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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    589

    Can't Breathe up Hills!!

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    Hi all. I've been lurking here for a month or so and two royally sucktastic club rides have prompted me to get an account so hopefully you ladies can help me out.

    I've just gotten up the nerves/been coersed by my wonderful and well meaning bike shop to join a club group that rides every sunday. I'm having a blast except...

    They drop me like I'm standing still on even mild to moderate hills and I'm getting frustrated (even though they are awesome about it and 1 or 2 people drop back with me, etc).

    I feel like it's my lungs rather than my legs (though the legs could use work too). I start up even a slight incline and I'm huffing and puffing and getting blown by in the process. If I drop gears and spin such that my lungs are ok then they drop me anyway since I loose so much speed.

    Some pertinent info:
    -I'm 23 and have been biking 4-5 years.
    -This is my first foray into road biking for something other than my commute
    -I tend to "hammer" rather than "spin"; I'm trying to work on that with the road bike
    -I consider myself in decent shape, at least until I get with a group of others and they prove otherwise!
    -I just moved to CO from sea level in August so altitude may have something to do with it, but to be honest I had this problem before as well
    -I'm riding a 08 Giant OCR3 that fits well (Wilier Izoard coming after taxes, but for now the Giant has to do)
    -To the best of my knowledge I'm healthy (but I'm beginning to wonder...)
    - Previous riding style has been long rides, but at my pace which never stressed my lungs much.
    -I ride once a week (this group ride) sometimes twice, try to commute at least once a week (it's winter and snowing), and take Karate twice a week. I'd like to increase riding time, but it's going to be a couple months (winter, daylight savings time, etc.) before that happens realistically.

    What are some good ways to improve my lung/heart endurance/health?? On the bike and off. Ideas for off the bike activities that can help me build up a better base during the week would be awesome given the riding situation for the near future. (I have access to a full gym, free, but the stationary bikes are likely out of the question due to volume of use. I'm not opposed to running in the cold either if it's the best way to see results.)

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    1,011
    hmm.... lots of thoughts here.


    Intervals on any type of cardio machine.

    This is the way that I instruct intervals in my spin classes.

    The basic idea is warm up 5 to 10 minutes, 8 reps of 30 seconds hard, 90 seconds recovery, 5 to 10 minutes recovery.

    During the hard intervals, you should push your pace/tension/ intensity to the point where you are out of breath, can't talk, don't think that you can go on any longer. Then recover. You can do this on any cardio format, running, elliptical, etc. Outdoors on the bike you can do hill repeats to simulate the same thing.

    As this has become easier, we have shortened the recovery times, increased the number of sets, increased the length of the hard intervals.

    An example of a recent class is as follows:

    30 sec hard, 60 easy
    2 times (30 hard, 45 easy)
    3 times (30 hard, 30 easy)
    Standing:
    3 times (30 hard, 30 easy)
    sittting:
    6 times (20 hard, 10 easy)
    60 addtional recovery
    45 hard 60 easy
    90 hard 60 easy
    3 minutes hard, done
    "Being retired from Biking...isn't that kinda like being retired from recess?" Stephen Colbert asked of Lance Armstrong

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay
    Posts
    5,203
    What Silver said.

    How long is your commute? I found my commute (when I commuted, it was 14 miles each way) to be okay, but not great, for club rides. It did not have the intensity of a club ride. If your commute is short, you may find that increasing it and adding days and intensity will help. If you are only riding one or two times a week, that is likely not enough.

    It wasn't until I started taking spinning classes that I really improved on club rides. 2x week (intense, with heart rate monitor to gauge effort) really helped, more would have been better but twice a week was all I could manage.

    Now I don't commute anymore but I still take spin classes. My early club rides have been slower than I like, but it's early and I just go at my own pace.

    Your club rides might just be too fast for you at this point. If your club offers different paced rides, you might want to consider stepping down to a more realistic pace, get stronger there without getting so discouraged, and then step up later in the season. I've found that macho-guy (and sometimes girl) club rides are real hammerfests and don't do me any good.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,897
    Just to rule out medical issues - I assume the problem is normal getting out of breath, not anything more serious.

    If you're wheezing, or you feel like your lungs just won't open up enough for you to get good deep breaths, that would be asthma. The main asthma trigger for me is riding my bike up big hills.

    p.s. "Sucktastic" is my new favorite word.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    589
    Thanks all.

    Embarrassingly these are "for fun", "easy pace", no drop rides. I think last week's average speed was a whooping 15mph in the "fast" group Hopefully as the season progresses there will be more riders along (there were only 8 this week and I was the only out of shape one!) at which point they will break into more groups. For now apparently I'm the only "snail" who is "hard core" enough to ride at 33*F so I feel bad when they ride at my pace for me.

