Welcome to the third episode of the Freediving Podcast by Renee Blundon. This episode is part one of five about the mental training and techniques that the world’s top freedivers use to prepare for their deep dives.
The freedivers at the highest level, may be somewhat well matched in terms of their breath-hold ability, conditioning, their physical abilities and skill level. But that alone is not enough to achieve world records and win World Championships and the major freediving competitions. Mental techniques and strategies is extremely important so that freedivers can get their minds in the best possible condition for optimal performance and relaxation.
Based on her own personal research from watching / reading interviews, by reading blogs and articles of the top freedivers, Renee will provide an overview of the kinds of techniques which these freedivers use to prepare for their dives. She’ll also give details and examples into these different techniques, and how they work, as well as how the techniques can be used by competitive freedivers to maximize your performance.
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Please enjoy this transcript of this podcast episode.
Hello and welcome to episode three of the Freediving Podcast, your source for information about training for freediving, not only so you can freedive better but so you can live the most healthy and EPIC life possible.
I am your host, Renee Blundon, and as always I will offer information about; how to improve your health and your nutrition for freediving, how to improve your fitness for freediving, your breathing and mental training, as well as helpful advice and training concepts for freediving in an enjoyable, safe and sustainable way.
This podcast represents the efforts of my own personal research and also my trial and error with my freediving training, as well as the combined efforts of a public open source information network which I invite you to join on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/freedivingpodcast, all are welcome!
If you wish to get additional podcasts they will be on the website at reneeblundon.com/podcast. There you can also sign-up for my new Friday 5 Newsletter.
Any questions and any information can be sent to me at [email protected]
Thank you all for listening!
Firstly, let me apologize for getting this episode out so late, I was extremely tied up with work and it just wasn’t possible to work on the podcast or much of anything else!
But now I’m happy to be back and my plan going forward is to put out shorter episodes and this way I can get the episodes up faster. Now, I can’t guarantee an episode every single week, but I will certainly try, and definitely an episode every two weeks is quite do-able. So I’m excited for this plan for going forward.
And so now let’s dive right in to this episode which will be about mental training for freediving.
And this will be the first of a series of five episodes on the topic where I’m gonna talk about some of the psychology behind freediving, as well as some of the mental techniques and mental preparation which top level freedivers use for their dives.
And feel free to listen afterward in the episode to find out what’s going on with me and my training!
So when we look at the sport of freediving, there’s clearly some freediving athletes at the top that are just so incredibly talented and so incredibly successful, who almost always perform just amazingly well on their dives!
For example Alexey Molchanov, William Trubridge, Guillaume Nery, David Mullins, Miguel Lozano, just to name a few of the top men as far as depth goes
And for the women we have… Alessia Zecchini, Hanako Hirose, Alenka Artnik, Sayuri Kinoshita, Natalia Molchanova…
And all of these top competitive freedivers, along with a handful of others, are athletes who train well and just clearly get it right on their dives, more often than not, both mentally and physically.
Not only achieving impressive national records and world records, but some even having world records across more than one discipline!
Alessia Zecchini for example currently holds the world record in constant weight, free-immersion and constant weight no fins.
And then, Alexey Molchanov holds the world records in CWT, FIM and CWTB
And something that I find just super interesting, is that all of these top freedivers, all have very different approaches – not just when it comes to their training, and their diet and so forth, but also their mental preparation which is what I’ll be focusing on in these next few episodes!
So, William Trubridge for example, used what he calls ‘the orange light visualization’ to achieve his 102 meter world record dive.
He wrote on his website, you can check it out at williamtrubridge.com under writings;
“I tend to plunder practices like yoga and zazen, taking from them exercises and concepts that I can apply to my training. One of these is the Qi Gong visualization of a ball of energy that is created with specific hand movements, and then stored in the body. I imagined this energy as an orange light, since orange is the complimentary color to the ocean’s blue, and I’m told helps to balance the time I spend in the water. After shaping it like a snowball with my hands, I visualized ‘storing’ it in the tanden (space between the navel and perineum that eastern martial arts retain is the seat of the body’s energy), to be accessed only during the ascent of the record attempt itself.”
And then, Alexey Molchanov uses attention deconcentration to prepare for his deep freedives. He said this in an interview on Youtube:
“So you have a physical preparation for your competitions, where you would do the trainings, do other types of preparation like stretching and fitness routine, and for mental part you would have your routine to prepare for the dive, where I would do the attention deconcentration routine, where I would distribute my attention over the vision field, and so I would control the vision field but I wouldn’t really analyze objects and I could move my attention to the body and meditate even better. Like following the breathing rhythm, but without controlling the breathing rhythm, I just enjoy the rhythm. And then that’ll bring my metabolic rate very low and then I will start the dive.”
Alessia Zeccini also openly shared on a Freedive Your Life Youtube Interview about how she improved her mental which lead her to win the gold metal in the World Championship.
