucking air through the mouth… and for no apparent reason, I decided to give it a try.
When I take U turns in my life, It is usually two steps backward before the first step registers any advantage. Nose breathing was the same. It does take a bit of getting used to. But I can now say that I am comfortable in keeping my mouth completely shut during a race.
But I don’t keep my mouth shut all the time and I happened to tell someone about my nose breathing experiment a short while back.
“There is a science behind nose breathing” he said. “Get the book”
The Oxygen Advantage
Amazon delivered the book a couple of weeks ago and I am slowing making my way through the ‘science’ behind breathing.
It appears that the nose ‘processes’ the air before it goes into the lungs and then other things happen to ‘supercharge’ the breathing effect.
It is also a much better filter that the mouth. (And with this virus going around, I can’t help but think: “what if this nose breathing thing is actually better than mouth breathing through a mask?”)
How well does this nose breathing work
It is like dropping my saddle 15mm.
The difference was immediately felt.
Then mind and body settles into the new regime. There is work involved. Then the realisation that it does actually feel better slowly sinks in…
You can ride for endless hours and watch all the tours and classics. But until you pin a race number on and get humiliated in a proper race…you don’t really understand bike racing.
I am still deep into this ‘nose breathing’ experiment. This is the only way I can figure out if it will turn out well for me.
Most of you out there now have many hours of home trainer time. It can get boring.
Kill the boredom by trying something new on the bike. It is the only way to find out if it will work well for you.
Video for visual folks: https://youtu.be/Dqd-2YanMxg