Graeme Obree’s 3 phase breathing technique
So, a couple of months ago I came across Graeme Obree’s training manual, The Obree Way. It’s his take on how to train, be it preparing your equipment (especially the turbo trainer), what sessions to do and when, what to eat, etc. Given what the man achieved, I thought it would be a very good idea to pay attention to what he has to say. It’s a pretty fascinating read and challenges conventional cycle training thinking (or at least what I’ve read) frequently. It contains a lot of material that is quite esoteric, and so it will appeal to you if you like an alternative view. It has quite a ‘secret squirrel’ feel to it, too. You feel as if he has beckoned you over and is whispering some words of advice that are not for the ears of others.
One example that stuck in my head, not particularly related to cycling, is where he comments about going out for a meal with friends (something he does infrequently, as he is often training). He says that when out at a restaurant, often people will order a starter and a main, then fill themselves up too much and so everyone skips dessert. But he really likes dessert. So he will order his favourite pudding as a starter 😀 The book is full of this stuff. He will not bat an eyelid about going against the grain, if he thinks and can then prove that it is beneficial.
For me the stand-out section in the book is about breathing. He developed a special technique, and then spent years trying to keep it secret from competitors and foreign cycling organisations, claiming that throughout the time, only two other people knew of it’s existence. He says that if you master it, you’ll gain 3-8% capacity, based on tests he did with his friends. That is interesting, is it not?!
The basic idea behind it is that you need to get as much fresh air as possible into the lungs and leave it there for a while, so as much oxygen as possible can be absorbed and then get rid of it all very quickly. It’s not possible to breathe slowly at a high level of exertion, so his technique is 3 phase:
- Deep breath out, deep breath in
- Half breath out, half breath in
- Smaller half breath out, smaller half breath in
After the deep breath in, you replace a small amount of the air that’s in the lungs with fresh air with a half breath, and then a smaller amount again, before expelling it all. This means your lungs are fuller for longer and the gas exchange (O2 in, CO2 out) is more effective. You can breath quickly, as your exertion will demand, but avoid the gasping that we often end up doing when you start to get into serious debt. You can see the logic!
Since I read the book, I have been trying it out, now and again. It’s not natural though, so it takes concentration. I think a concerted effort to do it all the time when on the bike (and maybe off it, too) could make it automatic. It would of course also be possible to carry out some tests to see how effective it is.
I’ll leave you with a video I found of Obree discussing the technique: