Breathing at High Altitude during Tour de France

Tour de France 2019 is a gruelling event. The 21 stage race begins on the flat. But this isn’t for long. The race winds its way through flat, hilly and finally mountainous terrain. This year, we now know, is one of the most demanding Tour de France races. It includes 7 mountain stages with 5 mountain-top finishes. Because the seven mountain stages climb above 2,000 metres, it is one of the highest Tours for many years. This adds another challenge for the riders, that of breathing at high altitude. This is particularly challenging for riders of the 2019 Tour, as the highest point in the race, the Col de l’Iseran mountain pass has an altitude of 2,770m.

Breathing at high altitude

As a cyclist climbs to high altitude breathing increases. This happens automatically. The reason for this is because the body is responding to less oxygen in each breath. As a result, ventilation increases as they try to increase oxygen uptake. However, in spite of an increase in breathing, less oxygen will reach the working muscles, such as the legs. This is because signals are sent to the nervous system telling it to redirect oxygen from the legs to the diaphragm in order to keep up with breathing at altitude. Consequently, the cyclist’s leg muscles begin to suffer from fatigue. Inevitably, this affects performance.

Effects of high altitude breathing

Breathing harder and quicker is an automatic response to the fall in air pressure. In addition to this, the heart works harder too. It does this to try and increase the flow of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to the lungs. It’s a desperate bid to ensure the lungs don’t ‘steal’ the oxygen-carrying red blood cells from straining muscles.

In this article, 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas says,

“You just can’t do the same powers that you do at sea level… It is just like a thinner sort of air, really, up there. You can just tell, like, when you’re breathing, you’re just not getting quite as much oxygen in the lungs as you normally would.”

Another consequence of the challenges that breathing at high altitude inflicts on the body, is that of greater quantities of lactic acid. Cycling at altitude requires intense power and energy to climb the hills. But the body’s response to trying to produce energy with less oxygen is to produce larger amounts of lactic acid. It’s the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles that causes that feeling of ‘muscle burn’. It’s also responsible for slowing a cyclist down as it reduces the muscles ability to function.

Active.com explain that lactic acid is the end product of anaerobic metabolism. It says that a build-up of lactic acid occurs when there is insufficient oxygen to produce the energy required by the exercise. Furthermore, they say that when a very high level of work is reached, as in the Tour, lactic acid production becomes constant. As a result, the cyclist will experience acute muscle fatigue.

Preparing for the challenges of breathing at altitude

This 2019 Review Article in Frontiers in Physiology investigates the use of respiratory muscle training (RMT), including inspiratory muscle training (IMT) with POWERbreathe, for acclimatising to the altitude. The review provides evidence that such training,

“…has the potential to minimize at least some of the limiting factors related to the respiratory system occurring during training / competition at altitude / in hypoxia.”

It goes on to suggest the expected benefits may include:

  1. A delay in the onset of premature fatigue.
  2. A delay in respiratory muscle metaboreflex onset/activation.
  3. An improvement in clearance and tolerance to anaerobic metabolite products.
  4. A decrease in the perception of dyspnea (‘air hunger’).
  5. An increase in oxygen saturation values.
  6. A more favourable blood redistribution to the locomotor muscles.

Recovering from high altitude breathing problems

By incorporating breathing exercises for high altitude before the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia, cyclists will cope better with the challenges of breathing at high altitude. Inspiratory Muscle Training, such as with POWERbreathe, increases the strength and stamina of the breathing muscles, reducing breathing fatigue. Even better would be to perform IMT during turbo training. This will target the inspiratory muscles in the hunched position the athlete will be in during cycling.

Recovering from high levels of lactic acid

For cyclists in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia an IMT recovery session is proven to be beneficial as it:

Research shows that breathing against a small inspiratory load immediately after exercise reduces lactate by 16%. It also reduces lactate as soon as exercise finishes, unlike traditional active recovery which may take 5-minutes to clear lactate. Another bonus for Tour de France and Giro d’Italia riders is that subsequent research demonstrates a post-exercise inspiratory resistive loading (after a Wingate test) reduces post-exercise effort perception and improves peak power on subsequent all-out maximal-intensity exercise. This is obviously beneficial when riders need to perform at their best, day-after-day.