    Basically, I think it should be a good group for me after some frustration and it's a great group now because although I feel bad and frustrated they are super cool and encouraging. It helps that they wanted me to do this and I warned them, so they seem committed to getting me "up to speed" (or is that the dollar signs as I continue to buy gear from them? )

    My commute is a joke. 4.5 miles, one baby hill, and one pretty steep climb at the end (that I only have to do on the way in). The hill and my 15lb pack (MacBooks are heavy boogers!) are the only reasons it's challenging. I view it more as "keep the legs moving" and a mental break than any sort of productive training. Maybe I'll start doing lunchtime intervals on said hill?!

    I will definitely start the intervals Silver suggested somehow, on a bike if at all possible. How often is considered effective without being overboard? In theory I can cut the time out to do something like this every day with a break day Sat and the rides on Sundays; is that smart or overkill?

    I know I need to get on a bike more often. I'm hoping to make it daily or near daily as the weather warms and I get daylight. For now it's either snowing or blowing 40mph crosswinds and I don't have a trainer so I'll have to make due with alternates

    And no, no wheezing, thank goodness. I do have lung issues as a possibility stuck in the back of my mind after 20 years of second hand smoke. For now though I'll go with the being out of shape theory (it's much much easier and less scary to fix!)

    Thanks again for the tips. I'm hoping to be more in shape before I loose the excuse of a semi-heavy bike in a few months!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    1,011
    You could do some research to determine what is the best frequency.

    However...I'm not a real trainer, I only play one on TV.

    But I'd suggest 3 times a week. This type of workout is focused on raising your anaearobic threshold. Your overall exercise routine should also include some longer distance slower activities and some mid intensity medium length exercise.
    "Being retired from Biking...isn't that kinda like being retired from recess?" Stephen Colbert asked of Lance Armstrong

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    1,708
    Hey, that's close to my bike. I have an OCR1. I've been geeking out something new. My girl doesn't fit me so great is part of my deal. Oh well, live and learn.

    Good for you on doing the club rides. Here's my humble thoughts on the matter...

    1) Silver is right. We do these in spin class and it truly helps. Also, just building your over all low end aerobic base helps. Thus, it makes it even more work (& increased fitness level) to reach that breathless place.

    2) does anyone in your area know of spin classes if your gym does not have them? Some gyms will let you just pay for the class without joining.

    3) does anyone in the group, or shop, have a spare trainer or set of rollers (much harder to do, I dunno how atm), for you to borrow? Or rent for a small fee? That would give you some time to work on just your fitness. Outside there is so many things to think about vs being stationary.

    4) OK, this is "Mother Miranda" speaking now... please, please, purty please... go to a doctor about the lung thing.

    I have asthma, and also had years of growing up in a chain smoking house (just sad). You DO NOT need to have the classic wheeze to have asthma!!!

    DD's stupid peds doc missed the freakin boat when I kept telling him that I did not wheeze, DH did not, etc. and HEY!!! based on fm hx, my kid has asthma! Well, until she got into PICU almost on a vent and nearly died.

    We are *coughers*. It is less common--read hard to dx. I find my inflamation feels like clearing my throat. Like a sinus issue. It's not. It's the asthma inflamation.

    ALSO... if you do have some lung damage (not asthma), there are meds the doc can give you to improve that as well depending what it is.

    I have a boat load of meds... yea it sucks, but guess what? I CAN BREATH. I do not let my asthma define who I am, or my riding (as it should no one).

    Lastly from this moma lecture is that if it is... the exercise will actual improve your base. I take an inhailer before, and it helps me to be ok in the situation you are describing.

    OK... I think I'm done now.
    Last edited by Miranda; 02-15-2009 at 04:42 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay
    Posts
    5,203
    I agree with the asthma/lung thing, especially if you lived in a smoking household for nearly your whole life!! Don't get me started on that one!

    I used to have asthma. I don't know if it was exercise-induced or allergy-induced only (I know allergies were part of it), but I've had a few bad attacks off the bike and just plain discomfort on the bike. In fact, when I was racing (I sucked) when I was your age, I ALWAYS felt like I was out of shape, I always got dropped. It wasn't until years later that I was diagnosed with asthma and got an inhaler. All of a sudden I was able to breathe on those hills! So get that checked out ASAP. If you have carpets where you live, either remove them or move to a place with wood or tile floors as soon as you are able. Removing carpet from my environment pretty much cleared up my asthma.

    Don't discount your commute--it's GREAT to live close enough for a bike commute! Use your commute just as you do--for transportation, relaxation, and building a solid base. The more you are on your bike, the better you will be, and the better the world will be!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Chicagoland
    Posts
    836
    Quote Originally Posted by Miranda View Post
    We are *coughers*. It is less common--read hard to dx. I find my inflamation feels like clearing my throat. Like a sinus issue. It's not. It's the asthma inflamation.
    I too was a "cougher" and not a "wheezer" it took 3 specialists to figure out I had asthma when I was a kid...

    Go see a Dr, MartianDestiny.
    Andrea

    1988 Bridgestone mixte
    2002 Trek 2200
    2011 Surly Long Haul Trucker

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    589
    Thanks again all.

    I got up and ran using the interval concept this morning. Definitely gives the lungs a work out. I also talked to the shop/ride guys this morning and they don't seem at all surprised or concerned that I'm getting dropped at this early juncture. Basically the comment was "this is Boulder and everyone is a professional athlete" *sigh*. They promise me that there will be slower riders as the weather warms up; apparently they suspect I'll be able to keep up with the mechanic's pregnant wife who will be joining us soon (I'm not sure if I should consider that a good thing or a very very bad thing ).

    On a happy note my new bike is built and hanging, begging to be ridden, in the shop. Darn it's perdy! NEED TAX RETURN NOW!!!

    Anyway, I'm going to give intervals and increased riding a few weeks to work their magic and if I'm not improving I promise I'll go see a doctor (for the first time in ~10 years might I add!! )

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay
    Posts
    5,203
    Time for a checkup regardless--for your lungs and all your other parts. You don't want to wait til it breaks.

    I dunno, it warms up and they say they'll slow down?? Usually when it warms up they go even faster in my experience. But you'll get faster. Just get those lungs checked out.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Belle, Mo.
    Posts
    1,778
    Has anyone else had the lung thing? After reading this post, I'm gonna get mine checked out too. My legs are fine, everything is fine, but for my entire life it's the lungs that get me first. When I think about it, I couldn't even run as far as my friends could when I was a kid, and I was spending night after night at the dance studio! Dances are short, runs are long, but both my parents smoked. I don't, never have. I'm a horrible hill climber and even Pyannyplayer has given me some tips, but I'm still out of air. Legs are fine.

    Anyway, if you get a checkup let me know the results!
    Claudia

    2009 Trek 7.6fx
    2013 Jamis Satellite
    2014 Terry Burlington

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Riding my Luna & Rivendell in the Hudson Valley, NY
    Posts
    8,403
    Quote Originally Posted by uforgot View Post
    Has anyone else had the lung thing? After reading this post, I'm gonna get mine checked out too. My legs are fine, everything is fine, but for my entire life it's the lungs that get me first. When I think about it, I couldn't even run as far as my friends could when I was a kid, and I was spending night after night at the dance studio! Dances are short, runs are long, but both my parents smoked. I don't, never have. I'm a horrible hill climber and even Pyannyplayer has given me some tips, but I'm still out of air. Legs are fine.
    Yep, I have the same problem. It's my respiratory limitations that get me on the hills. But 2 1/2 years of biking and walking have helped noticeably. I did used to smoke a lot years ago, plus had very severe pneumonia as a child, so all of that has taken it's toll. Sometimes I simply cannot breathe hard enough or deeply enough to get the oxygen I need on a big hill.
    Lisa
    Our bikes...OurBikes...and my mountain dulcimer blog
    Ruby's Website and My blog
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    589
    Quote Originally Posted by tulip View Post
    Time for a checkup regardless--for your lungs and all your other parts. You don't want to wait til it breaks.

    I dunno, it warms up and they say they'll slow down?? Usually when it warms up they go even faster in my experience. But you'll get faster. Just get those lungs checked out.
    O, I suspect the fast ones will go faster! But the slower ones will actually start showing up as well and we'll split into groups. I'm just the only slow one bull headed and pain loving enough to be coming in freezing weather so they say. We'll see; either way I've gotta get faster, fast!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Newport, RI
    Posts
    3,821
    Quote Originally Posted by MartianDestiny View Post
    They promise me that there will be slower riders as the weather warms up; apparently they suspect I'll be able to keep up with the mechanic's pregnant wife who will be joining us soon (I'm not sure if I should consider that a good thing or a very very bad thing ).


    You're going to be surprised come Spring. A bunch of people will suddenly come out of hibernation, and you'll be passing them (at first). Unfortunately, the guys tend to whip right back into shape after getting passed by a chick, but those first couple of nice day rides are fantastic for the ego.

    I've gotten much better on hills over the last year. I read the phrase "ride like a slacker" in some article, and that phrase became my mantra on hills. My goal wasn't to climb fast, but to climb without getting out of breath, and without working up a sweat. I slowed both my cadence and breathing down. I found it really helpful to exhale ALL of the breath. It's so counter-intuitive to exhale when you want to gasp in air, but somehow it seems to help.

    Another part of my slacker technique is to relax my hands and face, and slightly smile. I look just a little ahead of my wheel, not all the way up to the top. If I start to huff and puff, I ease up even more.

    I don't keep track of how fast I ride, so I can't say for sure if this has helped make me faster, but I know I feel better on hills than I used to.

 

 

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