Do you ever think about or notice how you are breathing? Take a minute to stop, be quiet, and be aware of your breathing.  Notice what parts of your body move when you breath and how often you breath.  As well as taking notice right now also be aware of your breathing as you do different activities.  What changes?

Breathing in, occurs when your chest increases in size.   This increase in size occurs by your diaphragm, moving down and the muscles located between your ribs, the intercostals, lifting the ribs up and out.  As the chest expands it causes a pressure difference allowing air to flow into the lungs.  Then the chest reduces in size and you breathe out. See the diagram. Muscles of breathing diaphragm and intercostals

The primary purpose of breathing is to bring air (oxygen) into our body to combine with the food we eat to produce energy.  Breathing out removes the carbon dioxide that is left over from this process of energy production.

Breathing is automatic, it is involuntary, it just happens… phew. There are complex systems within our body that automatically determine and alter our breathing to meet the needs of the body. Those needs are dependent on and affected by multiple things, most commonly they are altered by your type and level of activity.

However, we do have some control over how we breathe. We can help our bodies to breathe in a relaxed and efficient way. Therefore we can help our bodies to breathe in a relaxed and efficient way when we ride.

Lets have a look at how you can influence your breathing when you go riding.

Chi Riding – a goRide SERIES to develop or enhance an understanding of your position and form on your bike.  Have you heard of Chi Running? It is a running technique that emanates from the principles of pilates, yoga, and tai chi. We are going to piggyback on that concept and introduce you to Chi Riding – a riding form that emanates from some of those same principles of being relaxed, having less tension and stress when you ride, efficiency, ease, engaging the senses and core control (control from your mid region). All things that will make time on your bike more enjoyable, easier, will give you less discomfort, it will also have positive effects and influences on other aspects of your life.

Chi Riding – forms the platform to allow you to improve your riding and challenge yourself whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider.

How do we achieve efficient breathing while on the bike? Breathing efficiently while on the bike comes back to understanding and being efficient at the tasks covered in the previous Chi Riding tips

A position with mid low back straight and moving slightly towards the opposite side of the "A"

A position with mid low back straight and moving slightly towards the opposite side of the “A”

1. Riding position:  The key element to efficient breathing is your riding position. You need to be in the”A” position. The A riding position allows your diaphragm and the rib muscles to work efficiently to increase the size of your chest allowing good airflow and thus oxygen into your lungs and body. Your body struggles to achieve this efficient movement if you are in the rounded back position. Let me prove my point with a little exercise for you to try.  Either sitting or standing;

A.  Chi Riding Breathing exercise slumped goRidePull your shoulders up towards your ears and slouch through your mid back (a humped shape), now try and take in a deep breath—hard nearly impossible? This is what you ask your body to do when you ride in a rounded back position.Chi Riding Breathing exercise sit tall goRide

B.  Relax your shoulders, sit tall, engage your core, now take a breath—so much easier and yes so much easier when on the bike in your correct “A” riding position.

2. Core Control:  You need to have good core control to be able to achieve and maintain the “A” riding position.  Remember good core control allows us to relax our arms and legs. To achieve efficient breathing you need to have good core control to relax your arms, to have soft elbows (they should not be locked) and empty those hands. You do not want to carry tension through your arms or hands. If there is tension in your hands and arms there is tension in your chest and your breathing pattern will be compromised.

Positin of arms when biking

Soft elbows with arms creating the “C” shape

Incorrect arm position when biking

Incorrect arm position when biking, locked elbows a “V” shaped rather than a “C” shape

Learning bike efficiency

Good core control means you can maintain your low back and mid back position without using your arms to prop you up

One of the key ways to determine if you are using your core well and whether you arms are loose is being aware of how heavily you lean on you arms on the handlebars. In your riding position you should be able to effectively remove your hands from the handlebars. Your arms should not be working to prop you up. If you are leaning heavily on your arms, or the palms of your hands get sore on your handlebar grips, it is a sure sign that your core muscles are not working efficiently.

  3. Engaging the senses:  Chi Riding is about being aware. Being aware of your riding position, being aware of any tension, enabling ease and efficiency.  If you are in a good riding position, are relaxed and carrying minimal tension then you establish the platform for good, efficient breathing. If your breathing is efficient you reduce the demands of the activity, your mind will be open and you will have the ability to focus.

Why is it important? The importance of breathing goes well beyond the bike. There are many benefits to efficient breathing.  Efficient breathing helps reduce the demands of an activity by maximising the intake of oxygen and the removal of carbon dioxide. Being aware of your breathing is often used in training mindfulness to help centre and focus us, help reduce anxiety and engage our senses. All things that will allow us to enjoy and grow as a rider as well as positively influence other aspects of our lives.

Note: You can do some training off the bike to help teach your body and brain about how to breathe efficiently.  There are many resources to help you achieve this.  A few suggestions include; videos and information online, Pilates, Tai chi, Yoga. Whatever method you choose, ask questions and make sure it includes your focus/goals before you commit. To help you in your search you may find that it is often called diaphragmatic breathing.

The goride way. Whether you are a beginner or experienced rider, commuting, road riding or mountain biking; improving your breathing on the bike has benefits for us all. Those benefits go well beyond the bike to our everyday activities. In riding, good breathing provides the platform for you to improve your riding and challenge yourself allowing you to goRide more places, more often.

Thanks for reading. Used together our stories and resources support you to achieve and develop as a rider.

goRide is a shared journey, so we would like you to assist in guiding it along the way.  Contact goRide.  Your thoughts, comments or feedback are welcome. Thank you for being a part of the goRide way.