In the run up to summer, competitions and specifically, the Sony Freediver Classic in Cyprus, The Deepest Bear has received far too many requests for assistance in training to reply to individually. Therefore he has decided to post a general set of training recommendations, whilst of course keeping the best tips secret in the back of his cave and available only to those specially selected for Team Deepest Bear –
Hi guys, DB here. Thanks for writing to me and all your support during my hibernation time. I thoroughly enjoyed waking up to go to Dolphin and Ice Diving and even the odd evening in the pool with my team. You can see photos from all those on my website.
As competition time, and for some of us world record time, gets nearer I thought I would share some of my training techniques with you. Do me if there is anything you love or would like to add (but if you think it’s rubbish just keep it to yourself, I’m happy to admit I don’t like criticism!), so here goes…
Let’s start with food, always a good place to begin I feel. Well some of us have undoubtedly grown a little tubby over the winter and whilst this is good for keeping warm in the water and might save on a new wetsuit, those spare tyres do not look sexy in the sponsors’ photos so do something about it! I would say the key here is not to cut down massively but just to watch what you are putting in your mouth and make sure it does you some good. Besides, my PA tried giving up food as a weight loss measure and she was just grumpy the whole time! Cut out the rubbish, eat plenty of fruit and veg and if you are a sniffy kind of person who gets all gunky and can’t equalise you might want to cut down on dairy products. There is some very good black chocolate available if you really can’t resist it. My top tip for training days is to drink loads of water or fruit juice (and I also have a special blend of magic tea but that’s a team secret). Above all, if something is not sweet enough or you feel the need for a sugary snack…. Go for Honey! Deepest Bear’s favourite snack – thick slice of toast, thin slices of banana all over it, drizzle honey over the lot and put it under the grill for a while. YUM YUM
Relaxation! Very important for freedivers, and bears. I hear lots of people moan that they can’t train properly because they are too wound up at work, too busy fighting with their girlfriend, too stressed from driving through nasty traffic and plenty of other excuses. Remember – stress is ALL in your head, you make it up and just as surely, you can get rid of it.
Having a nice cosy den helps. My Deepest Cave is the ultimate in relaxation. Lots of deep fur rugs (had to kill the odd furry friend to get them I’m afraid), a big food stock pile, roaring log fire and phone link to my PA who fulfils all my demands. She does tell me though that not all humans have access to such an environment so I took a trip to her own Zen Den to make some recommendations.
A space to relax at home is important. If you are going to do yoga or dry static, and I hope you will, you need the right atmosphere. Make it warm, tidy and hide all signs of work or worry (just stick those bank statements in the bin and stuff everything in the cupboard if you can’t be bothered to tidy up properly). Shut the curtains so the neighbours can’t laugh when you get stuck in an upside down lotus and put on some cool tunes. I can recommend Honey to the B by Billie Piper, Honey by Mariah Carey and Honey Honey by Abba. My PA finds these annoying and prefers chill out stuff like the Buddha Bar albums, Adiemus, Dido and we both love the new album by Lemon Jelly. Whatever takes your fancy, have it at hand.
Complete the chilled out vibe with a yoga mat, comfy chair/sofa and a blanket. But don’t fall asleep!
Of course all this takes time and we don’t always have it. Remember that relaxation is not just important in the Zen Den time of day, keep your cool all day if you can and carry that through to your training. If the world starts annoying you just smile back. I never stop grinning and find that the mere feeling of my muscles moving into a smile is enough to put me in a good mood. Try it during a tough static, you might like it!
In our quest for relaxation, my PA and I went along to try a floatation tank the other day. In one of these you can float in water at exactly your body temperature for an hour of complete sensory deprivation. I liked it but my PA found it made her face sting when she tried to do a static in there! (she shouldn’t have, I wasn’t watching being far too chilled myself!)
