How should we train? Is strength training for freediving a good idea? Are bigger muscles better or worse? Should we hit up the gym in the off season?
I have alluded to some of these questions in previous posts and newsletters. In my mind, there is no doubt that a well trained muscle performs better during freediving activities. Unless you are purely interested in statics, strength training will benefit you.
Muscles store both energy and oxygen, and a trained muscle can store more of both. But (there is always a but), it is difficult to load a muscle with oxygen, or rather, the oxygen carrying protein myoglobin. So instead I’ll show you how you can load it with energy, or rather, the phoshate molecule creatine phosphate.
Woops you’re too late! This competition has ended & the winners have been notified.
In the final part of Yoga For Freediving, Sara Campbell teaches us how to prepare for dives. She teaches us how to do a 30 minute warm up specific for freediving. This includes spinal energizers and intercostal stretches and much more. Following the warmup are about 15 minutes of lung stretches. Because not everyone is at the same level, both the warmups and the lung stretches come in three varieties: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
In Pre-Dive Preparation, Sara gives you a modernization of the best of Kundalini Yoga, and of the freediving manuals that exist today. Better yet, she is right in front of you as she guides you through the practice.
True, you could probably think of your own stretching routine, and some of you might even stick to it. You may even have half a notebook full of the exercises that work for you. But when it comes to it… Do you tend cutting them short half way if you get distracted, or do you simply not make time for them? If nothing else, Sara keeps you honest.
The first time we used the Pre-Dive Preparation course for our… well, pre-dive preparation, we had 2 personal bests in one diving session. We are sold.
To enter the competition, you simply need to leave a comment! Better still, subscribe to our e-mail list while you are at it. You are getting an easy shot at winning the full Yoga For Freediving course, worth $300, so don’t be shy. Winners will be selected on Wednesday September 13th and the Yoga For Freediving team will contact you after that.
Tell us your take on freedive preparation below for your chance to WIN the full Yoga For Freediving course.
The latest course by Sara Campbell, Success and Failure, touches on several familiar (and personal) issues that are relevant in freediving today. The idea that we are always being watched generates a polarity in people’s minds, one in which there are only two options: to succeed and break a record or to fail and be disregarded entirely. This is the mindset of many freedivers today. If they don’t break that new record, then all those personal achievements along the way, are forgotten.
There’s a beautiful old photo of Jacques Mayol standing on the edge of a small, wooden raft holding a large stone with a rope attached to the end of it. Practicing the ancient freediving art of Skandalopetra, he has no watch, almost no viewers, no judges, and no timekeepers. When I’m stressed about my performances, how good my breath-hold is, or how deep I went last time, I think of this photo and of how Jacques Mayol became a freediving role model, by increasing depth and time slowly, simply because he loved it and dove often.
Success and Failure is about the illusion that we must succeed for others and not ourselves. The illusion that we must set standards so high that anything which falls short is automatically a failure. If this means taking more time to go at a certain depth, even during a competition, then so be it. Like Aharon Solomons says, if you black out you went too deep, something went wrong and you should take a step back in your training. This is an issue in today’s freediving competitions because a lot of competitive freedivers black out several times before “succeeding” to hold up that white little card for a few seconds. Is this really success? By enforcing this mentality of “push at all costs” are we not slowly edging the sport into a world of cheating and doping?
Sara’s course couldn’t come out at a better time. She makes her viewers re-think what success means, on an individual level and not on an AIDA roster. When we follow the standards set by our ego (influenced by external factors), then we are most likely to fail (or what we perceive as failure) and so this can generate, as Sara mentions, self-animosity. Grounded in fear and disappointment towards ourselves, self-animosity can kill our confidence and even our passion for freediving. No one, that I know of, has said this better than Henry Miller, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Sara’s courses help deal with this; they re-establish a notion that of what counts by focusing on the self. You sat down on that mat, you held that breath, you ended with a smile on your face and not a frown. That joy is addictive and will motivate you to continue this practice.
Sodarshan Chakra Kriya is a challenging exercise for people, such as myself, that need the depth of a cold and dark body of water to enter a state of focus. Poolside statics are not enough for me to relax at times, whereas a hang at depth can do so. However, it’s important that we address these problems and, like Sara mentions, “clean out the closet of our subconscious”. If we’re not able to sit down on a mat and focus, or our mind runs wild with other thoughts, then this exercise can help. It’s challenging at first, to focus on repeating the phrases “wah-hey guru” in your head and staring at the tip of your nose. But after a while, your rambling thoughts will funnel into clear focus.
Success and Failure is the combination of ancient practices that have been refined to perfection over thousands of years with today’s modern problems. Everything we do is under scrutiny, recorded by a camera or mentioned in a forum. This polarizes sports: you’re good enough or not. Freediving transcends this however, and requires a great deal of patience, especially with ourselves. To set standards according to others and not ourselves is a recipe for failure. Listening to our inner voice and overcoming this idea that we must be perfect in everything we do is how we succeed, even if by minute increments.
As Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha beautifully explains this, “Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish…Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught”.
