Viktor Thorup: Olympian’s Breath Training Journey

January 21, 2022

Before Airofit: A true expert

As a professional ice speed skater, Viktor is well aware of what his body is capable of. After all, you don’t stand on the World Cup podium, nor hold the Danish National Record for the men’s 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, and 10000m without keeping good track of all your data. He placed 5th in his first Mass Start at the 2018 Winter Olympics, an impressive result for such a complex race.

What’s more, the Mass Start is also dangerous! You can only imagine competing in a 400-meter track of frozen water, with many other skaters that are also trying to beat the clock at the same time as you are. Surely, one thing ice speed skaters must practice is control and focus.

But this was something that Viktor had been studying for years. He had been skating since he was 6 and ever since he got into this sport, he started thinking a bit more about sleep, nutrition, and the impact of lifestyle changes on his performance. This was the reason why, apart from being a professional speed skater, he decided to get a degree in Health and Nutrition. So, we know Viktor is a complete expert in everything sports-related.

And because of his expertise, he knew that there was a certain limit to what he could accomplish “just” with “regular” training. As a very competitive athlete, he wanted to look for those “extra gains”, and he had to look for solutions outside the “norm”. 

“The good thing about Ice skating is that we only compete for four months and then we have the rest of the year to try new things.”

That’s how he found out that strengthening his lungs could actually boost his performance. He started tracking his Vital Lung Capacity with a rather uncomfortable and very mechanical device but by doing so, he could truly perceive how his breathing had an impact on his overall life. However, for Viktor, this kind of tracking opened a window of opportunity that he had not perceived before. 

“I generally try to look at objective data, at facts that I can actually measure.
Because there is a lot of placebo in this. And I had used other tracking devices but I noticed that they would not work that well.”

So, eventually, with this interest in looking for changes to take a step further in his already successful career, Viktor started training with Airofit.

Adding Respiratory Training to the equation

No, it was not a massive change. He did not change his training, his lifestyle, or anything else. He was just including a custom-made 5-12 minute session to his everyday routine. And this seemingly small change had a huge impact on him.  

“If you train 10 different things at the same time, then you do not really know what is working.”

In that sense, he made sure he KNEW what benefits he was getting from Airofit. The results shocked him; he soon noticed how his heart rate slowed down within only a few weeks of using Airofit.

As a dedicated and very complete athlete, Viktor also loves cycling and when he’s not skating, he’s biking. And even on the bike, he could notice outstanding results. 

“Lowering my heart rate happened quite early after using Airofit.

At the beginning, when I was doing those long 5-hour bike rides I maintained the same wattage as usual but my heart rate dropped by 4 or 5 bpm, which is a lot. I was just more conscious of my breathing and then my breathing was not something I had to fight anymore, it was just functioning. So I just relieved more stress and spent less energy.

Now, at 370 watts (which is close to my functional threshold power), my heart rate is 8 beats lower than last year. And then I thought I was just getting fitter but my maximum heart rate hasn’t changed for the last three years. And this was the first time that at 370 watts, I was just breathing calmly.”

Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable

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“One thing is having strong lungs and another thing is having functional lungs.” 

So, to Viktor, training with Airofit was actually like learning how to breathe properly, to access that space of his lungs that he didn’t know existed, and that would eventually give him a competitive advantage.

Because let’s face it, no one likes to feel out of breath. Once you run out of breath, you start hyperventilating, then your body starts overreacting and that’s when your performance starts decreasing. You lack focus, you make the wrong choices, and suddenly, you go blank. But not with respiratory muscle training, not anymore. For Viktor, learning how to breathe like Airofit taught him every day was like increasing his “breathing comfortably threshold”.

Airofit truly made a difference, it was the one thing that taught her how to breathe the right way in order to have control; from doing the exercises on the Airofit app she learned that she was not even using her diaphragm (an essential respiratory muscle) for breathing.

“At some point, you become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and then, you stop worrying about breathing.”

Better than ever 

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Another sure thing was that Viktor was going to continue tracking his Vital Lung Capacity as he always had. And as he did, he was shocked. Ever since he became a professional athlete, he had been looking for ways to increase his VLC, to push his body to go further but he would have never guessed that the secret lied in a few minutes of guided respiratory training a day! In a matter of a few months, his VLC of 8 liters had increased to almost 12 liters!

“I spent almost 8 years to get to 7-8 liters and the last time I checked, my VLC was at 11.7L!”

Moreover, Viktor’s “extra gains” went well beyond how fast he could go without getting tired. After all, he was well aware of the fact that performance depended on more than just physical training. So, for a while, he had been using Whoop to monitor his sleep. With Airofit, he could notice that he was able to wake up more and more refreshed. When he actually saw the data, he could really see why! He compared the four months before and after starting his respiratory muscle training and saw that his deep sleep, the one that actually gets you to feel rested, had significantly improved. 

“With Airofit, I immediately noticed that I improved my sleep. I use Whoop to track everything and I improved my deep sleep by 8%. And that’s a lot!”

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Watch full recording of Viktor Thorup’s talk with our Master Breath Coach, Sean Coakley