She said, “I went 4-5 times in 2015 to a psychologist and really it helped me very much, because before I had sometimes a blackout or sometimes I am not much concentrated. And after that in 2015 I won my first gold metal in the world championship, he taught me a few things. But really important for me was like the visualization before the competition, for me it was a big improvement.”
So anyway those are just a few examples, but I’d say pretty much every top level freediving athlete does some kind of mental preparation for their dives and also during their dives, everyone using their own personalized approach, and even though all of them are different, they are all still very effective techniques.
And whatever types of mental training that a freediver does, these techniques and routines play such a big part on their dives…!
For example, Alenka Artnick who shared about her 90M CWTB world record dive, and you can see how important mind over matter by what she said which is;
“As everyone around me knew I was attempting the new bi-fin world record I could feel the pressure which prevented me from a good sleep the night before my first competition day. In the morning I felt tired and my confidence was weakened, but just until I came to the warm up line. I knew my physical condition was not optimal that day so I had to compensate with my mind and maximum relaxation. Finally I managed to put myself in the right mind set and made a nice dive with strong and clean protocol.”
And then with one day rest she did another world record dive in bi-fins, speaking again about how the mental confidence and relaxation helped her achieve the dive, and she said:
“After my 90m dive I had one day to rest and get ready for my next dive which was 92m. As I was very excited and happy but also busy giving interviews with media, I had a very short night and bad sleep again. Instead of feeling relieved as I already managed a world record dive, I felt stressed again. However, as I was showing really good physical shape during my preparation I knew I could repeat the dive. This time I could manage relaxation even better and had a perfect control until the end of the dive. It felt even easier with definitely more margin to go.”
So my point her is that the mental techniques that freedivers use are such a big part of the reason why top level freedivers are just so successful on their dives!
And then there’s also a matter of happens when things go wrong!
For example, you have a freediver who did the dive several times in training, and then on the day of the comp or on the record attempt; same place, same depth, same everything but then they fail the dive.
Maybe they turn early, or they black-out, they LMC
So the thing is, even the most talented, and the most well trained freedivers make mistakes on their dives.
Sometimes the freediver fails because of a physical issue, they get a sickness on the day of the comp or a few days before a competition. Sometimes it’s due to the challenging weather or the water conditions but many times, it’s the mental aspect.
Maybe the diver was overconfident and expected too much…
Maybe it was the stress and anxiety.
Either way, the mental training and the mindset of a freediver, can explain why such talented freedivers can fail their dives even when they did it in training and even when they expected and everyone expected that they’d achieve the dive without any problem!
And so then, when a freediver fails on their dive, the mental techniques and the mindset of that athlete can help when it comes to overcoming failed attempts, in order to be motivated and to improve for the next attempt, or the next competition…
William Trubridge is a perfect example of this, he blacked-out on his world record attempt of 102 meters no fins in December 2014, and he stated afterwards, he was totally positive about it and totally undeterred:
“While I am disappointed about not achieving my goal, this is just a plot twist and I am not putting off attempting it again in 2015 – I feel like I owe New Zealand a world record.”
So he was totally motivated to keep at it and keep training
And then in July 2016, nearly two years later, he did it! After training and working towards this goal for 5-1/2 years he finally achieved the World Record in no-fins, diving to 102 meters. And I find his passion and dedication to the sport is so inspiring.
And regarding the mental training for this dive he writes:
“It was clear that the ‘taper phase’ of my training had been stretched out too long, and my performance was faltering. My body was still capable of a 102m dive, but I would have to use every resource and mental strategy available to me in order to ensure that on the day of the attempt I would still be fresh and focused. As freedivers we must evolve an arsenal of different mental techniques in order to keep one step ahead of the mind’s capricious antics.”
So basically all top level freediving athletes as well as their coaches and anyone who’s been freediving for some time now, know very well the importance of mental training for freediving, and the difference that it can make in performing these dives which are just SO MENTAL!
So, I’m gonna cover just quickly here, what do I mean by mental techniques for freediving?
Basically, this is the practice of mental preparation for the sport of freediving. There are techniques and strategies that are used for freediving performance.
So it involves first identifying the different techniques and the different strategies that you can use, and then applying them in your routine to help you perform more optimally on your dives.
It can help freedivers deal with the stress and anxiety associated with freediving, it can help you deal with set-backs so you can come back from a failed dive attempt or a black-out or injury and the like.
So I’ll just begin to unpack some of these mental strategies that freedivers use.
If we try to look inside the mind of a successful freediving athlete, what are the factors that can be linked to success in freediving?!!
Well first! A freediver definitely needs to be motivated!
And often the goals that freedivers set will describe and will demonstrate just how much effort and will they have in order to perform their dives!
Alessia Zecchini speaks about goals during her interview with Freedive Your Life stating:
“I want always to have some goals and something that I, can be proud of this, but to do it I have to do something, I have to train. If I want to win a competition, I have to train. I have to concentrate a lot, for doing this. So the motivation is about the goal.”
