Training for freediving can be very enjoyable and rewarding, but it’s not without its frustrating moments. This frustration is usually caused by hitting plateaus and feeling like our hard work isn’t paying off.
We’ve all been there and it sucks. But there are 5 things we can do, or think about, that might help break through these unwanted plateaus and help make our training that little bit more effective. All in all, more enjoyment and less frustration in our freediving journeys.
Take a More Structured Approach
Probably the most important element of freedive training, or any other training for that matter, is structure. Getting better in freediving truly comes down to the consistency of your training and, using a logical approach to overcoming the problems we face along the way.
A structure can have a few different meanings in training, but what it all comes down to is having a consistent methodology. How do you breakdown your problems to find solutions? How do you schedule your training over time; Weeks, months, years?
What’s important is that you’re sticking to general structures in the way that you do these things. This will help you isolate what types of training are benefiting you, build them into your training schedule, and reap the rewards of your hard work.
Of course, over time your methods will change as you outgrow your old ones, but as long as there’s a logical and structured approach to what you’re doing, you will see positive results from your efforts.
Focus on Your Weak Links
We’ve all heard the saying, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This analogy is particularly useful to remember when it comes to athletic training of any kind. Our abilities and performance level are always going to be held back quite significantly by the things we struggle with the most.
In freediving it’s very important, if your aim is to improve, that you take this to heart and work on what’s holding you back from your goals. It’s quite simple really, once you fix the things holding you back, you’ll no longer be held back. The fastest way to improve is to target these weak links in your game.
It’s quite common that experienced freedivers (or other athletes) will fall into old patterns, and train their ‘favourite’ things over and over again. This repetition is good, as it implies eventual mastery of these elements. However you cannot forget to analyze what’s limiting your progress, then put in the time and effort to fix these weaknesses.
This problem can happen with newbie freedivers as well. One of the first things that they’ll do as training is the classic CO2 and O2 tables. This is despite the fact that they aren’t held back at all by their physical ability to hold their breath. The true weak link(s) in a beginner’s diving is technique, and the fastest way to become better freedivers is to start by training this, and only get to the tables once they are necessary.
We’ve all been guilty of focusing on training what’s fun and easy for us. This is beneficial in many cases, but we cannot get around the need to also improve what’s limiting our performance. If you feel like you’re stuck at a certain level, think about it.. What’s keeping you from your next goal(s), and try working on that as a priority. Do this and you will move towards where you want to be as a freediver.
Understand Cause and Effect
A big part of designing your training plan(s) is deciding what exercises you are going to do. To get better you need to be constantly improving weaknesses or solving problems, but are the exercises that you’re doing actually achieving this?
To answer that question it’s important to constantly increase your knowledge of freediving and really get to the bottom (pun intended) of what causes certain issues you might be having. You must also understand what the true effect(s) of each exercise you do is.
One of my favorite examples of this is the problem of ‘early contractions’. Pretty much every freediver struggles with this at some point, usually near the beginning of their freediving journeys. Understanding the cause(s) of this, and the effect of the training methods to solve it can really speed up the process of making the necessary improvements.
So what’s causing your contractions? Is it a weak tolerance to CO2, or maybe a tight psoas muscle from sitting at a desk job all day? Those are only two possible causes, but figuring out what one it is is key to fixing it.
Now let’s say your contractions are (truly) caused by weak CO2 tolerance, the solution is CO2 tables right? Probably not. The effect of (classic) CO2 tables isn’t going to be delaying your contractions, all they really do is reduce the recovery time you need between breath-holds. Better exercises might be HIIT training and O2-format tables.
That’s just one example, but thinking like this about all of your training can really make your training much more focused and targeted. Fix the right things, and fix them using the right exercises to really make improvements.
Find a Good Coach
Have you ever felt like you’ve tried every type of training you can think of, and still aren’t getting the results you are looking for? It can be quite challenging to make all of your training decisions by yourself, and having someone there to help you through these rough patches can make a really big difference in your diving.
To find a good coach, it’s useful to understand what makes a coach good. You and your coach are a team, and it’s important that both of you know this. Their job is to challenge you, advise you, and help you think outside the box about your own training. This is different from the primary job of an instructor, which is to teach. Your job is to give constant feedback and personal information (diving related) to your coach so that they can help you in as many ways possible.
It’s also important to understand that: A good freediver, isn’t necessarily a good instructor, and a good instructor isn’t necessarily a good coach. You can find individuals who are all three, or two or one of those things. Just make sure to choose your coach based primarily on their coaching, not only on their competitive accolades or experience as an instructor.
For the instructors out there who are maybe struggling to provide effective coaching to your students, remember that this is a very different job than teaching courses. You are not a teacher anymore, you are an advisor, a partner, and a friend. Open up and make sure that what you do with your ‘coachees’ is a collaboration. This will help them see the results they’re looking for in their training.
Getting someone who’s going to work with you and help you grow, even if it’s just for a short period of time be really beneficial. As freediving is a young sport it can be challenging and expensive to find a full-time coach, but if you’re really struggling to train effectively, it is an investment worth making, even if just for a short period of time.
One of the most important things for training in individual sports like freediving is teamwork. We all know that we need a buddy, and hopefully, respect this, but all too often we don’t use our buddies to their full potential.
Your buddies aren’t just there to watch you in case of a blackout, they can play a vital role in your training as well. They can be a source of instant feedback on your finning technique. They can monitor your surface protocol and help advise for or against attempting a bigger dive. You can also cultivate a healthy level of competition amongst each other to stay motivated during those tougher pool exercises or stay on schedule with your dry workouts.
Beyond those things, having fun is particularly important during your training. If you don’t like it, you’re less likely to keep doing it, right? Use each other to your full potential(s) and keep your sessions fun and exciting by playing team games or challenges.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games, and freediving is an individual sport, but there is quite a bit of room for a more team-oriented approach. Help each other where you can, and don’t forget to have a little fun on occasion. That might be enough to open your mind to something you might not have thought of or rebuild some lost motivation to train and could be just enough to get you to your next freediving goal.
So There You Have It
5 things to think about in your freedive training. You might be stuck in a rut and not making any progress, or maybe just looking for an extra little edge to get the best results possible in an upcoming competition.
Whatever your situation is, and no matter what level freediver you are, making improvements in these areas can help take your diving to the next level. To take it even further, it can be very useful to understand the driving principles behind what makes good training. To learn about this, check out my ebook: Be a Better Freediver on the 3 universal training principles for progressing smarter and getting results.