‘He is obsessed with details’
Follows Feyenoord on behalf of NOS Sport
Follows Feyenoord on behalf of NOS Sport
Feyenoord player Marcus Pedersen said he benefited from a “breathing coach” after his late, winning goal against AZ. It helps him stay energized longer in games, and thus it may have contributed to that goal.
That breathing coach Pedersen mentioned is Robbin Vredeveld (30). The two do a weekly session. “It’s not woolly stuff. I lay the foundation on which soccer players can improve their performance.”
Turning the helm
Vredeveld had a “false start” in life. Born with a severe form of asthma, he was immediately separated from his mother and lived in an asthma center for the first few years. He grew over most of the symptoms, but the interest in breathing remained.
After his mother died of cardiac arrest at the age of 55 and he had always seen his entrepreneurial father and stepfather stressed out, he changed course. A stressful job as a policy advisor was traded in for his passion.
“I was always interested in human behavior,” Vredeveld says now. “It was a passion, with books and courses. Until the death of my mother. I realized that life is short, quit my job and gave myself one year to permanently retrain.”
More than breathing
So now Vredeveld is known as a “breathing coach,” but he explains that his work involves more than breathing. “I help people with awareness. I help them perform better, sleep deeper and recover faster. Among other things, with breathing exercises, but also with mental coaching, cold training and mindset. In this, your breathing is the remote control of your nervous system.”
Vredeveld focuses on top athletes. This came about through a good friend of his, Ramon Hendriks, who was rented to FC Utrecht by Feyenoord. Vredeveld helped Hendriks recover from a serious injury, and the soccer player noticed that it made him fit faster and feel better about himself.
“He told that at the club and that’s how Marcus Pedersen, among others, became interested,” Vredeveld said. “I now work with many soccer players, including from Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV. The focus is only on Pedersen, because he is very open about it. That is taboo-breaking.”
“I want to teach everyone who comes to me what happens in your body emotionally, physically and mentally when you experience stress or pressure. Breathing is an underexposed aspect in soccer players. They need to learn about their bodies so they recognize, acknowledge and regulate signals from their bodies. Science shows that through breathwork, stress levels drop significantly and performance improves.”
“I train players to improve CO2 tolerance so they can perform better under high pressure. With Marcus, I do that by doing an hour of breathwork every week, going over his internal state and sitting in an ice bath after practice. He is also given protocols for increased oxygen intake and maximum focus. This means he is more efficient and can do more with less.”
“For example, an ice bath helps improve mental resilience, speed up recovery and produce happiness hormones. As a result, you have ‘mental clarity.’ Because your dopamine and adrenaline skyrocket, you get into a ‘happy state.’ It lowers stress levels. Do you do this frequently? Then you feel happier. A cold shower has about the same effect.”
Peace of mind
“These workouts help Marcus with focus, energy and recovery. And most importantly, peace in his head. More peace in your head and a powerful feeling in your body will improve your performance. Train your ‘mind’ and your body will follow. In that, you make great strides when functional breathing, self-awareness and regulation have become a habit.”
“Partly because of the protocols before, during and after matches, Marcus has less shortness of breath, acidification and just more focus. He can also maintain his energy levels well. This makes it easier for him to keep up a race. Marcus is incredibly driven. He is obsessed down to the detail level.”
Vredeveld, a Rotterdam soccer fan, watches every game of the soccer players he coaches. He pays attention to their posture. For example, does he see high shoulders and mouth breathing? If so, he sees breathing patterns that cause less focus and more fatigue, acidosis and even injury. During sessions, Vredeveld discusses this.
“We often use our mouth and chest to breathe, but not our nose and diaphragm. As a result, we ‘breathe too much’ and the body is in stress mode all day. All of today’s stimuli then don’t help either. This takes energy and gives less time to recover. This is why many of us always feel rushed, tired or weak.”
“People who overbreathe often suffer from high blood pressure or heart rate because their nervous system is overloaded by chronic stress. Those people benefit from breathing less, more slowly and more deeply. In this way, they prevent long-term symptoms such as stress, lowered immunity, burnout and, in time, disease. A simple tip: when you feel stress, breathe out through your nose twice as long as you breathe in. It’s the first step to more peace of mind. Pedersen proves that.”