 

Hypoxic Endurance Exercise Performance benefits from IMT

This new study (2019) looks into whether chronic IMT improves hypoxic endurance exercise performance.

Endurance exercise performance

The study, in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, is using a cycling time trial to measure endurance exercise performance. Endurance exercise is typically performed at submaximal intensity. The purpose of this is to estimate VO2max, or ‘aerobic fitness’. The measurement VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen a person will consume during intense exercise. In fact, cycling time trials offer the ideal exercise to increase both heart rate and breathing. Similarly, so do running and swimming.

What is IMT?

IMT is a form of resistance training for the breathing muscles. The term IMT stands for inspiratory muscle training. The inspiratory muscles, the breathing muscles, are the ones that draw air into the lungs. The main inspiratory muscle is the diaphragm. Like any other group of muscles, the inspiratory muscles benefit from training too. Inspiratory muscle training, such as with POWERbreathe, provides the stimulus for that training. Following IMT, the breathing muscles adapt and become stronger after only a few weeks. This results in exercise feeling easier and an improvement therefore in performance.

Why IMT?

Although breathing comes naturally, some of the time it can feel like an effort. This may be due to the demand endurance exercise places on breathing. It may be due to a respiratory issue. Either way, it’s not uncommon for the respiratory muscles to fatigue, just like any other muscle.

If the respiratory muscles are weak from disease or exercise is overloading them, breathing demand will not be met. As a result, breathing will start to feel shallow and rapid. Sustaining this type of breathing is impossible. Furthermore, the more rapid the breathing, the more oxygen they require and the more carbon dioxide they produce. Consequently, oxygen is re-directed from the skeletal muscles, such as arms or legs, to the breathing muscles, where it is most needed. This results in fatigue of the skeletal muscles.

Inspiratory muscle training helps the body meet the needs of both the respiratory muscles and the skeletal muscles by improving their strength and stamina. The way IMT achieves this is by providing a resistance to breathe in against. POWERbreathe IMT is just like a ‘dumbbell for your diaphragm’.

Study results

Data from this recent study suggest that,

“performing 6 weeks of inspiratory muscle training may benefit hypoxic endurance exercise performance lasting 30-40 minutes.”

Acclimatisation to High Altitude – POWERbreathe IMT is Beneficial

There is a new Review Article in Frontiers in Physiology (January 2019) that looks into using respiratory/inspiratory muscle training for acclimatisation to altitude.

Respiratory muscle training

Respiratory muscle training, or RMT, is a programme of exercises that aim to improve the function of the respiratory muscles. Otherwise known as the ‘breathing pump’ muscles, the expiratory muscles and the inspiratory muscles make up the respiratory muscles. It’s the inspiratory muscles that we use when we breathe in. The main inspiratory muscle is the diaphragm, but to a lesser extent, the intercostal muscles also help with inhalation. To help improve the strength and stamina of these inspiratory muscles, respiratory muscle training will include Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

Inspiratory Muscle Training

Inspiratory muscle training, such as with POWERbreathe, uses resistance to provide the training effect. When breathing in against the resistance, the breathing muscles have to work harder. As a result, they get stronger. Consequently, breathing stamina improves resulting in a reduction in breathing fatigue. There is numerous research validating this form of breathing training and, as a result, it is the most commonly used.

The review

For the review, researchers perform a comprehensive search, analysing seven appropriate studies. Three of these studies refer to using respiratory muscle endurance training (RME with isocapnic hyperpnea). However, the remaining four studies use respiratory muscle strength training (RMS with POWERbreathe IMT).

Acclimatisation to altitude

Studies suggest that respiratory muscle training with IMT is a useful preparatory method for enhancing respiratory muscle efficiency 4-6 weeks before being exposed to hypoxia/altitude.

It is evident that breathing during exercise in hypoxia is associated with increased energy costs (20–30%) when compared to normoxia. Therefore, it is more likely to cause respiratory muscle fatigue. However, inspiratory muscle training will help to combat this. This is because IMT trains the inspiratory muscles to become stronger, increasing stamina. Consequently, breathing muscle fatigue reduces.

It, therefore, seems apparent that breathing muscle training has the potential to minimise at least some of the limiting respiratory factors that occur during training and competition in hypoxia/at altitude.