But motivation and goal setting, alone isn’t enough! Because a successful freediver also has to be confident! Not overconfident or arrogant, but having a good belief in one-self is definitely present among the top freedivers in the world.
And there’s a ton of mental strategies and techniques that freedivers use to boost their confidence for their dives! Which we will discuss in the episode about confidence!
Then another important factor is; experience and knowledge about the sport of freediving, knowing freediving inside and out, having good techniques to move in the water, having the experience to adapt to pressure, for building up the breath-holding, and things like that.
And being that freediving takes place in the natural environment, if we’re speaking about depth here, knowing about water conditions and weather conditions and how they’re going to impact your dives and your announcement and your planning.
So that’s another one, experience and knowledge.
Top freedivers are also very good in using routines, and getting themselves in the right frame of mind, being very present and being relaxed. So that’s another one, routines.
And they’re also very good at handling pressure and anxiety, how a freediver manages stress is clearly an important aspect, staying relaxed enough in order to perform at his / her best and keeping that heart rate low while you’re on the spot and the whole world is watching.
So that’s another very important element of mental training.
So that will conclude this episode of the podcast.
And in next 4 episodes, I’ll be looking at all of those different mental strategies in more detail!
Next week’s episode, episode 4 will be on Motivation and Goal Setting
Episode 5 will be about Confidence and with some specific techniques for improving the confidence for your dives.
Episode 6 will be about mindfulness and some of the routines that top freedivers use to get in that right frame of mind.
And then episode 7 will be about anxiety and stress management
So definitely be on the lookout for those! I hope to get one episode out per week or at least every two weeks!
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And when you sign-up for the group, there’s an option where you can enter your email to sign up for the Friday 5 newsletter, this isn’t required but I think you’ll like it.
Or keep in mind, you can also sign up for the newsletter at my website, reneeblundon.com, whichever is easier.
The Friday 5 newsletter is an inspirational little round-up of my 5 facts, fun and f’ups of the week! A lot of freediving tips, some motivational stuff, some interesting studies I come across and other various findings.
So that’s it for now!
Please share this widely and dive safe!
Thank you very much for listening
So I thought I’d spend some time at the end of every episode just sharing a bit about what’s going on with me and in my freediving training!
Right now it’s depth season in Dahab!
And the water is super warm and super amazing and the conditions are just perfect, the water’s pretty flat most days and clear and so I’m taking advantage of this and doing my depth training at the moment from now until, well like November when it starts getting cold
And I’m doing a mix of depth training, one day doing a few warm-ups and then a deep dive and that’s it, and then another day doing a shallower training day at Lighthouse, just doing FRC dives, and then on some days doing 3-4 medium depth dives, like maybe it’s 5-10 meters below my PB for the season.
I’m doing meditation every morning, I highly recommend the Headspace App, I really like the chapter on Focus, it’s where you focus your attention on the different points in the body, and you imagine these points for example your feet, your naval, solar plexus, chest, throat, brow and then six inches above the head, so you imagine these different points like a glowing ball and then you shift the focus from one point to another to another, and then at some point you let go of that focus completely and you just let your mind be free, and the feeling of this is kind of like the flow state. It’s very similar to like when I’m in the free-fall and I’m just like falling down. It’s really amazing, it’s hard to explain, but if you try it you’ll see what I mean.
So I’m doing that every morning, and then I’m trying to do at least every other day, chest and back stretching using the bridge tool and doing a slow pranayama breathing through the mouth while I’m laying on it. So I basically lay down on the bridge, so chest facing up, and then doing very slow breathing, like slow steady breathing, five breaths breathing as slow as possible, a steady stream to the belly, and then five breaths to the ribs area, only the ribs, and then five breaths to the chest, only the chest area. And then after that, five complete breaths, belly-ribs-chest, breathing as slowly as possible and as steadily as possible. So it’s like you’re sipping the tiniest straw you can ever imagine. And keep in mind you don’t even need a bridge to do this exercise, you can use for example a small yoga ball, it’s obviously not ideal because it’s a little hard to stay balanced on it, but maybe you can prop it between some pillows. Or you can use just a pile of pillows, and just like lay back on it, sort of arch yourself a little bit, kind of like a backbend position.
Anyway, this exercise, I’m finding is really helping improve the flexibility of the chest, of the lungs, and I think it’s improving the lung capacity, it’s hard to know for sure, but it feels like it is.
And it literally feels like I’m stretching from like the inside out and I find that after the exercise which is actually quite meditative by the way, I can breathe so much better, I feel much more open, my posture is more correct, I’m not slouching as much and I also feel a lot more flexible and open during my breathe-up and during the dives. So yeah, maybe I’ll do a podcast episode on this whole thing, and I can explain better.
But yeah so that’s all keeping me quite busy with the depth training and then the meditation and the stretching and the breathing stuff. So yeah that’s all that’s going on for me. See you guys and have a great day!