The effect of breathing pattern retraining on performance in competitive cyclists

Vickery, Rachel L
Nicholls, David
Kilding, Andrew
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The increased work of breathing associated with intense cycling has been identified as a factor that may negatively affect cycling performance. The aerodynamic position, abnormal respiratory mechanics either at rest or during exercise, and the development of a tachypnoeic breathing pattern are factors known to increase the work of breathing. Breathing pattern retraining aims to decrease the work of breathing by delaying the onset of dynamic hyperinflation and the recruitment of accessory breathing muscles. To date no studies have investigated the performance, physiological and perceptual consequences of manipulating breathing pattern in trained cyclists. Purpose: The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of breathing pattern retraining on 20-km time trial performance and respiratory and metabolic measures in competitive cyclists. Method: Twenty-four competitive male cyclists (age 37.7 ± 8.6 years, mean ± SD; peak 4.34 ± 0.47 L·min-1) were match paired on 20-km time trial performance and assigned at random to either an intervention group (breathing pattern retraining; N = 12) or control group (N = 12). 20-km time trial performance, pulmonary function and the physiological and perceptual response during a maximal incremental cycle step test were assessed pre- and post-intervention. The intervention group underwent four weeks of specific breathing pattern retraining using exercises designed to reduce dynamic hyperinflation and optimise respiratory mechanics. The control group attended the laboratory once a week during this period and performed a 10 minute sub-maximal ride wearing a biofeedback breathing harness. The control group was led to believe the purpose for their participation was to investigate the effect that maximal exercise had on breathing pattern, and to test the reliability of the breathing harness. There was no attempt to modify the breathing pattern of the control group. Data were analysed using an MS Excel spreadsheet designed for statistical analysis. The uncertainty in the effect was expressed as 90% confidence limits and a smallest worthwhile effect of 1.0% was assumed. Results: The intervention group showed substantial improvements in 20-km time trial performance (-1.5 ± 1.1%) and incremental power (3.2 ± 3%). Additionally, breathing frequency (-13.2 ± 8.9%; -9.5 ± 8.4%), tidal volume (10.6 ± 8.5%; 9.4 ± 7.6%), inspiratory time (10.1 ± 8%; 9.4 ± 7.7%), breathing RPE (-30 ± 33.9%; -24.7 ± 28.1%) and leg RPE (-27.9 ± 38.5%; -24.7 ± 28.2%) were all positively affected at lactate threshold and lactate turn point. No positive changes were observed in the control group for 20-km time trial performance (0.0 ± 1.0%), incremental power (-1.4 ± 3.5%), breathing frequency (-1.6 ± 8.0%; -2.0 ± 7.9%), tidal volume (0.9 ± 7.2%; 2.9 ± 9.4%), breathing RPE (16.1 ± 50.2%, 24.8 ± 43%) or leg RPE (13.4 ± 39.6%; 19.9 ± 43.2%) . Conclusion: These results provide evidence of the performance enhancing effect of four weeks of breathing pattern retraining in cyclists. Furthermore, they suggest breathing pattern can be retrained to exhibit a controlled pattern, without a tachypnoeic shift, during high intensity cycling. Additionally, these results indicate breathing pattern retraining attenuates the respiratory and peripheral perceived effort during incremental exercise. Key words: Breathing pattern disorders, retraining, blood stealing, cycling, performance, power output, respiratory mechanics, perceived exertion, 20km-TT

Breathing pattern disorders , Cycling , Power output , Respiratory mechanics , Perceived exertion , Randomised controlled trial
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