Taking a new breathe

Trek-Segafredo learns new breathing techniques to aid performance

Science says, if you don't breathe for three minutes, you can suffer serious damage. Well, freedivers regularly dive for 8 or 10 minutes with no air source. Given the right techniques, you can significantly improve your breathing.

- Dr. Mike Maric


This story is the reworking of an article we ran in December 2016


Of the many luminaries who flew in from around the world to bring expertise and innovation to the Trek-Segafredo December training camp just over one year ago, Dr. Mike Maric was one of the most eclectic. A medical practitioner and forensic pathologist attached to the University of Pavia in Italy, Maric is also a former World Champion freediver and world record holder.

As well as taking an academic interest in pulmonary pathology, Maric acquired new breathing techniques while working as a safety freediver alongside the legendary Umberto Pelizzari who, as well as freediving to 131m, grew the sport, established new techniques, and is widely considered its most important exponent. By combining Pelizzari’s techniques with medical research and studies in yoga and physiotherapy, Maric has developed advanced coaching practices that have benefitted an impressive client list of world-class athletes.

"We are used to reading about athletes with lung capacities of five or six liters, but the elasticity of the breathing system that freedivers have developed can give you the equivalent of 11 or 12-liter lungs, or even more."

Just over one year later, and Mike Maric has returned, this time he joined the team at the January training camp in Mallorca, where he again led the team through a series of breathing exercises. For Maric, his goal is simple: to teach breathing techniques he knows can be a game changer for athletes.

Maric explained:

"I showed the guys new techniques, new exercises this year. Everyone talks about the training, many people talk about supplements and nutrition, but not many are talking about the breathing techniques. I think this is the 'now 'for improving performance; not something of the future but for the present."

You may have heard of belly breathing in cycling and even seen those photos that showed pro cyclists with extended stomachs like they had consumed a little too much beer in the off-season. But belly breathing, also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing, can make a difference, pointed out Maric.

"I think breathing training can help manage the stressful situations, and also help with the performance and increase recovery. We now know that you can decrease the consummation of oxygen and then you have more oxygen for the muscles, and in this way, you can improve the power. Okay, it isn't quite true that breathing is everything. Sports performance is highly complex. It depends on many different factors. But one thing is certain: if you cannot control your breathing, you are not going to be able to control your body or your mind either."

"To learn to breathe from the belly is not so hard in a room when it is quiet, but to transform to a race or training, is a little bit complicated. But the real problem is to understand what we have to do because it's not easy to know how to move the diaphragm, how to increase the elasticity of the diaphragm. Because you cannot see the diaphragm and it's difficult to feel this. The first part of working with the guys is to give them that quality, to be conscious about this, then we start with the training."

Maric is passionate and believes in his work. While it’s a lot to grasp in a short period of time that he has at the training camp each year, he knows he has raised the riders’ curiosity and seen their willingness to learn about the new techniques.

"The guys try, and I have given them guidelines, but it's not easy to learn breathing training."

He hopes that some of the riders are benefiting from his exercises, and for those who do want more, he is open to working with personally throughout the year, as he does with several athletes.

"This is my métier; I want to make a difference. This is one of the reasons why I am honored to be working with Trek-Segafredo."

You can find more information about Mike Maric and the science of breathing by visiting his website: mikemaric.com