Predive Visualisation – Part 2



1- Establishing Momentum. From bottom to +20 meters. At the bottom, I am, buoyancy wise, at my most negative. I am also at the point where the diving reflex is most acute, so most of the blood has been drained from my arms and legs, and I have spent a long time inactive during the second phase of the descent. So it will take me some time to reactivate my body. I will do this with slow motions and short strokes, until I feel fully functional again. I am cautious to let this happen naturally, rather than forcing my muscles into a totally anaerobic or catabolic sprint, which could result in cramps, pain or muscle failure, and usually, after 20 meters of controlled motions, I have overcome this problem.
Problem Solving: If the dive is deeper than 60 meters, I will usually feel some degree of narcosis at the bottom, which can be compounded by the exercise at the start of the ascent. I picture myself feeling dizzy and narcotized, and I force my mind to deal with this. I memorize a part of a song (usually, one of the songs I am writing myself) and sing it in my head to fight off narcosis. Also, at that point, I review any mistakes I have made during the descent and for which I may have to compensate during the ascent and formulate my plan of action for the way up. I visualize my technique steadily improving as the blood returns to my limbs, my body gaining speed and without any equalizations problems left, I see myself feeling good and ready for the most difficult part of the dive. I always see myself feeling confident at this point, because if not, I won’t have the strength of mind to deal with the rest of the ascent, when things will only get worse. This is, for me, the part where Positive Visualization really helps a lot.

2- The Opposite of Free-Fall: Heavy Work and Fatigue. From bottom +20 meters to 20 meters. Well, this is in many ways the worst part of the dive. Just as it was the most enjoyable part of the descent, when I was nicely free falling and marveling at my aquaticity, I now must cover this distance through steady, consistent and heavy work. This will eventually lead to fatigue, hypoxia and a decrease in technique efficiency. In some ways, this is a very demoralizing stage, where the mind inevitably starts playing tricks on the diver, and doubts could arise. Rather than fearing this moment, I start monitoring myself very closely, checking ever muscle reaction, keeping track of my speed, my oxygen levels and the lucidity of my brain. This means only one thing: with so much going on in my head, my actions need to be automatic, of a mechanical second nature.
Problem Solving: There is not much to fake here, on a truly demanding deep dive, I will always feel bad at this point. So, rather than imagining problems, I just try to anticipate the order in which they will appear. I see me slowing down, or messing up a stroke here or there, which could be common. But I push myself to relax and not panic, to slowly fix the technique problems without any changes in speed or sudden movements, which will only worsen things. I picture the first contractions appearing, and I hear my voice saying that this is perfectly logical for such a demanding performance, so I relax once again and adopt my “contraction-fighting” posture. I know that this is a normal period and that, as long as I stick to the plan, I will get through it OK. Then, as in a real dive, I realize that although my muscles are still tired, my speed is increasing and the blue around me is getting lighter all the time, and I know that I’m becoming more and more buoyant and that the surface is closer. Then I hear the signal of the diver at 20 meters, and I know it’s time to start the last part of the dive.

yas023- Oxygen Optimization and Arrival Preparation. From 20 meters to the surface. Well, this is it, the end of the dive is only seconds away, which as we all know, is the most delicate part. By now, I already know whether it will be an “easy” conclusion or if I will be on the edge. Now every meter I ascend means a drastic decrease in pressure, where oxygen will be less able to sustain vital functions. To compensate, I need to decrease my activity level to a minimum, and if I have done my work properly since I left the bottom, I should have picked up enough momentum that I can basically float to the surface from this point. By now Rudi will be in front of me, shouting encouragement and watching me carefully. I follow the drill to increase my blood pressure in the brain, which will also increase the oxygen’s partial pressure there and help me stay conscious. When I actually break the surface, there follows a moment of transition where I’m neither underwater nor back on earth yet, and to wake me from this trance, Rudi starts yelling “Breathe!”, which brings me back right away. Once I have done this and taken 5-6 recovery breaths, I know the dive has been successful and I will look for the judge and deliver the confirmation tag to him.
Problem Solving: Now most of the things that can go wrong, such as a blackout, are beyond my control, so all I can do is stay calm, use as little energy as possible and make as controlled a surfacing as possible. I will remember all the dives that I have done until now, remember how great they felt and how I knew for sure that I could have gone a few more meters, and then I remind myself that this dive is exactly just that: a few more meters. It is during the visualization of the last phase of the ascent that I allow myself the luxury of feeling confident for the dive, only after having completed the whole dive in my head and having dealt in the best possible way with any and all problems. Feeling confident, in a sense, is a reward that I only get after this hard-working visualization.

If the whole visualization has felt “right” and the dive I have just seen in my mind really resembles what I know a real dive feels like, then I know that my concentration level for the dive is at its highest and that I will be totally focused, highly motivated and energized. In a way, if the pre-dive visualization doesn’t work well, and I am not able to concentrate on it, I know that I will have an even worse dive, since the mind is the motor that drives a freediving performance (at least it is with me). In fact, a couple of times I have aborted dives after I was unable to do a proper visualization. I knew my mind was anything but on dive mode, and looking back, those were the right decisions. So you could say that I place a lot of importance on my pre-dive visualization routine, and if you want my advice, so should every other diver. So now then, when and where should we perform our pre-dive visualization?

This article continues on Part 3.

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