The Science of Breathing, with Dr. James Hull

Bradley Wiggins in the peloton
Simon Connellan/

You’re breathing, I’m breathing. But neither of us is probably thinking about our breathing right now. Do you ever think about your breathing during your workouts or races? Do you ever wonder if you should be “training” the act of breathing as a skill? Or whether you should do something differently during rest and recovery, or between intervals, or even on long endurance rides?  

 In some ways, breathing is a much-discussed topic—often, however, that’s in the context of meditation or in the practice of yoga or other such disciplines. Breathing for performance, in the context of training and racing, however, is not something that gets a whole lot of attention. And that’s the focus of today’s episode. 

 While Trevor was sitting in Toronto and I was in Boulder, we caught up with a leading expert on the science of breathing, Dr. James Hull, who joined us from London. 

Dr. Hull ‘s experience is vast and varied, and all of it focuses on breathing. He is a respiratory physician at Royal Brompton Hospital in London and the clinical lead looking at unexplained breathlessness during exertion. He also works at the Institute of Sports, Exercise, and Health at University College London. He also works with elite athletes, both as part of the English Institute of Sport working with British Olympic athletes, and as a contributor to the International Olympic Committee’s respiratory guidance committee. 

Dr. Hull takes us through the science of respiration, from the state of the system—is it overbuilt or underbuilt?—to pathological concerns for athletes. Think you have asthma? There’s a good chance that’s a misdiagnosis. Finally, we discuss the things you can do to improve performance through breathing. 

 Not to be forgotten, also on today’s episode, we talk with several guests about the meditative side of breathing, as well as the practice of breathing. We hear from coach Colby Pearce—catch him on his own podcast, “Cycling in Alignment” if you haven’t already. We catch up with Erica Clevenger, a member of the Tibco-Silcon Valley Bank women’s pro team, and someone who suffers from asthma. And we also hear from two elite coaches: Julie Young and Neal Henderson

Inhale, exhale. Let’s make you fast! 


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