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Old 06-17-12, 07:44 AM   #1
mgruce
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uphill breathing

I just started biking again after 33 yrs. I live in a hilly area. Going up the steep hills, I find I am almost hyperventilating, I am breathing so hard. My legs are tired, but I think I could go further or faster if I wasnt breathing as hard. I am out of shape and have made it up the hills the second or third time trying. Is there a proper way to breathe when going up hill? I tend to breathe through my mouth. I pushed yesterday going up a long hill that my chest actually hurts today. People go up these hills so effortlessly, I think I just need to work on the breathing
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Old 06-17-12, 08:21 AM   #2
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Ideally breathing should be primarily facilitated by the diaphragm, extend/relax the belly, and inhale through the nose filling the lungs completely, next contract the abdominal muscles expelling the lung's contents through the mouth. In reality focusing on this method can be tiring when starting out. Some of us can't inhale all the air we need through the nose fast enough either.

It's easy for me to tell you to relax the shoulders & chest and concentrate on a complete breath cycle using the mid-section, but I know when one needs air one wants air very badly and technique goes out the window. Keep riding and pulmonary capacity/efficiency will improve. There is a chance there could be a physical problem with your lungs, but don't be overly concerned with that grim possibility just yet.
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Old 06-17-12, 08:46 AM   #3
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How long is your warmup?
I find if I don't have a pretty long warmup my respirations increase faster with effort than they would after a good warmup. I find I climb better later in a ride, after I find my pace and relax into it, than I do earlier in the ride.
If you are climbing straight out of the box you will be sucking air.
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Old 06-17-12, 09:07 AM   #4
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Good for you for getting out there

If your chest hurt you probably need to back off. Consider a trip to your doctor. Chest pain should not be taken lightly

I think you need to work on fitness. It might be wise to build up to these hills.

maybe gear down and spin? Find a different route?

You are breathing hard because your body wants more oxygen to fuel your exercise. You are pushing to your limit. Your legs are tired because of the workload

As your fitness improves your breathing will become less desperate for the same workload the legs will be less tired

As you get in better shape if you push to your limit you will feel the same shortness of breath and tiredness in the legs. You will recover quicker however and be able to go farther and faster. Your chest should not hurt.

Good luck and keep at it
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Old 06-17-12, 10:03 AM   #5
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Werkin has it. Find a comfortable cadence for the pedal stroke and inhale in some rhythmic way coordinated with the pedaling. Not too fast and not too slow. On inhaling, think of filling a water bottle from the bottom up. Take air into the belly, (think fat buddha belly) with the chest filling last. As said, on exhale, push with the belly. It will get better and you may even reach a point of standing and dancing on the pedals. I'm asthmatic so I pay a lot of attention to breathing.
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Old 06-17-12, 10:59 AM   #6
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It's mostly a matter of conditioning. You are breathing hard because your legs aren't in condition enough to be efficient.

So, drop down into low gears, and pedal as fast as is comfortable. And some times I find that if I'm in low gear and struggling and I push just a little harder that I can get my feet to a speed that actually lets me go up the hill a little faster and easier. The most important thing being that finding that proper pedaling cadence or speed makes it easier.

As far as breathing, it should be done with the diaphram, so if when breathing hard you are trying to push up your chest, stop it. Pull it out the bottom with your diaphram. On hills you can also do what is called "Belly Breathing" and even use the muscles around your navel to help breath.

Last of all, if you need to, stop and take a rest or walk. There's no shame in either.

They say you'll get to the point where it's easy. And 99% of the time it's true. But there are a few hills so wicked that they may challege you even after you've been riding them a long time. I had one like that on my last commute. Parts were so steep that maintaining a straight line was a challenge, and during winter a stream that ran across it at the top became an ice slick. Riding down was scary too.

But in general, I've come to like hills. They mean that a good hard ride doesn't have to be as long.
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Old 06-17-12, 11:00 AM   #7
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The more you do it the easier it will get.

The more weight you lose the easier it will get.

Something I learned to do is anticipate the effort and begin hyperventilating deliberately before the real work begins.
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Old 06-17-12, 07:36 PM   #8
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One thing that I am surprised no one mentioned is water intake. If your not properly hydrated and you come to a hill like this you will be sucking air. If you are properly hydrated your body will need less actual air to perform. SO proper hydration is very important for someone who is out of shape; more so than for someone who isn't. As for the chest pain, is soreness? When I first started riding my bike again I found that after a hard ride where I was breathing extremely heavy I would get so sore that it would hurt the next few days because the muscles used to breath were being worked harder than I had been used to.

Keep at it and it will get better, good luck.
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Old 06-17-12, 11:57 PM   #9
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One more tip - if you feel you are not getting enough air, force yourself to breath deeper. What I do, for instance, after a strenuous hill when I am slowly losing breath, I will take 10 breaths as deep as I physically can, maxing out my lungs. I find it helps my oxygen needs and I can get back to normal breathing faster.
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Old 06-18-12, 03:46 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the tips. My warm up is about 10 mins. If riding around my neighborhood, it's hills either way. I have taken the bike elsewhere to get different roads less hilly. My chest is sore, its not pain. It feels all muscular. I am going to work on diaphragm breathing. I am working on the weight loss hoping that will help too. They say it gets easier, after 33 yrs of not bike riding I shouldnt expect it to be a piece of cake. Thanks
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Old 06-18-12, 08:36 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by mgruce View Post
...My legs are tired, but I think I could go further or faster if I wasnt breathing as hard....
Bicycle riding is essentially aerobic exercise. Aerobic, means it uses air. You need to intake oxygen to "burn" and expel the waste carbon dioxide produce by that "combustion". The harder you work the harder you must breath. Basically, breathing is enabling you to go up the hill, not preventing it or slowing you down.

By "getting into shape" you are conditioning your body mainly to be able to produce higher consistent power output, but also to be somewhat more efficient. But you will still need to exert yourself and breath heavily to get up hills or ride fast. As Greg LeMond purportedly said, "It doesn't get easier, you just get faster."
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