Benefits of acclimatisation to altitude using IMT

The Review suggests that both elite athletes and non-elite individuals may benefit from RMT, including:

  1. A delay in the onset of premature fatigue.
  2. A delay in respiratory muscle metaboreflex onset/activation.
  3. An improvement in clearance and tolerance to anaerobic metabolite products.
  4. A decrease in the perception of dyspnea (‘air hunger’).
  5. An increase in oxygen saturation values.
  6. A more favourable blood redistribution to the locomotor muscles.

Finally, evidence from this review finds that respiratory muscle training is an effective stimulus for improving the strength and endurance of the respiratory muscles. In fact, it’s these adaptive responses that contribute to the improvement of ventilatory function and efficiency. In translation, this means that respiratory muscle training is very likely to improve exercise performance in normoxia and particularly in hypoxia/altitude.

Revolutionise your Sports Performance with Breathing Training

Your breathing can often be a limiting factor as you exercise, reducing your sports performance. It can let you down, preventing you from performing at your best as you stop to ‘catch your breath’. Consequently, breathing muscle training is a discipline elite coaches include to improve athletes’ breathing muscle strength and stamina. In fact, by performing breathing muscle training, an athlete’s breathing muscles will fatigue far less. As a result, athletes are able to continue with their training for longer before breathing exhaustion strikes. Consequently, the athlete’s sports performance improves.

How to Improve Your Sports Performance

Breathing muscles, the inspiratory muscles, play a vital role in the efficiency of breathing during exercise. Additionally, as you age the strength of your inspiratory muscles starts to reduce, even if you’re fit.

It is when you move out of your ‘comfort zone’ and you’re working above your lactate threshold that your breathing starts to increase steeply. You will perceive this as breathlessness, as your inspiratory muscle work increases.

To help prevent this from limiting your training sessions and ultimately your performance, it is beneficial to strengthen your inspiratory muscles. In order to do this, you must subject your breathing to a training stimulus.

Aerobic exercise can help to provide a training benefit to your inspiratory muscles, but it is not targeted and therefore sufficient enough.

Research shows that specific inspiratory muscle training:

Therefore, by training your inspiratory muscles daily with an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) device such as POWERbreathe:

  • You’ll experience an increase in resistance to fatigue – this will become apparent as you find yourself exercising for longer with less effort
  • Your breathing efficiency will improve – this is because your lungs will require less oxygen for the purpose of breathing, allowing more delivery to your other working muscles, such as your arms and legs

The result of these adaptations is an increase in sports performance.

Winter Training Advice

If we are to believe the news, the UK this year will experience a colder than average winter. But don’t let this deter you from your winter training.

Winter Training

There are a few things you can do to make your winter training more comfortable.

  1. Perform a warm-up for your muscles.
  2. Perform an inspiratory warm-up.
  3. Dress in layers and protect your hands and feet.
  4. Wear reflective clothing.
  5. Hydrate.

Physical warm-up

A physical warm up prior to any exercise is essential. Firstly it will help to prevent injury. Secondly, it will improve performance. A warm-up will take about 10-minutes and is best performed immediately prior to exercise. If you plan on going out for a run, a 10-minute brisk walk or jog will do the trick.

The intention of a warm-up is to increase muscle temperature. By performing a warm-up you will increase blood flow to your muscles, warming them up. Furthermore, by increasing blood flow, more oxygen will be available for your muscles. As a result, your performance will improve.

The NHS website has a great, all-round exercise warm-up routine that takes about 6-minutes to perform. It involves:

  1. Marching on the spot.
  2. Heel digs.
  3. Knee lifts.
  4. Shoulder rolls.
  5. Knee bends.

Inspiratory warm-up

An inspiratory warm-up means warming up the muscles you use to breathe in. Just like your other working muscles, your breathing muscles benefit too from a warm-up. In fact, not warming up the breathing muscles can lead to excessive breathlessness during the start of your training.

An Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) device, such as POWERbreathe IMT, is designed specifically to target the breathing muscles. They use a resistance that you breathe in against. This makes your breathing muscles work harder. As a result, your breathing muscles become stronger and more resistant to fatigue. As a consequence, your stronger breathing muscles will not demand so much oxygen, freeing it up to go to your other working muscles instead. And just like the physical warm-up, more oxygen to your muscles means better performance.

