Before you even hit the water for your first freediving course, there are exercises that you can do to help prepare you mentally and physically for freediving. After you have completed your course you will have a clearer idea about how to breathe correctly and can continue with dry training before you hit the water again.
Even though there is no substitute for actually getting wet, many top-level freedivers have little access to the water and do a lot of their pre-competition training in the gym and at home. You may only be able to get to the water every month or on holiday, but there is plenty of training that you can do every day without any special equipment.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) training tables are intended to help your body exercise and adjust to high levels of carbon dioxide and low levels of oxygen. The exercise involves holding your breath eight times. With a CO2 table, the length of time you hold your breath for stays the same, whilst the recovery time between each hold diminishes. With O2 tables, the recovery time stays the same but the length of your breath hold increases.
Both training tables can be used on dry land, preferably while lying down on a bed or sofa. The CO2 table should be set to around 60% of your maximum breath hold time and the O2 table should be set to around 85% of your maximum breath hold time. On your freediving course, you will be able to work safely with your instructor to establish roughly what you maximum breath hold time is.
Do not perform more than one table a day and avoid going for maximum breath hold attempts on the same day. Also make sure that during the recovery time between each hold you do not over-breathe, as that would defeat the object of the training tables.
General fitness training
General Fitness Training
As a general rule, relaxation is more important to freediving than physical fitness. If you are generally fit, though, then you will find it far easier to freedive for longer periods once any other issues around equalisation, relaxation and technique are addressed. Strength training can also be useful, particularly if you are developing muscles for specific disciplines, such as those with no fins.
Any fitness training performed at the gym or by playing sports will be useful for improving general fitness. Both cardio and strength training can be done while practising your breath hold, which helps your body adapt to anaerobic respiration, similar to that required when freediving. This must be done with great care, though, to avoid the risk of passing out.
Yoga and stretching
The postures stretches and flowing series of movements in yoga are incredibly beneficial to freediving, increasing strength, flexibility and body awareness. It is not recommended that you perform yoga postures while breath holding, though, and you should find an experienced teacher to ensure you are doing the postures correctly.
The pranayama subsection of yoga specifically pertains to the breath and many of the exercises feature breath holding. These are also very beneficial to freediving, but we recommend finding an experienced teacher to show you the exercises.
If you are put off by the very idea of yoga then make sure that you factor in regular stretching with warmed-up muscles.
Recovery and rest
With all physical training for freediving, your muscles are working hard – often under anaerobic conditions. This produces large amounts of waste products and free radicals. It is important that you drink plenty of water after exercise, eat foods high in antioxidants and rest well. Your food is your fuel and your medicine. The better the food you put in, the better results you will get out and the more resilient you will be.
Rest is just as important, ensuring you do not get burnt out and become susceptible to illness and disease. Take time out to relax, make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep a night and find time to do things that fill your heart with joy. Training for freediving should be a pleasure, not a chore. If it is not, look at your schedule and make sure you allow yourself enough downtime.
Training for recreational freediving takes in everything from general fitness and diet, to breath hold training and the ability to rest and relax. Ensure you work with an instructor to create a program for you that is safe and tailored to your unique abilities and needs.