Do you ever feel like your mind is all over the place during a bike ride? Does it jump from one thought to the next, from that e-mail you still need to respond to the fact that your legs are on fire and you just want to be back at the car so you can go to brunch already?
If you find that you just can’t seem to get out of your head, especially on tougher rides or workouts when you are just not into it or struggling to finish, learning focus on the present moment will be extraordinarily helpful to you.
I’ve written previously about techniques that can help you train your mind to focus, and why the ability to concentrate is so important for athletes. For example, learning to concentrate will naturally filter out negative thoughts and redirect your mind away from physical discomfort.
What if I told you that you already have a tool that will not only help you focus, but help you with your pacing, momentum and speed.
You were born with this tool, and you have it with you every second of every minute of every day.
What is it?
As a yoga teacher, I talk a lot about breath because it is the foundation of any yoga practice.
Breathing is to yoga like wheels are to a bike. It is fundamentally important.
There is a plethora of breathing techniques used in yoga and meditation that can be used during and after your ride that will help you improve your performance.
Today I will teach you a technique that you can use during a ride that will help you develop focus and improve your ability to pace yourself.
This technique involves synchronizing your breathing with your pedal strokes, which it is a method used by elite cyclist and even runners because of its efficacy.
Interestingly, this technique mimics what yogis do in certain style of yoga such as vinyasa, in which breathe is coordinate with movement.
Synchronizing movement with breath, whether on the bike or in a yoga class is a powerful way to develop concentration because it strengthens the mind-body connection and forces the brain to stay centered on the present moment.
Breath rhythm/pedal cadence synchronization technique
On your next flat ride a bike trainer (which I recommend practicing with first), begin by focusing your awareness on your left foot. Every full revolution of your left foot is one count.
Begin to inhale and simultaneously count two full revolutions of your left foot, or two counts. When you get to the end of your second full revolution, begin to exhale. Let your exhale last for 3 counts (three revolutions). At the end of your third count, start to inhale again for two counts, and repeat.
In other words, inhale for 2 pedal strokes and exhale for 3 pedal strokes. Try this 2:3 ratio and practice it for a while. If you want to eventually change the tempo, experiment with a ratio of 3:4, 4:5, etc.
This ratio, in which the exhale is slightly longer than the inhale, is best suited for flat or relatively easy rides where oxygen demands are low.
If you try this technique on a climb or more intense ride where ventilation rate (i.e. breathing rate) is increased, experiment with an equal ratio of breaths to pedal revolutions. For example, a 2:2 ratio where you breathe in for two counts and out for two counts. This could also be a 3:3 or 4:4 ratio, etc. depending on factors like your fitness, lung capacity, cadence, gearing, terrain, and more.
This technique will not only help you maintain a consistent pace on a long climb or flat open road, but it will also teach you to focus your attention on the present moment and prevent outside thoughts and distractions from cluttering your mind.
This method of coordinating your breath with your movement is exactly what we do in yoga, and it is one of the best ways to build a mind-body connection.
You mind will likely want to wander when you practice this technique. Every time you notice your focus leaving the attention of your breath and cadence, simply bring it back to your counting and breathing. The more you practice, the easier it will become to stay focused.
Try it out and let me know what you think. Has this technique helped you at all? If so, in what ways?