Wear layers and reflective clothing

Wearing layers of clothing allows you to stay warm but easily cool down too when needed. This is beneficial because while training you’ll generate heat. If you’re too warm this heat will make you sweat, and the evaporation of sweat will make you feel chilly. Therefore, the benefits of layering are that you’re able to peel off a layer when you feel warm, and pop it back on when you start to cool down. Additionally, make sure your outer layer – your waterproof layer – is reflective. The reason being, at this time of year it gets dark earlier and this can creep up on you when out training.

In addition to layering your body in clothes, you need to ensure your hands, feet, ears and head stay warm too. In fact, a lot of heat escapes from your head. Furthermore, in the cold, your body firstly ensures your core is warm. This results in blood flow to your hands, feet and head being drawn away, leaving them cold.

Hydrate

In the warmth of summer, it’s easy to remember to drink. However, this is an easy thing to forget during winter training. You may not feel thirsty, but you will still become dehydrated. This happens simply from breathing, as well as sweating. Drinking before, during and after training is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer.

Staying safe

Last but not least, stay safe while winter training. Make sure someone knows where you’ll be going. Monitor how you feel while you’re out. Closely monitor the time too, so you know when to head for home. Listen to your body. You know it best. If you’re feeling rotten, consider training another day instead.

Finally, heed the advice from the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) on how to stay healthy during winter.

Russia World Cup team need help with breathing

Following their victory over Spain and defeat by Croatia, news is coming out that the 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup 2018 team are using ammonia to help with their breathing.

Russia World Cup 2018 team sniff ammonia

The World Cup team doctor confirms the team use ammonia to help with bloodflow and breathing. Ammonia is the predominant ingredient in smelling salts, which are available over the counter. Smelling salts only release a small amount of ammonia gas, as they are designed to arouse a person from unconsciousness. Consequently, no adverse health problems are reported.

Ammonia is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List for 2018. However, for a while now, the sport of professional boxing bans the use of smelling salts.

When you sniff smelling salts, ammonia gas releases and irritates the mucous membranes of your nose and lungs. In turn, this triggers a breathing reflex, causing the respiratory muscles to work faster. This makes the body think it’s working harder and heart rate increases. In turn, you feel you have more ‘power’. However, because of this ‘feeling’ of additional power, it’s thought that sniffing ammonia could actually have a placebo effect. The reason being, if a player feels more powerful, alert and awake after sniffing ammonia, their confidence and self-belief increases. Consequently, an improvement in performance is felt.

Improve breathing strength & stamina

Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is a form of resistance training for the breathing muscles. IMT is scientifically proven to increase breathing muscle strength and stamina. Furthermore, breathing fatigue will reduce as a result. As a consequence, sports performance improves. Additionally, performing an inspiratory muscle warm-up prior to a match helps prevent breathlessness from the start. This is especially beneficial for substitutes on the bench as they wait to replace a team-mate on the pitch.

Out of breath when playing football?

It’s no surprise players feel out of breath or tire easily when playing football. They sprint, change direction and cover around 10 kilometres during the 90 minutes of play. In fact, sprinting alone will drive breathing to its highest level, inducing a feeling of extreme breathlessness. This is an issue because players must recover quickly in order to continue contributing to the game.

Rugby & the Beneficial Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training

The nature of the game of rugby involves high and low-intensity action. Also, the physical demands of the game are specific to each player’s positional role. However, despite the player’s position, all need to be aerobically fit. Each must also have a high lactate tolerance and be strong and powerful.

Challenges facing rugby players

Most of the game of rugby is sub-maximal. This means that the intensity at which the player performs increases at a steady rate. Furthermore, this sub-maximal exercise will only work the player up to 85% of their maximum heart rate.

However, integral to the game are intermittent sprints, tackling, scrums, rucks and mauls. These are supra-maximal. And it’s this part of the game that pushes players beyond their maximum limit. Consequently, breathing effort will be a challenge.

