In this podcast I cover Performance Breathing for MTB and how you can use specific breathing methods and workouts to improve your endurance and ability to focus in high stress situations. You can stream or download it from the link below or you can find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.

Click Here to Download the MP3 File

Here are the notes from the podcast:

In a previous podcast I covered the basics of Better Breathing for MTB and why you need to focus more on this important part of health and fitness.

The 3 Keys to Better Breathing are:

  • Nasal Breathing
  • Breathing with the diaphragm
  • Matching your breathing to your effort level

In this podcast I want to focus more on High Performance Breathing and how you can improve your endurance and ability to focus in high stress situations.

To do this there are 4 methods you can use:

Breathing Gears

  • If you look at your breathing patterns as “gears” then you can see how to use them more effectively.
  • You have 3 basic breathing patterns:
    • Easy: Nose-Nose with a 3-4 inhale and 3-4 second exhale
    • Moderate: Nose-Mouth with a 2-3 second inhale and 1-2 second exhale
    • Hard: Mouth-Mouth with a 1-2 second inhale and 1-2 second exhale
  • You can train this through Superman Breathing during your warm up and using them during your workouts.
  • Breathing Gears Intervals and Ramping Isometrics are two methods that train this skill directly.

CO2 Tolerance Workouts (a.k.a. Breath Hold Training)

  • Breath holds have a long list of benefits for us as endurance athletes (even DH Racing is a Strength/Power Endurance Event)
    • Improved CO2 Tolerance (changing your relationship with CO2), increased EPO (which signals maturation of red blood cells) and improved strength of the breathing muscles through isometric contractions are some of the top benefits.
    • By creating a Low Oxygen (hypoxia) and High CO2 (hypercapnic) environment you create the metabolic environment needed to signal these changes.
    • This is accomplished easiest by holding on the exhale and then moving.
    • You can do things like:
      • Walking
      • Running
      • Riding
      • Bodyweight Exercises like Squats and Push Ups
    • By using a pulse-oximeter you can see how low you are getting your blood oxygen saturation and make sure you are getting it to at least 85% (equal to being at 14,000 feet) to get the most benefit.
    • You are looking for 5 strong breath holds to trigger the metabolic changes you are looking for.
    • It may take a few times doing it to be able to push yourself that low – especially if you have a low BOLT Score – but you are still gaining benefit through the exposure to higher levels of CO2 so don’t give up just because the numbers aren’t going down that low.

Proactive Breathing

  • Tied to the Breathing Gears Method, this method has you shift gears before you need to when you know a hard effort like a climb or hard sprint is coming.
  • Doing this keeps you ahead of the fatigue curve by blowing off CO2 and getting more oxygen to the muscles in anticipation of the hard work to come.
  • Overbreathing on purpose like this has a place in your toolbox but you still want to avoid overbreathing on a regular basis both on and off the bike.

Breathing Workouts (Tempo Breathing and Fire Breath a.k.a Wim Hof Method style)

  • Taking time to do breathing specific “workouts” is also a great way to improve your High Performance Breathing.
  • Tempo Breathing like Triangle Breathing and Box Breathing are good ways to improve CO2 Tolerance and reduce Overbreathing.
  • Fire Breathing like you see in the Wim Hof Method has been shown to decrease markers of inflammation along with having a positive effect on the immune system.
  • I personally do 3 rounds of Fire Breathing and then 10-15 minutes of Breath Light to improve my breathing and mindset.

Your breath is the foundation of your performance and should be a focus of your cardio training efforts. Without doing that, over the long run you are usually doing more to reinforce crappy breathing habits than you are to improve your performance.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

“Flexibility is a very important attitude. Things will not always go your way regardless of your practice and your attempts to define your own existence.” Miyamoto Musashi

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