Understanding and Training Your Breathing with Dr. Stephen Cheung and Steve Neal

Heart rate, power, and now breathing: they all have their own languages and tools that are critical to endurance sports, but you might not have known that breathing is also trainable.

Photo taken by: Brock University

You probably have no problems understanding what we’re talking about when we throw around terms like: max heart rate, FTP, rate of perceived exertion, and anaerobic threshold. We have a lingo in endurance sports that you’re going to inevitably encounter and must learn if you want to talk with your training partners or read an article on how to better train in your sport. When it comes to heart rate and power terminology, we all have it covered.  

But how often have you used the breathing lingo – terms like respiratory dead space and forced expiratory volume? Breathing – how we bring oxygen into our bodies and get rid of waste like carbon dioxide – is critical to any endurance sport. There are those who believe that our bodies are remarkably effective at breathing, and we do not need to train it – such as our guest on Episode 130, Dr James Hull. 

Our two guests today, exercise physiologist Dr. Stephen Cheung, and coach Steve Neal both believe that breathing is something that we can train and benefit from as athletes. Today we’ll talk with them about the science of breathing. It’s a complex field and there’s so much to know. However, we’re not going to try to cover it all in this episode, because that would take several hours. Today, we’re going to set the stage and start by simply defining a few key terms you will need to know.  

Next, we’ll talk about what this actually means when you’re out training or racing. Most importantly, what, if anything, you can do to train your respiration to be more efficient. Our guests will focus heavily on three things that you can do to make your breathing more productive: strengthening your respiration muscles, slowing your breathing down, and improving your ability to forcefully breathe out to better eliminate waste products.  

Joining our main guests will be two cyclists who have raced at the highest levels, Alex Howes with EF Education, and Keil Reijnen. We talked briefly with Alex and Keil to see how much of a focus they’ve put on their breathing techniques.  

Finally, we will be talking with coach and physiologist Jared Berg about the roll that breathing has when an athlete is training. 

So, take a deep breath – from the diaphragm – and let’s make you fast! 


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Episode Transcript

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