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sucking air

Old 10-15-13, 07:49 PM
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sucking air

I've been riding consistently for about a month now. I'm still embarrassingly out of shape, but I've gained a lot of flexibility, leg strength, and endurance in the last month. But when I get going, I just can't get enough air. This is most noticeable when I'm trying to get up a hill...and I just have to keep downshifting. My legs want to go, but I can't get enough air to go faster.

I typically push myself pretty hard. Usually I'll have a big hill around the 5-7 mile mark, and I have to stop at the top to catch my breath. I'm usually about to lose consciousness at that point. What can I do (how should I train) to help build up the ability to "get enough air"?
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Old 10-15-13, 08:05 PM
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to beat the hills you must ride the hills MORE. It will get easier, you will find a breathing and leg rhythm up them. The more you can relax on the climb, the easier it is to breathe. Don't tense up your grip or shoulders either.
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Old 10-15-13, 08:15 PM
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Try downshifting earlier and SPIN.
I don't do hills, but with my emphysema, I can get from point A to point B much faster if I SPIN a lower gear. If I try to push hard, I "gas out" in moments.
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Old 10-15-13, 08:21 PM
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If I want to ride anywhere around here, I'll have hills.
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Old 10-15-13, 08:50 PM
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There's always a balance of what your cardio system can do and what your legs can do. It sounds like, with your current level of fitness, you're hitting the cardio limit well before leg strength.

So what do you do?

Back off the effort a notch, ride further. Eventually your legs will tire, and eventually your cardiovascular system will improve. Above all else, keep riding.

Of course I'm not a doctor, or anything else that gives me any authority to answer your question, other than being another human who rides a bike.
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Old 10-15-13, 10:57 PM
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Be the hills, Jason.

Be the hills.

Other than that, what jsigone said.
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Old 10-16-13, 04:12 AM
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SLOW DOWN!

Unless it's a race you should be in no hurry. Yea the legs are willing, but the lungs/heart will limit you.

Where in Texas is the a hill?
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Old 10-16-13, 05:26 AM
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Have you had this problem with other forms of exercise in the past? The reason I'm asking is, I have exercise induced asthma that was related to seasonal allergies. Or at least I had it where I used to live, for some reason it doesn't bother me in the province I'm now living in. I'd be going along great all summer, then autumn would hit and I would feel as though I just couldn't get enough air while doing things that were previously no big deal.
So, if slowing down and gearing down doesn't help, consider asking for a lung function test when you go to your next annual physical.
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Old 10-16-13, 05:30 AM
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downshift early.
pick up speed.
spin fast.


I ride fixed and I'm usually dying if I try to mash on the pedals to get up a hill. Get in the proper gear and get to a good speed before heading up the incline.
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Old 10-16-13, 05:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Ali_Pine View Post
SLOW DOWN!

Unless it's a race you should be in no hurry. Yea the legs are willing, but the lungs/heart will limit you.

Where in Texas is the a hill?
1. Stop yelling.

2. A person can be in a hurry if he/she so desires, race or no race.

3. Look up "Texas Hill Country," for one thing. Beautiful area to ride.

OP: One month is not a long time, especially if you are coming off a long period of inactivity. Give it more time.
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Old 10-16-13, 06:07 AM
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Give it time. Almost certainly your cardiovascular system will improve including breathing.

You may want to look into 'belly breathing'. In a nutshell, you use your belly muscles to help breathe. But give regular old huffing and puffing a chance first.
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Old 10-16-13, 07:37 AM
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As others mentioned, a month is not a long time but you are already seeing results. Keep some kind of training log and mark a few uphill segments to gauge your improvements. Do hill repeats (up and down one hill multiple times or a series of hills) about once a week. Don't focus on speed but work on technique such as when to stand, when to shift, weight distribution on the bike, etc. When I started I was sitting too far back, standing too soon and downshifting too late. Climbing hills is one area where weight is a major factor and there is no way around it.
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Old 10-16-13, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Ali_Pine View Post
SLOW DOWN!

