These athletes hold their breath for five minutes

Red Bull High Performance trains top athletes to stay calm, go with the flow – and not breathe.
© Bryce Groark/Red Bull Content Pool
By Nate Hoppes

Would you believe that with just one day of detailed anatomy classes and a few intense training sessions, you could hold your breath for close to five minutes – and that it could dramatically improve your athletic performance?

This Red Bull High Performance camp, originally designed as a survival camp for surfers to develop their ability to hold their breath in extreme situations with increased confidence and comfort, has now been opened up to athletes from multiple disciplines.

I was in absolute disbelief of what the body is capable of doing. I improved my breath hold by 400 percent in day one. It gave me a lot of confidence in the water

The 2014 class that travelled to Kona, Hawaii, to participate in the programme included professional gamer Jimmy Ho, motorsports legends Travis Pastrana and Tarah Gieger, snowboarder Ben Ferguson, freeskier Bobby Brown, Olympic slopestyle skiing champion Dara Howell, surf ironman Matt Poole and surf ironwoman Jordan Mercer.

In theory, if an athlete can learn how to control their breathing and stay relaxed under uncomfortable, challenging and stressful circumstances, they will be able to perform at a high level no matter the playing field.

"You have the physiological limit in terms of how long you can hold your breath," explained Andy Walshe, Director of Red Bull High Performance. "You have this idea of how far and how deep you can go. All you [the athletes] do all week is bang up against that limit."

Unlike the coach who rides in a golf cart while yelling at you to run up a hill, Andy Walshe participated alongside the athletes in the programme. "You can't watch this from the sidelines and get a real sense of what they are experiencing.”

The athletes are challenged to push through their mental and physical limits while free diving to the bottom of the ocean. The life-saving techniques they learned in the process can be applied to any high-pressure situation.

Mercer understands that this type of training is a much-needed step to achieving her latest goal of big-wave surfing. "If I want to paddle into a 20-foot wave, which is a goal of mine, breath-hold camp was a great place to start. I was in absolute disbelief of what the body is capable of doing. I improved my breath hold by 400 percent in day one. It gave me a lot of confidence in the water."

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