The pattern of exertion rugby has on players places extreme demands upon their breathing. This is because these activities are anaerobic and generate high levels of lactic acid. Furthermore, the lactic acid stimulates their breathing to increase. In addition, a unique feature of rugby is the involvement of high-intensity upper body activity. This can induce conflicting demands upon the breathing muscles, which as well as bringing about breathing, are also essential in activities that involve the upper body.

This 2018 study from Brazil reiterates the fact that the respiratory muscles need adequate work to maintain sustained effective breathing in the sport of rugby.

The scientific study

This scientific study set about analysing the effects of high-intensity inspiratory muscle training (IMT) in 20 amateur rugby players. These players are from the city of Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

For the trial, the amateur players undergo a pulmonary function test, respiratory muscle strength and physical capacity assessment. Researchers then split them into two groups: the IMT group and the control group, each consisting of 10 players. The study has approval from the Research Ethics Committee of the Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro under protocol no. 2398.

Rugby training & conditioning for the trial

During the trial, players begin training with a warm-up by jogging for 5-minutes. They then perform dynamic stretching of the major muscle groups. Following this, the researchers have the players simulate specific moves applied to the game of rugby to improve its fundamentals. These include such moves as passing, blocking, feinting and collective strategic moves. Ultimately, the training session ends with stretching.

Players in the Inspiratory Muscle Training group perform three weekly sessions of an inspiratory muscle training programme, using the POWERbreathe Plus, for 12 consecutive weeks. These sessions are supervised by a physiotherapist and a physical education professional.

The IMT group protocol

This group protocol consists of:

  • 10 minutes’ stretching of the trunk muscles, upper and lower limbs
  • 10-minute inspiratory warm-up by performing a full and vigorous inspiration through the POWERbreathe Plus IMT device
  • A series of 30 repetitions using 80% of maximal inspiratory pressure using the POWERbreathe Plus IMT device. After the fourth training session, the level is increased.

The control group protocol

This group of 10 players perform the same protocol as above, except they do not perform the 30 repetitions of inspiratory muscle training using the POWERbreathe Plus.

Effects of high-intensity IMT in Rugby Players

Results show that the 12-week course of high-intensity POWERbreathe IMT provides significant increases in maximal voluntary ventilation (22%), maximum inspiratory pressure (38%), PEmax (32%), and distance travelled (13%) in the YoYo Test.

Also worthy of note is how physical capacity will be compromised if the respiratory system does not provide sufficient oxygen supply to satisfy the demands. Researchers explain that when the arrival of blood to the respiratory muscles decrease, it experiences fatigue and leads to lactic acid buildup. Consequently, this situation causes a decrease in the strength and resistance of the respiratory muscles.

Results of this trial suggest therefore that the POWERbreathe IMT training protocol provides beneficial, positive effects for rugby players.

The study

Effects of high-intensity Inspiratory Muscle Training in Rugby Players >

Charity Bike Ride Begins at Briançon

Four amateur cyclists from RAF Coningsby Ground System Support Flight are currently training for their 3 Peaks of Briançon Charity Bike Ride. In addition to their cycling training, they are using POWERbreathe IMT, in preparation for the breathing challenges ahead.

Difficulty breathing when cycling

The simple design of a bike will affect the position of the body. And the design of a road bike is made with aerodynamics in mind. For the RAF team, each rider will also make their body aerodynamic too. This means they will be continuously bending forward over the handlebars. This results in the shoulders pulling away from the spine, the rib cage flattening and the ribs descending. In addition, the organs in the abdomen push the diaphragm up. And as the diaphragm is the main breathing muscle, this compression restricts its normal movement. Consequently breathing becomes more difficult.

RAF charity bike ride

The four members of the RAF team are planning to conquer three of the toughest and most gruelling peaks the Alps have to offer. These are the Col d’Izoard, Col du Chaussy and the Col du Galibier. Furthermore, they plan to conquer them in three consecutive days. This will present a challenge for their breathing muscle strength and stamina. And altitude too challenges the breathing muscles, and Briançon is at an altitude of 1,326m (4,350ft). Additionally, their legs will have to cope with cycling many miles uphill. So fitness training beforehand is essential. And this is exactly what the team is doing at present.