I see this advice has been dismissed by others, but I tend to agree with it. One mistake I see many beginners make is to try to sprint to the top of a hill at the same pace they use when riding on flat terrain. In my experience, this rarely works! All of the decent hills in my area are relatively steep. If I charge up them at my flat land pace and put my heart rate into the "red zone" it's almost impossible to recover without having to stop and rest. A pace that feels relatively lethargic at the bottom of the climb, doesn't seem quite so easy after you've gone a couple of miles up a 7-8% grade!

The other thing to keep in mind is that when people suggest you "SPIN" up the hill they're not, I hope, suggesting that you're churning your legs at a blinding 150rpm cadence. Spinning the pedals too quickly is a great way to burn through your cardiovascular endurance. Likewise, mashing a big gear too slowly is a great way to burn through your muscular endurance. Ideally, you want to turn the pedals at a speed that balances cardiovascular output and muscular output. The appropriate ratio and required cadence will vary from rider to rider. During the season, I'm a pretty strong rider who does a fair amount of climbing. On flat terrain, I'll spin the pedals at 100-110rpm. When climbing, that cadence falls to 60-70rpm. On steep sections of a climb, my cadence may be even lower.
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Old 10-16-13, 10:29 AM
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The quickest way to better fitness is interval workouts. Such as hill repeats. Start with one short hill that takes you about 1-2 minutes to climb, ride it then go back to the bottom and rest a couple minutes, repeat. So your workout will be hill, 3 minute rest, hill, three minutes rest, hill, times a total of 6-8 depending on fitness. Preceded and followed by easy 5-10 minutes of warm up and down. Do this several times a week. With each week make the rest period shorter. On days you a re not doing the repeats go for base building distance. All of this runs counter to the school of thought folks that think you should build a base first. If the structured goal oriented training is not your thing you could also just keep riding and over time you will get stronger but it will take time.

When I started hills were hard. Hills that now barely slow me down required the lowest gear I had and it was mentally hard when a woman jogger passed me on one. On a steep hill I tried to go farther up each time before I got off the bike and cross trained the rest of the way up. Over time I gained enough strength to not just ride to the top of the steep hill but to also be able to keep going once I reached the top.
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Old 10-16-13, 11:10 AM
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In addition to all of the technique advice given above, I want to reiterate that you just need to keep pedaling. Keep breathing, better to be sucking air than on your feet pushing your bike.

When my wife and I first got bikes last year, we immediately went up this hill next to our apartment. We didn't know much about shifting gears, and we were mashing and going nowhere. It was really discouraging. However, I kept riding, learned about downshifting , and eventually it just gets easier and easier. When I ride now, there are hills that I barely notice are there that would have almost stopped me earlier in the year.

I've only been at it a year but I can feel so much improvement! You'll get there if you just keep at it!
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Old 10-16-13, 01:48 PM
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Physics kills us larger folks. Gravity just plain flat sucks and mass don't get to moving very good.

Start at Austin Memorial Park where there's lots of dead folks, see them every where
Go Hancock Dr to 2222
Cedo trail
Far W blvd
Balcones Dr back to 2222

That gets you one lap of 8.5 miles and 820' gain or ~96'/mi. Do 1 lap on each <pick a day like Sunday> for a month. Increase the laps as time goes by.

OR what JSIGONE and TH said. Be the hills... find some and go repeat on them

Used to be for me that 100'/mile was an unheard of ride. Nobody in their right mind would even think about that. Now I go do laps around the neighborhood, which is 5 miles with 750' gain or 150'/mi, for 'fun'.

