Hopefully you have had the opportunity to work with the first rhythm, your breath and the tips I offered in my first article on breathing. There are many rhythms going on simultaneously, and in this article I will speak about each sport and its rhythms, starting with swimming.
Rhythms in Swimming
Your breath is completely different in the water than out of the water and finding your breathing rhythm is critical. Beginners often hold their breath while under water. Begin by noticing if you blow small bubbles out during your exhale, and while your face is in the water. If not, begin to learn to do so. Otherwise you are holding your breath and waiting until you turn your face to take in another breath. It will feel difficult to take in a breath if you haven’t exhaled under water and made room for the next inhale. Once you develop blowing bubbles and exhaling under water, you can start to focus on the rhythm of you arms and stroking. As you swim, draw awareness to your stroke and notice the rhythm just like the beat of a song. In your stroke there is a rhythm, and the turning of your head to take a breath must become part of your arm stroke rhythm. This awareness creates improvement and adds clarity. Finding the rhythm between these two movements is essential for an effortless swim.
In addition, notice the rhythm of kicking of your legs and feet, as well as the slight turn in your pelvis. Shifting your attention to each of these areas and feeling the rhythm will help you to develop your own natural pace leading to a more effortless swim.
Rhythms in Running
Breathing while running is much more natural than trying to pace your breath while in water. Once you begin to run, I recommend drawing your attention and awareness to your breathing as soon as possible.
You want to find your rhythm right from the beginning. If not, you will be off to a bad start that may perpetuate for the entire run. The key is in your exhale, as discussed in my previous article, to find a rhythm and flow between your inhale and exhale. This does not mean slow; it means find a flow like the beat of a song. A beat can be fast or it can be slow, but it must be consistent. Once you’ve established your breathing rhythm, you can shift your attention to your feet, feeling the rhythm of each foot stepping onto the pavement or trail. Just like the beat of a song. I know many of you may indeed listen to music while running, I do too, and this is fine. It provides a beat, and a rhythm to connect to. This can help you increase your stride when there is a faster beat, or slow it down giving yourself a bit of a break. Make sure to always have your breathing rhythm regulated and consistent so you don’t run out of gas.
While running, there is also the rhythm with your arms. I like focusing on my elbows and how they brush along my sides pulling backwards. As the motion gets larger or faster, your gait will follow and become larger and faster. In many ways, the pulling back of your elbows regulates your entire gait. This is a great way to play with increasing your speed and then adapting your breath to the faster pace to learn to run faster with efficiency.
Rhythms in Cycling
Once you are on your bike, take a moment to tune into your breath and become aware of your inhale, your exhale, and your rhythm. The next greatest rhythm in cycling is in the turnover of your legs. I like the image of a clock, which is used in many spinning classes. Visualize twelve o’clock being the top of the circle, and six o’clock at the bottom. Three o’clock is half way down in front and nine o’clock is pulling half way up the backside. As you’re pedaling, you can draw attention to one of these four spots on the clock. Nine o’clock is a great place to develop your skill in pulling up to twelve o’clock. Bring your attention and focus to pulling up at nine to twelve o’clock. I prefer to focus on one leg at a time, then after a minute I will shift to the other leg. Find the rhythm and smoothness in this area of pulling up.
It is very useful if you have any kind of console or tracking device to view your RPMs and or watts. When you have found a rhythm, you will find your RPMs will stay very consistent and hopefully the watts will stay very consistent and high as well. It is important to regulate the rhythm in your pedaling as well as in your breathing. Shift your attention to each of the four quadrants of the clock because this helps to develop both your push and pull, and obviously awareness. As you shift from one quadrant to the next, make sure to check in with your breathing and make sure there is still a rhythm and ease to your breath. From here, you can play with adding in a surge with a sprint or a hill climb. Obviously your pedal rhythm and RPMS will jump up, but can you maintain higher RPMs with the quality of smoothness and effortlessness still in your breathing?
Smoothness is one of the keys to feeling your rhythm whether your pedaling on your bike, running on a trail or treadmill, or stroking the water with your arms while swimming. Give these tips a try the next time your out for a spin, a run or a swim and most of all, have fun!