In Chris’ post, on the team’s Facebook page, he talks about his latest training ride, saying:

“Well I did it! It was hard work, a struggle towards the end. My legs hurt and my bum hurts which is my own fault. Tested my new Velochampion longs out today, they performed well but no matter how good a pad is, you still need to condition. By the end of the ride, everything hurt, except my lungs. Something that I always used to struggle with but not so much anymore. POWERbreathe.”

The objective of this 70-mile sportive training ride is to beat a Personal Best. And it sounds as though the hills are a challenge, not just for the legs, but also for breathing:

“I myself have a distance PB to beat on Sunday in a 70-mile sportive, and the hills are gonna be a burn on the legs. But hopefully, with the help of our trustee POWERbreathe apparatus, the lungs won’t feel the burn so much.”

Breathing training for charity bike ride

It’s well accepted that the work of breathing during any form of exercise, including cycling, can be high enough to cause the breathing muscles to fatigue. In fact, research has shown that cycling as little as 20km at race pace induces significant fatigue of the breathing muscles.

A research group at Birmingham University shows that inspiratory muscle training (IMT) improves cycling performance. IMT is the scientific term for breathing muscle training. IMT is shown to reduce breathing fatigue and improve cycling time trial performance. In fact, improvements of 4.6% are shown. This is equivalent to slicing around 2 minutes off a 40k PB. And this is after just 6-weeks of inspiratory muscle training.

POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, significantly improving performance and helping to eliminate breathing fatigue.

The scientifically proven training regimen for POWERbreathe IMT is to perform 30 breaths in through the device, twice a day. And that is exactly what the RAF team are doing:

“Resting up tomorrow, apart from the lungs, POWERbreathe every day! As ordered 🙂 ”

Breathing tip for a charity bike ride

Warm-up the breathing muscles prior to the start. Using the POWERbreathe IMT device on a reduced load setting will prepare the breathing muscles for the rigours that the ride will bring. In fact, research shows that a standard pre-exercise warm-up routine fails to prepare the breathing muscles for the rigours of exercise.

Asthma – how it affects breathing

Asthma is a long-term breathing condition that affects the airways. These are the small tubes that transport air in and out of the lungs. It’s these tubes that become inflamed when they come into contact with something that ‘irritates’ them. Consequently, the airways become narrower. And it’s for this reason that people with asthma feel breathless and wheezy. But these symptoms will vary in severity from person to person.

What causes asthma

In the general population, asthma affects approximately 235 million people. And here in the UK, one in every 12 adults is receiving treatment for it.

Asthma tends to run in families, so genetic predisposition is one risk factor. Another factor is environmental. For instance, exposure to particles that may irritate the airways or give rise to an allergic reaction. Such irritants may include tobacco smoke, house dust mites, pet dander, pollen or air pollution.

In addition to genetic predisposition and environmental irritants, there are also other triggers. These can include physical exercise and cold air. So, it’s no surprise to discover that exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is the most common medical issue among winter Olympic athletes. In fact, almost 50% of cross-country skiers in the 2018 Winter Olympics have EIA. But it isn’t only the cross-country skiers who’re suffering. Short-track speed skaters (43%), figure skaters (21%) and ice hockey player (15%) also suffer.

What is EIA

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a condition where exercise itself becomes the trigger for an asthma event. Symptoms will surface only while exercising, or immediately following exercise. And the symptoms feel worst of all after exercise and then start to gradually improve. Treatment for EIA is the same, with long-term medicines that are taken daily. But there is also a natural treatment that is drug-free that can be used alongside medication. And that is Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

Natural asthma treatment without drugs

Data exists from five randomised controlled trials that are unanimously supportive of the use of IMT with POWERbreathe in the management of asthma. In fact, the POWERbreathe Medic is clinically proven by a wealth of research, as well as, the first non-pharmacological treatment for respiratory disease and the only product of its kind on the drug tariff. It is a non-invasive treatment that is drug-free, with no side effects or drug interactions.

POWERbreathe IMT is not suitable for patients with certain conditions so please first consult your specialist respiratory health doctor.

How asthma affects exercise

Breathlessness is a common feature of exercise. Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are also symptoms of asthma. So, imagine being an Olympic athlete performing high-intensity training above your lactate threshold. Then imagine being a winter Olympic athlete, with asthma. Breathing moves out of its comfort zone and increases steeply. And with the breathing muscles weakening and tiring, breathing feels harder still. It would be beneficial therefore to improve the state of the inspiratory muscles, mainly the diaphragm and intercostal.