Enough relaxation, we also need some exercise. Now I prefer a good long walk in the woods and if I smell some sweet honey or hear some of my friends around the corner I might even jog for a bit. Unfortunately, I hear there are no woods in places where lots of you guys live so I have to recommend the gym instead. Here you want to really get your heart pumping. The closest thing to the woods if the cross trainer or the running machine. If you set it to go up and down a few imaginary hills and take along a few leaves to sniff now and then you might even convince yourself you are there! (However, remember a bear may s***t in the woods but not in the gym!!!!) Have a good time - run/climb/cycle whatever your prefer and just think how much you can enjoy dinner after without feeling guilty. Then if you want to really shape up get some weights done too for that really sexy Jean Marc Barr look in your speedos!
If you don’t like the gym, or can’t afford it, do all this at home. Baked Bean cans make great hand weights, borrow a bike and cycle or just go for a run. We are all waterbabies so find a pool and plough up and down it, great for getting your head straight and your fur soggy.
What have we had: food, relaxation, training. Must be time for some freediving…
The forest where I live is quite a long way from the sea so most of my training needs to be done in shallow pools. I gather this matches most of your experiences. Team Deepest Bear for example train mainly in swimming pools but when we are lucky a nice man called Howard lets us pay him lots of money to train in a very deep, warm bath. called HMS Dolphin. (Of course as I am not that large I can train in the sink which is handy!).
In the sink or pool, I train mostly static. I tend to brief my team on what they need to do for the session then we all have a good stretch. Some of this is yoga, most of it is bearbrained design. Whatever you do, always stretch EVERYTHING before a static, or indeed any freediving. You might not think you need your little toes to do static, after all I don’t have any and I can still do it, but if one of them goes stiff on you it could make you all uncomfortable and spoil your day. I find it easiest to start with toes and ankles and work your way up so you don’t miss anything. Don’t forget the face. Make some real angry tiger faces and big bear smiles. Roll your eyes around and for real effect make some noise at the same time. Grrrrrrr…..
I then leap in the pool face down and go straight for a maximum while my team train around me but they are not as advanced. For them, and you, I highly recommend building things up slowly. Vary what you do, we use lots of different tables with each person chooses what suits them. My PA works a lot with hypercapnic tables. Her brain tells her she CAN do 2.30, it forgets to remind her that by the end of the table she is doing it on only one breath. Whatever you choose, do remember that you can’t be dancing around celebrating a Personal Best every time you get wet. Besides that would piss off everyone you train with and take you well over your normal tequila ration! I don’t often have time to try for a pb, my best at the moment is 2 hours 30 and we don’t often have the pool for that long. I keep asking my PA to leave me in the sink while she goes to work but apparently sink attempts are not AIDA ratified or something. Try a PB about once a month, or every six weeks, or even more rarely. Trying one all the time just brings you down when you don’t make it.
Dynamic is also fun in the pool. Again we train using tables but we also play some great games which keep it interesting and sometimes make you stay down longer. Tess has a kind of manta ray thing which I ride around on under water while I watch the team. We also play near-misses – swimming really fast at each other with monofins on and seeing if anyone gets cut in half, tag (but this can get a bit nasty and competitive) and my favourite to watch – egg and spoon – because they are all so rubbish at it! Try it with an upside down spoon and a ping pong ball. If you are any good you can be on my team!
Of course, the deep is really the place to be! I like freediving with the bass and wrasse off Cornwall but have to be a little careful now some of my rivals have put a price on my furry head. (Some people just can’t accept that a bear could be a better freediver!) My speargun is a little small to catch anything you guys hunt but I use an adapted cocktail stick to get the odd prawn. I think diving in the sea should be fun whenever possible, so don’t get too stressed up about depth. Up and down lines is only a tiny part of freediving, if that’s all your doing you are missing out big time. Of course as the competition gets a bit nearer your emphasis might move, but for now just get out there with your buddy and swim around.
That’s all for now on training. I am going to give you some hints on competing as the day gets closer. In the meantime please email me if you need any advice, have any questions or would like me to visit you in person. My PA will check my diary and get back to you.
See you all in Cyprus. DB XX
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