4 breathing exercises for cyclists

How to breathe yourself faster

Huff and puff your way to better performance

Nick Marshall, breathing analyst and coach at 2oxygen8.com, explains how exercises can help you ride faster.


1. Pedal stroke breath counting

Counting and controlling your breathing on difficult terrain is a great way to improve aerobic efficiency.

Count your right-side pedal strokes as you breathe. Inhale for two strokes then exhale for three on flat terrain to get a feel for your level.

Hills can be more challenging mentally so choose an easier gear. Maintain this count during harder efforts, increased speeds and steeper slopes.

2. The nose knows

Riding with a blocked nose will slow you down because of restricted oxygen intake. Try this 30-second nose-clearing exercise:

  1. Take a small inhale
  2. Exhale and hold your breath
  3. Close your nostrils with your fingers and nod your head up and down 10 times while holding your breath
  4. Repeat this three to five times until nose unblocks

3. Home altitude training

Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology by Dufor et al showed that altitude training can increase aerobic efficiency by 5-7 percent.

This breathing exercise simulates training at an altitude of 2,000m:

  1. Walk at a normal pace
  2. Exhale, hold the breath and walk 10 steps
  3. Breathe normally for 2-3 steps
  4. Exhale, hold the breath and walk 15 steps
  5. Repeat and increase the steps by five until you reach 50 then reduce down to 10

4. Make a speedy recovery

Improved sleep equals improved power. Here’s how to lower your heart rate and get to sleep:

  1. Slow your breathing down by 35 percent for three minutes
  2. Inhale for two seconds and exhale for five, 10 times
  3. Inhale for three seconds and exhale for seven, 10 times
  4. Inhale for three seconds and exhale for seven — at the end of each exhale hold the breath for three seconds, 10 times