Manage Your Mind is part two of the Yoga For Freediving series by Sara Campbell. Manage Your Mind is a series of lectures and guided meditations that are designed to help you quiet your inner demons. Both the demons that tell you to go too deep too fast, and the ones that tell you to come up early.
Sara teaches us this with the help of Kundalini Yoga meditations, that are meant to balance your ‘positive mind’, your ‘negative mind’ and your ‘neutral mind’. Additionally one pranayama is designed to stress your body through breathhold, which both triggers your fears so you can confront them, and helps you develop the strength you need to overcome them. The awareness of your own mind and how it behaves during stress (long, deep dives, or just breath holds in general) is key if you want to improve in freediving.
As with part one of the Yoga For Freediving series, Deep Relaxation, Manage Your Mind is for the freediver who is held back by the mental aspects of freediving. Even if you believe more physical training is what you need to overcome squeezes and blackout , the chances are that balancing your physical and technique training, with getting to grips with your thought patterns and how they sabotage you, is what is really going to set you straight for the longterm. Meditating in general will have positive effects on all aspects of your life, not just your freediving. Sara Campbell’s course is unique in that the lectures combined with the mediations covered in Manage Your Mind create a course that is especially geared towards freediving and very useful for those freedivers that feel the mind needs more direction during long dives and breath holds.
What you get:
About two hours of video lectures and meditations
22 How-to videos covering the essential basics of Yoga For Freediving
I meditate daily, and have done so for a long time. Hence, my routine was established before I did this review and so I have not followed Sara’s recommendations to the letter. However, the course did make me reflect on what mind dominates during my dives (positive, negative, neutral) and that awareness has helped me in my dives. It has not produced a measurable difference in length or depth (yet?), but my peace of mind during dives is greater, because I have a better handle on what exactly makes me stay down, or come back up to the surface.
If you enjoy freediving and want to dive deeper and longer, you probably have heard of breathing tables and hypercapnia (also known as hypercapnea and hypercarbia). A breathing table is a set of breath holds and ventilations with specific length, that are either meant to increase your tolerance for low O2 or to increase your tolerance for high CO2. In this short post I’ll go over hypercapnia tolerance, the standard CO2 table, an alternative table, and my personal favorite which is meant to emulate a dive.
Hypercapnia and the ‘standard’ CO2 table
If you dive down into the depth, or lie on a yoga mat and hold your breath, you will first feel the effect of high CO2 in the body. You are now feeling hypercapnia: excessive carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Although training your CO2 tolerance will not necessarily give you longer breath holds, they may become far more relaxed. You can practice a standard CO2 table by doing a series of breath holds with decreasing breathe up times. Your breath holds should be about half of your maximum breath hold. For example, I can hold my breath for 5:20, so my breath hold in a CO2 table will be 2:40. For my initial breathe up I take 2 minutes and I decrease that time by 15 seconds after each hold, until I have done 2 breath holds with only 15 seconds in between.
Alternative hypercapnia training: The Wonka tables
An alternative and much faster way of increasing CO2 tolerance is to take the following approach. Omit the ventilations in between holds and instead, just exhale and inhale once. You won’t lose any CO2 in the bloodstream because you are not ventilating in between breath holds. At your first contraction, signal your buddy and stay for another 45 seconds of contractions, or for a specific amount of contractions (this way you can do it without a stopwatch). On your last repetition, stay for 60 seconds of contractions. For the rationale of this method, see this post:
This is not so much a table, as a personal experiment to make my ‘statics’ at home be more like my actual dives in the ocean. I expend much energy in the first 15 – 20 seconds of my dive, and hardly any after that until I decide to come up. If I can spare the time I take about 3 minutes to breathe up at the surface. How to translate this into a training at home? I take about a 2 minute breathe up and then start a breath hold, do 5 slow squats (lasting a total of 15 – 20 seconds) and sit still. This creates enough CO2 to be noticeable within a minute compared to a normal static. After I think I should ‘get back to the surface’, I do another 5 squats and then exhale and start another breathe up. In theory this trains three things:
1) Hypercapnia tolerance
2) Relaxation after expending energy during a dive (bottom time)
3) Developing a feeling for when to go back up to the surface knowing you still have to expend some energy to do so
I suggest you give it a try. It is as close as a static training can be to an actual recreational dive to about 20 meters for me (in both the mental aspects of a breath hold and the time on the clock). You may have to change the method a bit to suit your needs.
No need to stop freediving if you are in landlocked Kuala Lumpur. The PJ Palm pool is a 4-12 foot deep, 50 meter pool in the PJ palms sports centre where you can train with the local freedivers. There is no set training schedule, but if you get in touch with @radz you can practice your technique, statics and dynamics here. (Divers in the above photo: @radz, Walter, and Nathalie from left to right).
The PJ Palm pool is located at a convenient 2 minute walk from the Taman Jaya LRT station. In order to join the training, you can register yourself at Swimin12 office. Each session costs RM7 (about 2USD). The full address is: 1 Lorong Sultan, PJ seksyen 52, 46200 Selangor.
In order to find out exactly when trainings are or to find training buddies check out this Facebook group.
If you are in Kuala Lumpur with some time on your hands, go train and visit!