Cycling is a growing sport; at the moment it is in the top 20 and still climbing. Races like the Tour de France, La Vuelta and or the Giro de Italia all contribute to the awareness of cycling. The successes of Team Sky have also played a very important role in the awareness of cycling in Great Britain and beyond.
Nowadays more people are being more active. We live in a very stressful world of sitting sometimes more than 8 hours a day. Cycling is a very good way to getting fitter and also let us not forget the social aspect of it, you can go for a ride with your neighbour, friend, colleague or even your significant other.
Once you start racking up those miles, you may even start to think further in the sense of a training camp or a cycle competition for instance on an idyllic island such as Mallorca, Spain. At the moment there are quite a few professional teams training here on the island. Last year while working as an osteopath and training specialist for the Swiss pro team IAM Cycling, I would get the question asked by regular cyclists visiting us in hotel: How can we train like a pro cyclist?
There are many ways to train like a pro but we choose to go for simple but yet effective ways of training. A very important aspect of training is the awareness of correct breathing. Believe it or not, most people are not breathing correctly and even worse when doing any form of sports, especially endurance sports such as cycling.
I teach the pro cyclists to activate their diaphragm before training and competition. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped, muscular partition separating the thorax from the abdomen in the body. It plays a major role in breathing, as its contraction increases the volume of the thorax and so inflates the lungs. Increasing the volume of the thorax is what we want in cycling but what many of us unfortunately don’t have!
Good breathing helps to keep the body from not getting injured but more importantly changes how we are sitting on the bicycle.
The body’s postural muscles are all slow twitch muscles; they need to hold up the body for sustained periods of time with minimal movement required to sustain position.
Slow twitch muscle fibers require oxygen to operate effectively. If we are not breathing correctly and therefore not getting enough oxygen to the muscles they cannot function correctly to support our bodies in the continuous fight against gravity. This means that if we can influence our breathing we can influence our ability to maintain a good posture. If our posture is aligned, we feel better, stay healthier and most important achieve ability to generate more power on the bike.
What can be impacting on our performance on the cycle?
Before you activate the diaphragm, notice the position of your spine. The more upright your spine, the more open up you are to breathe. By correcting your position alone, you can increase your oxygen intake by up to 1.5 liters.
To activate the diaphragm, we are going to start rubbing with our fingertips along the rib cage, up to the sternum. This process should take up to 2 minutes at most; there will be areas where you are sensitive, stay there a little longer, these that need more rubbing. Best way to start this is by lying on your back, (in the video link I have prepared; I have my client standing up though) You can activate at least once a day. If you are going out for a cycle, I would also recommend doing activating 10 mins beforehand. After that I also give the correct breathing exercise to take home: First breathe out through your mouth, pull the belly in to get the air out of the stomach. By breathing out first you feel where the movement is going to take place, in the belly! No movement in the chest!! This is very important!! This is part that most people get wrong. Breathe in through the nose so that the belly goes out again. Keeping a hand on the belly is a good way to feel if you are doing this correct. I tell my clients to start with one min and each day increase a minute until ten minutes. This can also be done more times a day. You would be amazed at how difficult this is.
In the video you can also notice a clear ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the testing of the length of hamstrings, the muscles that run from our back of our hip bones to the backside of our knee joint. Take a look at the video below:
So by activating the diaphragm you can already change the tension in your hamstrings, imagine what you can do if you combine this with correct breathing?
After 20 years of learning from and working with the best people in the business, Dr. Joe Arrindell Jr decided to move to Mallorca to use the years of experience to grow and develop a sports therapy & osteopathic
clinic. The 2016 season when he was not in the clinic working, he was then traveling with the IAM Swiss Pro Cycle team. Besides being one of the osteopaths for the team, he was also in charge of the strength and conditioning aspect for the complete team before and during the pro cycle season.