I spent March in the Philippines improving my freediving and I’m happy to say that despite some sinus issues early on and a cold in somewhere in the middle, I am now certified as SSI Level 2 Instructor.
A few tips on preparing for your course:
– choose a center that makes time for your course, after all, you’re paying a lot of money to learn how to be a better freediver and teacher.
– you can PRE-pare for your course: start a training plan a month before your course that includes CO2 tables, diaphragm/ thoracic stretching and swim training (if you don’t have access to a pool-based freediving club). The “Apnea Tables” app is very useful, as is Natalia Molchanova’s blog about pool training and deconcentration. If your mouthfill or Frenzel are a bit sketchy, read up about the Frenzel-Fattah technique and practice some dry exercises. Try and get your hands on Federico Mana’s Equalization for Freediving (ISBN 9788887376913 – not available as an e-book on amazon unfortunately). Mana also has a YouTube channel with some dry exercises- amazing party tricks to amuse your friends with… If you’re practicing static, watch this video– not for the breathhold as such but for the great coaching- the guy says some good things about contractions that are worth remembering in your own sessions.
– acquire spares and learn how to change your D4i battery before you go away. Always carry a spare and the correct tools to open the computer. It’s pretty easy to do- and it will save you around 200USD- just make sure you test the seal in fresh water before you dive with it and look for bubbles (like you would with a camera housing).
Once you start your course it’s worth remembering that:
– freefall technique is as important as mouthfill & duckdiving. Identify your problem areas early and work on them separately- ask your instructor to dive down with you and critique your style if they’re not already doing this.
– everyone progresses at a different pace. If you compare yourself to others you may end up doing yourself a disservice. If you have an off day, forgive yourself and learn from the experience. Every session, even a shit one, has value. Putting excessive pressure on yourself will only have a negative effect on your diving.
– be kind to yourself: take a day off every 5 days and do something totally removed from freediving. A rest day can make a huge difference in performance. Make sure that you keep your thoughts positive and try and keep the vibe light around the buoy. I had some days where I had great sessions despite getting only a few hours’ sleep. Why? Because I was very happy!
– put your computer away some times and just feel. Sometimes the alarms and obsession with depth really just get in the way of the pure enjoyment of being one with the ocean.
– get your head right. Freediving is as much mental as it is physical. One of the exercises people fear is the 5x20m. It’s good to start by doing a 5x15m and building on that. It’s OK to fail the first few times since your body gets stronger every time you practice. For me, the first 3 dives are easy and 4 is the hardest mentally with 5 being easier cos you know it’s the last one. Tips for 5×20: fin slowly, there’s no rush- you don’t have to fin from 10m upwards anyway so just chill. Take a few deep recovery breaths, a long exhale and start your yogic breathing to slow your heart rate down. From 20s onwards you can start your last breaths- I only needed two to get to 20m and back. Remember, you may get contractions on the way down on #4 and 5 but it’s not because you’re low on O2, just high in CO2. You can do it, it just doesn’t feel that great 😉 When I got around to doing the full 5x20m I no longer felt any lactic in my legs so I’m glad I progessed the skill.
– train without the freediving school. Go to Moalboal, find the people who own their own buoys and ropes and go dive with them. For free. For fun. For the beauty of comraderie and your shared love of our oceans.