Basic Training for Beginners – Part 1


This article was written in 2002 by Rudi Castineyra for publication on several sport magazines in Turkey. It gives very useful general training tips and advice for beginner and amateur freedivers.

After the success of Yasemin’s records, interest in freediving in Turkey has grown a lot. I have been in Turkey now a total of 10 times and during all this time have had the chance to meet many Turkish divers and people in general. One question that I invariably get from almost everybody is what kind of suggestion can I give to those who want to improve their freediving performance.
I am very happy to see that there is so much interest about freediving in Turkey, and it reminds a lot about my native country Cuba, where 4 out of every 10 kids tried freediving while they were growing up and the country respected and loved freedivers as much as baseball players or boxers. By comparison, the United States, the country where I live now, knows very little about freediving and it is very hard to create interest on this activity, since most people are used to completely different sports. So, I wanted to write this article and give some basic suggestions to all those freediving lovers in Turkey, as my way of showing appreciation not only for supporting Yasemin but also the sport in general.

What is freediving and what do we need to know about it?

Freediving is basically the ability to perform tasks underwater while holding the breath. We must keep in mind that the human body is designed to breathe between 20 and 100 times per minute, depending on the activity we are performing, so functioning without breathing at all is against our most basic survival instinct. Therefore, it must be understood that freediving is more a process of adaptation than athletic training, and that creating strong and responsive muscles is not the solution until we teach our bodies to work without oxygen. This learning process can take a shorter or longer time depending on the person, but everybody must go through it in order to become a good freediver. Some people are able to adapt to this low oxygen set-up very quickly, while others can take very long. Those who can adapt quickly can potentially be better freedivers, but those who take longer can also achieve this, as long as the final results are the same. So, in principle, becoming a good freediver means that the person must be able to teach their body how to work with low or no oxygen. How can this be done?

Adaptive Training

Training is the process by which we teach a living creature to do something. In the case of freediving, like with any other training, teaching our bodies and minds to function without oxygen can be a very long process. So, this process must be done in a slow and controlled manner, without being in a rush, not pushing ourselves to do more than what our bodies can learn naturally. Those who want to become better freedivers need to be patient. The best way to start training is not by trying to go deep, but by doing other things instead. One excellent training tool is the pool, where we can swim underwater and go for controlled periods of time without breathing. The person must first find a distance that he/she is comfortable with and then swim that distance underwater under the most comfortable of conditions. This means, for example, using long fins or breathing for a long time before going underwater. This skill must then be repeated many times until it becomes very comfortable and easy to do. Then, you are ready to start increasing the difficulty level of your underwater swims, but not the distance. Instead of trying to swim longer, do it under harder conditions. For example, use smaller fins, breathe for less time before going down, or use no fins, or combine many of this at the same time. Once you are able to practice these different routines and become used to the concept, then you are able to go for longer distances. Again, once you try a longer distance, start first with the most comfortable combination of options and do it until you’re comfortable with it.

Once you have mastered this set-up, then you can try this distance under harder conditions, and so on it goes. If, at any point during this training you become impatient and you want to swim too long or do impossible things, then you will notice that your results will go down instead of improving. Listen to your body and do what it asks you to do. If you’re tired, rest, if you are finishing a swim with a lot of difficulty, stop, if you feel wrong, leave it for tomorrow. It is not only important to understand that progress must be slow because of safety reasons, so you don’t put yourself in a situation where you could get hurt, but also because if you over-train your body, it will take a long time for it to recover and to perform at full capacity again. At the same time, besides swimming underwater, the diver also needs to spend time working on his/her muscles, making sure that they are strong and flexible enough for the requirements of freediving. A freediver needs to have a strong body all around, not just the legs because they are the ones used for kicking. More importantly, the freediver needs to have muscles that are strong, but not too big so that they don’t consume a lot of oxygen. Once we have created a proper balance between weight workouts and pool sessions, then we are ready to go to the sea. But, wait a minute, how do we exactly plan the training so that we do the right thing?

This article continues on Part 2.

Safe dives to all,

Rudi Castineyra

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