<yes, I bumped my head hard TJ>
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Old 10-16-13, 02:16 PM
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hills ... lowest gear and bike moves incredibly slow - like about 4mph. plan for the hills, try to rest while riding as you approach the hills, then slowly downshift and slow the bike to a crawl, you'll discover a new way to attack each hill. I used to have a couple killer hills and it took a long time to conquer/master them. and each time I changed bikes/gearing I would have to re-plan the attacks. enjoy this period in your cycling - it is a rich experience
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Old 10-16-13, 05:15 PM
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Just for fun, I have been doing some single track, where there are rocks and ruts that you have to pick your way through while climbing a hill, netting 2-4 mph of progress. This is in one of my lower gears on my mtn bike. This means I am spinning fast - which helps with the breathing thing for this 73yo. So, visualize yourself not going up a hill, but slowly making your way through obstacles as you progress up a hill. (I don't know if this advice holds water for others, but it sure is fun and good for developing cardio!!)

Much of this 6 minute video is flat, but a part of it shows me doing some of that picking between rocks and ruts while climbing a couple of pretty steep hills.

.be

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Old 10-16-13, 05:17 PM
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Focus on a full but relaxed exhale when breathing. The inhale will take care of itself. Establish a rhythm.
One breath lasts me 3 pedal revolutions if I'm going easy, 2 at a brisk pace, 1 pedal revolution if I'm redlining it. With my slow cadence that works out to 20, 30, or 60 breaths/minute.
Shallow panting works your breathing muscles too hard with not enough air left for your cycling muscles.
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Old 10-16-13, 05:22 PM
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Wow. Thanks for all the advice. I think I'll go for a ride right now!
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Old 10-16-13, 08:19 PM
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FWIW, when the snow melts and the season starts in the spring, I generally feel like i'm suffering for about 6 weeks until I get enough miles in where I feel like I have my capacity back and my legs back. So I'd say that 4 weeks is good, but I'd bet you're going to feel a whole lot better in a few more and you'll notice an improvement.

Also, make sure you don't have a medical issue. It's a good thing to go and have a medical checkup before you make a big lifestyle and exercise regime change. There could be serious reasons why are are having breathing problems too - not the most likely thing but if you are, the consequences can be serious.

J.
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Old 10-16-13, 08:32 PM
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As others have said, down shift early. I have found on my 14 mile loop (there are 4 inclines) that if I down shift to first gear I can pedal up them without stopping. I could not do this a week ago but did figure it out. I also don't look at the top of the incline but pick a point part way up and tell myself I can take a break when I get then. Once I am there (usually an intersection) I ride to the right (the flat of the intersection) then keep going. I have been riding about 2 months now and it does get easier.
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Old 10-16-13, 09:29 PM
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I found two tools that really helped me where a HRM and cadence sensor... this was back a few years ago when I was into MTBing... when I'd get to the "uphill" section (honestly a very mild climb... skinny guys didn't even slow down for the "climb") I found that my cadence would frequently drop and my HRM would skyrocket... often I'd just make it up the hill and then about fall over at the top gasping for air and need to stop and rest before I could go on... I found a relatively consistent point on my HRM where if I went over it I was going to blow myself out very quickly... I set my HRM to beep if I went over a certain point to remind me to slow down... stop pushing so hard... is what that usually meant was for me to grab a lower gear and spin a little faster (I always refer to it as me keeping "on top of the gear")

in short going slow is still faster then siting on the side of the road panting and then booking it for another little bit then on the side of the road again...
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Old 10-16-13, 09:46 PM
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Tonight, I used some of these tips to help manage the hills better, and they worked. Interestingly, my average speed was about the same, but I didn't kill myself getting it done. Thanks again!
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Old 10-16-13, 10:22 PM
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As has been said, what you need to do is ride. Your story is an old one. Some fat person decides to become an athlete. Hah! My first ride was about 15min and I got a mile down the road, if that. My butt hurt so much I never even got far enough to get out of breath. I couldn't get up the first little hill I tried. Had to turn around half way up and it was only 300 feet or so. Now I do 8 mile hills with 10% grades. Your best bet is to simply ride for as long and hard as you can and combine that with decent food in reasonable quantities. This forum is filled with success stories that started just like you. Welcome aboard and keep it up.
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