As my own coach, I know exactly what I need to be doing every single day, and every single training session to continue progressing as a freediver.
Objectively it’s very simple and mathematical to me. I know that I need to dedicate a certain percentage of my available time to skills and technical work, I know how often I need to be doing competition ‘style’ deep dives, and I know exactly when I need to be hitting what depths during my training to reach my target performances when they really count: in competition.
If I had to identify my “specialty” in freediving, it’s just that. Seeing the bigger picture and plotting training sessions over time to get the most out of them when it really counts: in competition or at the end of a depth season.
When I think about a training cycle it’s all in percentages. How much general vs specific training should we be doing? At what rate of ‘perceived’ exertion? How much volume of training do we need within 25% of our true max, and how much within 15%? How many sessions need to be performance-biased and how many need to be skill-biased?
For me these are the keys to effective training, like an easy formula to follow. Unless someone has ridiculous physical talents, a perfect mouthfill or amazing monofin technique can only get them so far. Burning out the body and training with the wrong ‘timing’ will always lead to performances that aren’t reflective of their true potential. We all need to do the right work, but only if it’s done in the right way.
So I should be golden right?
Well, I often waste biggest strength. I find it very, very easy to deviate from the plan. “I know that I should be training my EQ today, but doing a deep dive instead will be more fun”. “I know that I only need to hit 65m 2-3 weeks out from this upcoming competition, but I feel really strong in the water and 65m will have a relatively low ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’”.
These are the battles, between coach and athlete, that go on inside my head. This one in particular is exactly what happened on Sunday. You see, it’s really easy for me to tell someone I’m coaching to do the ‘right thing’. I’m objective to it and base these decisions on what the diver needs, not what they want.
But when it comes to coaching myself, subjectivity can creep in. “You’ll be the first person to hit 65m in this quarry”. “All your friends are here to see it”. “The dive will be easy”.
So on Sunday, despite knowing that I had been in the water all day Saturday teaching and still fitting in 2 training dives for myself. Despite knowing that I’ve been playing with using ‘constant-pressure’ mouthfill again and the technique wasn’t automated yet. Despite knowing that it was too early in my training cycle to be at 65m. Despite knowing that the correct training would have been 5x40m with a shallow mouthfill… I did 65m.
My focus was lacking, my mind was distracted by what I should have been doing. My equalization was extremely sloppy. Barely holding onto the mess of air in my mouth, the lack of general body awareness, and the fact that the margin for error in ‘cold’ water is extremely small all added up to a single contraction at around 55-60m on the way down.
I came away from it all very lucky. Easy recovery, 99% SaO2 measured from the finger 5:00 and 20:00 minutes after the dive, but of course there’s a consequence to every mistake.
15:00 after the dive, I noticed the faintest taste of iron. Far from anything to be concerned about, but the damage was done. A single speck of red marked the end of my session, but my vitals we’re good, 99% O2 on the finger, and a 47 BPM ‘standing’ heart rate, so fully recovered and relatively unscathed.
Honestly, it was a generous warning sign from my body. It got my attention before anything truly detrimental to my training happened.
Now, I still have a world championships to train for but it’s time to head back to plan A. No more ego-dives, no more deviation from the correct progression, minimum/maximum-depth-timing needs to be respected perfectly, and skill-set comes first.
That’s how I would coach any of you and that’s how I need to coach myself, although that’s proving very difficult.
Luckily for me, my girlfriend Sarah has offered to help keep me on track. I’ll come up with the plans, and she’ll make sure I stick to them. For now that’s the next level of help that I need to train smart, safe, and stay healthy for September, eventually I’ll outgrow that as well.
I’ve realized more and more this year that to be successful in freediving we all need a good coach. At a certain point our own ability to manage our training cycles, our egos, the highs and lows we face as athletes, our ability to listen to ourselves when it really counts, and the overall subjectivity that gets in the way of ‘The Plan’ all fall behind where they need to be.
Like I said. Any good coach will be able to analyse someone’s training and tell them what to do and when to do it. To a coach it doesn’t matter if a diver doesn’t want to practice their finning technique before adding 5m to a PB. What matters is that they need to.
But to tell themselves the same things, just isn’t so simple.
In my case, listening to my coaching-self is very challenging. So next year’s training budget will include some key periods with a coach. Someone I can trust with knowing what I need and who can help me stick to it. If you want to make serious improvements in your own freediving, I suggest that you do the same thing.
We all need help to grow.