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Breathing patterns for paddling

1 week 2 days ago - 1 week 2 days ago #33214 by SurfskiEstonia
I wanted to discuss this topic for some time - what are some of your breathing patters while paddling. There was a similar topic here:  www.surfski.info/forum/2-announcements/17717-breathing.html , but I wanted to re-open it.

I have been working on finding an effective long-session breathing pattern last summer. I've come to the conclusion that 1 inhale 2 exhales breathing pattern works best for me for a 1 hour stable pace. I pace these 3 breaths to the count of 4 in the following way:
1. exhale - plant the blade in the water on the left;
2. exhale - plant the blade in the water on the right;
3. inhale - plant the blade in the water on the left;
4. continue inhale - holding the paddle in the air on the left, balancing and relaxing.
then
1. exhale - plant the blade on the right
2. exhale - on the left
3. inhale - on the right
4. continue inhale - holding the paddle in the air on the right, balancing and relaxing.

So breathing like this (odd number) gives me the possibility to switch sides and also balance and relax on each side for symmetry

The problem is that when I have to paddle harder, I need to exhale more. I can't clear my lungs fast enough, the inhale gets shorter. It gets more like 3 exhale and 1 inhale, but the count remains the same, so I lose the relax and balance step. My heart beat then gets from a comfortable 140-145 to 165-170 out of max 185. 

I tried to google it and read about breathing while running, but couldn't quite understand how to think about this. I'm not an athlete: I can run for an hour at 11 kmh during the training season, but not faster nor for significantly longer. So I imagine, that the need to exhale more while getting tired, comes from VO2 max?

But if You could explain that to me and maybe give some thoughts/suggestions, I would be really interested in trying these :)

Nelo Ocean Ski L, Jantex Gamma Mid, Jantex Gamma Rio Large Minus

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1 week 2 days ago #33215 by PSwitzer
As if I didn't have enough to worry about, thanks a lot!

Seriously though, I think your increase in HR is because you're paddling harder, not because you are changing your breathing pattern.  When you increase your effort/pace, you will notice an "inflection point" at which your breathing rate increases by a lot.  This is a rough marker of the effort level at which you have gone from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic, and it's less efficient, therefore needs way more O2 to keep increasing effort.

Elite athletes in cycling and running and so forth have very high VO2 max which allows them to work aerobically at higher intensity than regular people.

So just accept the fact that you will breathe faster at higher pace and if you are going for speed, not sure how the "balance/relax" period every few strokes is helpful.  You want to have a brief period of relaxation during the recovery on every stroke, correct?

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1 week 2 days ago #33216 by tve
Replied by tve on topic Breathing patterns for paddling
How do I breathe? Hard :-)
I try hard not to synchronize my breathing with the strokes so each can run freely at whatever pace makes sense. I don't want to for my breathing to slow down or accelerate just because my stroke rate goes up or down. I don't know whether this is a good idea from a scientific point of view, just my thinking...

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1 week 1 day ago #33217 by RedBack
In on one stoke, out on the other.
This synchronises breathing with cadence and also with effort and oxygen demand.
You might swap sides occasionally, but the rhythm remains the same.
When commencing a sprint, always breathe out on the first stroke to avoid inadvertently holding your breath during the acceleration phase, before dropping into race rhythm.  Even a small amount of oxygen debt is hard to pay back.
After a while, a synchronised breathing pattern becomes second nature, - you don't even think about it.

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1 week 1 day ago #33218 by SurfskiEstonia
Guys, thanks for the replies!

I think I didn't state my case clearly enough. I understand that when going faster, I get past the aerobic threshold. My question rather was why I have to exhale more? How does that work that I need to clear my lungs more?

The logic behind my breathing pattern and relax phase on count 4 is that I understand that my personal technique speed is below my boat's hull speed. That means, that when I paddle continuously, I actually slow the boat down. When I do 3 strokes in a row and on count 4 pause and relax, my boat is running at about 11 kmh. When I paddle continuously, the speed drops to 10-10,5 kmh. From that I deduct, that having too much blade in the water is slowing me down (can't make efficient strokes while tired and am not allowing the boat to glide freely). 

But even a bigger thing for my technique was the change from focusing on the catch+pull phase to only the catch. Basically I've found that when I only think about a good catch, my speed goes up a lot. So not focusing on the pull phase anymore has made the stroke much shorter and forces me to exhale shorter.

That pause technique can be seen here: 
at 1:15 for a couple of seconds (the guy seems to be sporting a SpeedCoach OC2 next to his GPS watch). This drill was suggested to me by both white water and K1 instructors and I've found it works great in a surfski. I don't pause the paddle in the air for longer than 1 count of 4.

So once again, my question is, can someone explain how does that work, that with fatigue at higher speed and resulting increased bpm, my inhale gets shorter and exhales need to increase in number and volume.

Nelo Ocean Ski L, Jantex Gamma Mid, Jantex Gamma Rio Large Minus

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1 week 1 day ago - 1 week 1 day ago #33219 by Jordan
I'm not a sports scientist, and someone will definitely be able to answer your question better than myself. But ill have a stab at it.
Often breathing is less to do with the amount of oxygen we can get in to the system and more to do with expelling the CO2 produced during respiration. 
The effect of Lactic acid and CO2 is similar. 
A by-product of metabolism is carbon dioxide. Part of the lungs’ function is to rid the blood of carbon dioxide. As exercise continues, or exercise intensity increases, more carbon dioxide is produced and needs to be removed. Increased breathing rate allows carbon dioxide to be expired more rapidly.
If you are working anaerobically, I.e. metabolising without the use of oxygen. Then an increase in exhalation rate is needed to remove the by-products of this.
As humans we are unique in our ability to breathe at a rate that isn't dictated by our cadence. Quadrupedal animals such as horses have breathing that is controlled at high intensity by the contraction of their legs together and then the subsequent extension, allowing the lungs to expand and gather air. This leads to overheating and the inability to maintain high intensities for the same periods as humans. 
This is the reason why humans will often beat horses in ultramarathons, slow and steady wins the race. 
I'd focus more on being relaxed during paddling, and less on your breathing,  the breathing will come naturally when you relax. 
The following user(s) said Thank You: SurfskiEstonia