It is possible to exercise specifically the inspiratory muscles with an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) device, such as POWERbreathe IMT. Such a device provides the inspiratory muscles with a resistance to breathe in against. This resistance training makes the inspiratory muscles work harder, improving breathing strength and stamina and reducing breathing fatigue.

What exercise helps asthma

Any form of exercise is good for you and will help keep heart and lungs healthy. In fact, many well-known, world-class athletes have this condition, such as runner Paula Radcliffe and cyclist Laura Trott.

If your symptoms are well managed, and your GP gives the go-ahead, then there’s no reason to limit your choice of exercise.

Practical tips for exercising with asthma

  • Warm-up first, including an inspiratory muscle warm-up with an IMT device
  • Make sure you have your inhaler with you
  • Ensure people around you know that you have asthma
  • If you feel your symptoms coming on during exercise, take your reliever inhaler and wait until symptoms subside

RAF Charity Ride – 3 Peaks of Briançon

The 3 Peaks of Briançon Charity Ride is a team of four amateur cyclists from RAF Coningsby Ground System Support Flight.

The RAF team challenge

Gary, Matty, Chris and Lance are all amateur cyclists. They are challenging themselves to climb and conquer three of the toughest and most gruelling peaks the Alps have to offer. And they aim to complete it in three successive days.

In June 2018 they will be travelling to the Briançon region in the south of France to climb the Col d’Izoard, Col du Chaussy and the Col du Galibier.

Briançon itself is at an altitude of 1,326m (4,350ft). It is often host to the start and finishing stages of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Dauphiné Libéré. And so the ride will present challenges to mental and physical strength and stamina.

Purpose of charity ride

All four members of the team have the same purpose. And that is to raise awareness and funds for four charities all close to their hearts:

  • Cancer Research UK
  • RAF Association
  • RAF Benevolent
  • Breathe on UK

How POWERbreathe will help

Gary, Matty, Chris and Lance will each be using a POWERbreathe Plus MR Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) device as part of their training preparation. The reason for this is because cycling in the mountains, like any form of exercise, will cause their muscles to fatigue. And this includes their breathing muscles.

Research has shown that IMT reduces breathing fatigue and enabled participants in a trial to cycle for 33% longer with a lower sense of effort.

Cycling Effort

However, in addition to breathing fatigue, the hunched position adopted while cycling can also create breathing problems. The reason being that the abdomen becomes compressed and pushes up against the diaphragm. This in turn restricts normal movement and makes breathing feel much harder.

Breathing parameters

But before Gary, Chris and Matty begin using their devices, they will each perform a single breath test using the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software. This provides baseline breathing measurements based on age, weight, height and gender. The single breath test measures inspiratory muscle strength, peak inspiratory flow rate and inhaled volume in a single breath.

Next, Gary, Chris and Matty need to complete a 30 breath training session to establish a baseline breathing Load (cmH2O), Power (watts), Flow (Litres/second) and Energy (joules). These are the parameters they will improve after 4-6 weeks of IMT.

Charity ride 2018 – when and where

JUNE 5 – Warm-up to Briançon.

JUNE 6 – On to Col d’Izoard mountain pass at 2,360m (7,743ft). This will test their strength and provide them with an idea of what they are letting themselves in for.

JUNE 7 – Next is the Col du Chaussy, a high mountain pass with an elevation of 1,533m above sea level. It is considered to be a ‘dangerous road’ because of the 3km stretch with 17 hairpins. In fact the road virtually climbs a cliff. And it is at this point when their Inspiratory Muscle Training should stand them in good stead by  helping to reduce the level of breathing fatigue they would otherwise have experienced. And it will help them to cycle for longer.

JUNE 8 – The final leg is to conquer the Col du Galibier mountain pass. This stands at 2,645m (8,678ft) and is considered to be the highest point of the Tour de France. And this is where their strength, stamina and mental resilience will be pushed to the limit.

Where you can follow them

If you would like to support them, please visit their pages:

  1. Just Giving
  2. Instagram
  3. Facebook