Nose Breathing for Cyclists: A Beginner’s Guide
Being a keen cyclist for many years (around 50 years so far) I am now interested in learning how to breath to my advantage more through my nose. Cycling is one of my main sports and breathing through the nose apparently has many advantages.
Having now tried it a few times I am still in the early stages of whether it actually does help or hinder. For those younger than me, from a science point of view it does seem to be extremely beneficial.
Nose breathing while cycling has become an increasingly popular technique among some riders and coaches. The basic idea is to breathe only through your nose, not your mouth, when riding a bike. But does nose breathing really offer measurable benefits for cyclists? Let’s take a closer look at what the science says, as well as tips for giving it a try as a cycling beginner.
What is Nose Breathing?
Nose breathing simply means inhaling and exhaling only through your nose while cycling. This is opposed to normal mouth breathing, which involves inhaling and exhaling through both your nose and mouth.
Some coaches and cyclists believe breathing in this way increases lung capacity and oxygen intake compared to mouth breathing.
The claimed benefits of nose breathing include:
- Improved breathing efficiency and oxygen absorption
- Ability to maintain higher intensity cycling efforts for longer
- Better rhythm and cadence on the bike
- Increased lung capacity over time
However, it’s important to note that many exercise scientists argue there is limited solid scientific evidence that nose breathing provides significant concrete performance advantages over mouth breathing for cyclists. Much of the data on benefits is anecdotal so far.
Here is a short video that provides a quick intro to nose breathing for cyclists:
Nose Breathing – Easier Said Than Done?
For many cyclists, the concept of breathing solely through the nose while cycling is easier said than done. Attempting to breathe through only the nose at high exertion levels can be very difficult or impossible.
Nose breathing requires training your body over time to become accustomed to taking in enough oxygen while exercising solely through your nose. It is not something most cyclists can suddenly do for prolonged periods.
This is why some coaches recommend nose breathing during easier cycling intensities, then switching to mouth breathing when reaching higher levels of exertion when more air is required. Essentially, use both nose and mouth breathing as needed.
Tips for Beginners Wanting to Try Nose Breathing
If you’re a cycling beginner interested in giving nose breathing a try, keep these tips in mind:
Start slow – Don’t suddenly attempt to nose breathe your entire ride from the get-go. Introduce short nose breathing intervals occasionally at first, and build up duration slowly over time.
Lower intensity efforts – Stick to easier cycling intensity levels when first practicing nose breathing intervals. Don’t attempt prolonged nose breathing during hard efforts.
Listen to your body – Pay close attention to your breathing and don’t push too hard. Switch to mouth breathing if you feel oxygen deprived.
Try a reminder – Put a piece of tape on your top tube as a visual reminder to nose breathe during training rides.
Consider climate – Breathing through the nose is more difficult in hot, humid weather. Factor this in.
Stay safe – As with any new cycling technique, keep safety first. Be aware of road hazards, traffic, and surroundings at all times.
Work with a coach – Consider consulting an experienced cycling coach if you want to seriously adopt nose breathing during rides. Don’t overdo it.
Developing Effective Nose Breathing Technique
Here are some tips on developing an effective nose breathing technique:
- Inhale deeply and slowly through the nose, allowing your abdomen to expand as you breathe in.
- Exhale fully through the nose, pulling your navel in towards your spine as you breathe out.
- Keep a tall posture while nose breathing. Slouching can restrict your diaphragm.
- Try rhythmic breathing patterns to find what works best, like 2 cycles in, 3 cycles out.
- Initially practice nose breathing in short 5-10 minute intervals during rides.
- To build lung capacity, gradually increase nose breathing duration as you adapt over time.
Remember, you should never feel oxygen deprived. Stop and take some mouth breaths if you do. Nose breathing takes time and practice to master. Be patient with yourself as you experiment to find the right approach.
The Nose Breathing Debate – Benefits vs Claims
While some cyclists and coaches swear by the power of nose breathing, concrete scientific data on performance benefits is still limited. Here’s a quick look at some of the debated pros and cons:
- Increased oxygen absorption and lung capacity
- Improved breathing efficiency
- Ability to maintain higher cycling intensity
- Greater rhythm and cadence
Claims Lacking Evidence
- Significantly boosts oxygen intake and performance
- Dramatically increases lung capacity long term
- Allows maintaining max intensity exercise for longer
The reality is that more scientific research is still needed on potential nose breathing benefits for cyclists. Much of the current data is anecdotal. It remains an open scientific debate.
Talk to your doctor before attempting prolonged nose breathing during exercise. As with any new technique, adopt it gradually and listen to your body.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nose Breathing for Cyclists
Q: Is nose breathing safe for cycling?
A: When done correctly, nose breathing is generally safe for most cyclists. But take precautions and consult your doctor before attempting prolonged efforts.
Q: Will nose breathing actually improve my performance?
A: Some cyclists do report gains. But more research is still needed to back claims of big performance benefits. Manage expectations when trying it.
Q: How long should I nose breathe during rides?
A: Start with 5-10 minutes at a time and slowly build up duration. Avoid pushing past your limits, especially when first adopting this technique.
Q: Is nose breathing helpful for indoor cycling?
A: Nose breathing can be beneficial for indoor cycling due to less airflow. But don’t overexert yourself – listen to your body’s needs.
Q: Should I use nose strips to keep nostrils open?
A: Special nose strips may help some riders. But try nose breathing without them first before deciding if they are necessary.
While more research still needs to be done, nose breathing remains an intriguing concept for cyclists looking to improve breathing efficiency and performance. Approach nose breathing cautiously, gradually, and under guidance from your doctor or coach.
Don’t attempt prolonged high-exertion nose breathing right away. Listen to your body, and incorporate both nose and mouth breathing using a blended approach if needed. Most importantly, keep cycling safe and fun!