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How To 

How To Breathe Properly When Cycling Uphill

Cycling uphill can discourage even the most experienced riders. It can lead to sharp breaths, heavy legs and defeating thoughts of cycling doom. The ability to breathe properly (and think positively) is the key to harnessing your full potential and leaving even the most intimidating hills in your dust.

1. Focus Your Breathing
Breathing is natural; you literally do it in your sleep. But conquering a steep climb is no cat nap. With the rest of your body focused on getting you over the hill by sheer will power and strength, your breathing likely suffers - and so do your results. So first things first: become aware of your breathing on a daily basis, both on and off the bike.


2. Practice Off The Bike
Learning to breathe deeply with your belly is half the battle. Short, shallow chest breathing has been the ruin of many riders. With one hand on the top of your abdomen, feel your body push out and draw in air slowly. Three seconds of deep inhale, followed by three seconds of deep exhale is standard. Doing this 2 minutes a day is a good place to start and you can do it anywhere - at your desk, on the train, or on your couch watching the Tour de France.


3. Practice On Flat Terrain
Once you've mastered deep breathing off the bike, it's time to get back in the saddle. Flat ground is the perfect terrain to begin implementing your new techniques. As you ride, inhale on three consecutive down-strokes, then exhale over six consecutive down-strokes. Keep your posture upright and feel your belly expand and push out air. Adjust your breathing pattern as you see fit, depending on your lung capacity.

4. Mental Toughness
Many riders equate mental toughness with a high pain threshold. While there is some truth in that, it's far more important to work on eradicating negative thoughts from your mind. Self-defeating thoughts are the enemy. When you see a hill and think "this is going to be terrible", your brain immediately sends a signal to your body that you are panicking. This leads to shorter breaths and a tense body. You'll end up gripping the handle bars too hard, exerting wasted energy. Instead, remain calm and tell yourself "this will make me stronger". Again, keep an upright posture, to allow an easy passageway for your deep, steady breathing.

5. Bring It To The Hill And Don't Get Discouraged
You're ready to implement everything you've practiced. Remember: climbs will always be tough and that's okay. Be sure to push down with your entire foot and to drop your heel at the bottom of your stroke. Keep your posture, focus on breathing, think positively, avoid gasping - and take it one hill at a time. Every climb is an opportunity to make the next climb easier.


Practice these five simple steps and soon enough you'll be crushing even the toughest climbs.