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1 week 1 day ago #33220 by Wavehugger
I do not have any knowledge to contribute to this topic, but I thoroughly enjoy reading about this. So I just want to say: thanks for another great contribution to this forum, SurfskiEstonia. I truly enjoy your inquisitive mind :-)

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1 week 1 day ago #33221 by SurfskiEstonia
Jordan, thank You for this very relevant response. I was looking for this bit "If you are working anaerobically, I.e. metabolising without the use of oxygen. Then an increase in exhalation rate is needed to remove the by-products of this." I will look further into it.

I have been going to the gym for a long time and have learnt to always exhale on exertion. For that reason I haven't been able to make paddle strokes of the same efficiency on inhale and exhale alike - the exhale is always much more composed with the transfer of force much more effective. If this is purely an anaerobic threshold question, I will research how to work on it.

Wavehugger, thanks a lot for the kind words :) I often feel that my posts are kind of irritating to some, so it's nice to hear words of encouragement. In my years of doing various sports, I've learnt that without proper theory and instruction, there can be no real proficiency.

Our K1 coaches are not very bio-mechanics oriented, not sure why. They mostly insist on improving physical endurance off-water, which I understand, but don't think sufficient. For example, I have seen in some youtube video, that coaches in the west talk about nuances in posture, geometry etc. One of the issues I'd like to explore more in the near future, is the positioning of hips in relation to shoulders during the forward stroke. Another one is the paddling style of floating over water, rather than sitting in the bucket, to improve speed and stability. But those are other topics.

The breathing issue is a much more pressing one, among other things because it causes a great deal of fatigue on longer paddles, including total shutdown. I'm paddling 4-5 times a week in the summer, doing 10-12 km each time. I'm thinking of doing one 25 km paddle once a week to start improving endurance in the boat.

Again, if anyone has other thoughts, comments or suggestions, please share :)
 

Nelo Ocean Ski L, Jantex Gamma Mid, Jantex Gamma Rio Large Minus

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1 week 1 day ago #33223 by DMax
A great read!  Love checking into this forum....next best thing to being on the water!

Anyway re: Another one is the paddling style of floating over water, rather than sitting in the bucket, to improve speed and stability. But those are other topics.

Your comment about 'floating' rather than 'sitting' on the water struck a chord with me.  When paddling in the bump I can often hear myself saying 'glide on the water, don't paddle in the water'. 

For me, this is the difference between being thrown around in the ocean by every single drop of confused water, side chop, refraction etc and feeling as unbalanced as my bank account, versus being able to more or less weave a path of least resistance between the lumps and bumps, such that the ski is suddenly taking advantage of little runs, peaks, troughs etc.  If I can achieve this type of transition, I find that balance kicks in and tends to almost look after itself (but certainly not always!) and I also notice that physical tension (not to mention psychological) decreases significantly. As a result, I can start to focus on better rotation and achieving a better catch and pull phase.  I'm certainly not saying that I can turn this state on and off at will, but it tends to be happening more regularly and it's a great thing to focus on.  

I've got a long way to go in terms of mastering open water downwind paddling, but for me, it's the milestones along the way that make this sport so exciting and rewarding and keep me wanting more.  I don't mean to get too philosophical, but purely from a layman's perspective, it often strikes me that ocean paddling (and no doubt, many other sports, pastimes, and interests) ticks some of those basic human needs boxes, that Abraham Maslow refers to in his Hierarchy of Human Needs (e.g. realising personal potential, seeking personal growth and peak experiences).  When I think about ocean paddling, Maslow's definition of 'peak experience' resonates with me.  He says 'This occurs when a person experiences the world totally for what it is, and there are feelings of euphoria, joy, and wonder'.  I reckon paddling ticks that box big time!

Anyway enough rambling from me (I can see the guys I paddle with rolling their eyes and shaking their heads if they read this). Hope that everyone is enjoying their paddling!

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5 days 5 hours ago - 5 days 5 hours ago #33229 by SurfskiEstonia
Thanks DMax! I agree totally with the concept of gliding on the water, especially in the chop and small waves / chop. In my case, the main problem with being able to do that for extended periods of time, is muscle fatigue in the lower back. I feel that especially strong in really unstable K1s. My back just gives up and I try to rest on the back deck while bracing like crazy:)

I'm a little surprised that there haven't been many opinions expressed on the topic of breathing. I have a feeling paddlers consider this a personal secret.. Can't imagine people just breathing as it comes for 1+ hours while working hard:)

 P.S. DMax, is it possible You drive an Isuzu truck? If so, I congratulate You on that cool choice!!

Nelo Ocean Ski L, Jantex Gamma Mid, Jantex Gamma Rio Large Minus

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4 days 45 minutes ago #33231 by DMax
Hahaha!  No, I drive a Mitsubishi actually!  First name Dave and middle is Maxwell, so that's where DMax comes from. In terms of breathing, a paddle coach once told me to exhale on one side and inhale on the other (say exhale left catch and then inhale on the right side catch).  This works pretty well for me, and I find that it helps with getting some rhythm as well.

I'm trying nose breathing as well and Tim Altman has some good You Tube stuff on this that you might find interesting.


Cheers, Dave

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