I had the unique and incredible opportunity and experience to spend the last 3 months with some of the best freedivers in the world, at both the AIDA Freediving World Championship in Cyprus and the CMAS Freediving World Championship in Turkey. I met established names like Alexey Molchanov, Alenka Artnik, Thibault Guignés, and Simona Auteri along with some new players in the game like Cassandra Cooper, Judith de Waard, and Anas Chair, along with many more. I hung out with them and trained with them. I was with them in moments of triumph and in moments of failure. I had the absolute time of my life and made some of the most amazing friends anyone could ever ask for.
But I also learned a lot! Being in a place with so many people with so much talent meant that every dinner, every bit of downtime, and basically any moment of free time we had was basically spent talking freediving, comparing techniques, and learning from each other. Here are just a few of the things I learned in that time.
One of the first things you might want to do when you meet some of the world's best freedivers is asking them advice and works for them to maybe get the secret sauce of freediving. Do you eat before your dives? What does your stretching routine look like? How do you deal with narcosis when freediving? And this is great! Ask them and see what they tell you. But as I tell all my students when I teach freediving courses: everyone is different. What might work for one person may not work for another. In a sport where things are much more introspective and internally focused than most other sports, personal preference and who you are as a person play a major role in what techniques and strategies work for you. Don’t get advice from just one person and then leave it at that. Get advice and ask questions of many people and then try a bunch of strategies. Try having a banana an hour or two before you dive. Try a few different stretching routines. Try a variety of different breathe-up visualizations and techniques. The important thing to do is to try and to record your results, especially as you are training, which leads us into...
All of this trying and experimenting does nothing if you can’t look back at your training and evaluate its success. Keep a log of all of your sessions, both wet and dry. This is something that I started doing and I have really started enjoying the process. What I do is the following. The training plan for the day - take a few minutes to write about what you are feeling prior to training. If you are stressed about anything, if something is on your mind, if you are excited for the session, etc. Immediately after the session, come back and write a few sentences about your immediate impressions of the session. After reviewing my dive computer logs and taking some time to drink something or eat something, I write a few more sentences with my feelings of the session and how I am feeling generally after the session
This is by no means the structure you need to follow; it's just a place to start! You can add some “on a scale of 1-10” questions or even draw your feelings instead. It's entirely up to you! But capturing this information when it is fresh in your mind will allow you to get a better understanding of your training, what is having an impact and what isn't, and will also be able to help you figure out if the bad session you had was because the training sucked or if you have other stuff going on in your life that is really bothering you instead. You can also take a look at Simona Auteri's article on how to fill out a dive logbook for more ideas on how yours could look. Once you have done all your training, then it's time to...
In freediving, everyone has their own idea of what you should be doing. 95% of the time, if you ask someone for advice, they will give you an answer. This is also true when you don’t ask for advice! And I think this is human nature. We want to see each other succeed and have fantastic dives and if someone asks for advice that might make their dives better, you generally want to give them advice. That said, it's important to not make major changes to your dive plan during a competition.
It can be difficult to stick to your plan when the plan doesn’t feel like it’s working or you’ve had a bad dive. In a competition, you have a limited number of dives to give your best performance, so there is a tendency to want to make the most of them, even if that means trying something brand new on the advice of someone who has more experience. And sometimes that is a good thing! You can get a lot of amazing advice from divers who have more dives under their weight belts but there is a time and a place for everything.
During a competition is not the right time to implement a bunch of new ideas or techniques into your routine. You know your training and you know the work you have put in, what works best for you and you know what doesn’t. If you have a coach, be sure to pick their brain for advice based on the training you have put in. They will also know where you stand with your training and can help you figure out what the best option for you is. If you don’t have a coach, you can of course listen to what others have to say and take notes, but don’t make big changes to your plans.
It has been amazing having the opportunity to spend so much time with so many amazing divers! Being around them has helped me level up my freediving in a very short period of time and I am so grateful to everyone for their advice and expertise. I learned so much more than this so make sure you are following Alchemy for part two of what I learned from the world's best freedivers during two world championships!