Freediving is a very young and immature sport. To be convinced of this, we just have to see how fast the world records evolve (has there ever been a year without any world record?) and the differences in level on the most prestigious competitions. This means that there is no consensus on the best way to progress and that sometimes (often) one can be confronted with contradictory advice when speaking to different instructors (or coaches). As a student, facing these contradictions is not always easy, you can quickly wonder “who to believe?” and find yourself lost in your training. In this article, I will try to give you some keys to avoid getting lost along the way while making sure you get the most out of your encounters and your mentors’ visions.
Always trust your instructor of the moment
While it can be tempting and even healthy to “take advice left and right” to form your own vision, if you go to a particular instructor or coach, it is important that you follow their method and approach in its entirety. This is for at least two reasons:
Keep your training coherent
First, you should assume that your instructor has an approach that is consistent with itself. This means that if you decide to do something different for a certain point and go against his recommendations, you risk jeopardizing the whole (or a good part of) methodology. A methodology is not a sum of “tips and tricks” put end to end but a coherent whole which sometimes takes shape only after several months of training (I think of the periodization of the training for example). By choosing only what interests you at the time, you potentially jeopardize your future progress and lose the sense of the very reason why you decided to trust and pay someone to guide you.
Secondly, regardless of the method, remember that relaxation is central to freediving progression. And no matter how you define the term, one thing that is not relaxing is questioning and hesitating. This means that even if the method adopted is sub-optimal (not to say bad) from a theoretical point of view, it is still likely to give better results if you follow it blindly than if you constantly question it. Thus, if a firm answer asserted with charisma and authority contributes to extinguish a hesitation or an internal questioning, it doesn’t matter if this answer is intrinsically “good” or “bad”: accepting it will probably contribute to your progress. At the very least, this is a form of placebo effect that it would be a shame to deprive yourself of. Be careful though, if you feel that a directive goes against what you have learned in terms of safety, it may be time to use your critical mind again and potentially end the collaboration.
Ask for the “reasons” anyway. Most instructors will give you the reasons and logic for what they are telling you on their own. However, if this is not the case at some point and you don’t understand why you are being asked to do certain things, do not hesitate to ask. Be careful, it is not about asking to seek a contradiction: whatever the answer, respect the authority of your instructor. But identifying the reasons for the actions you take will help you later, during your period of questioning (see below).
Allow dedicated time for questioning
If during the training periods with a coach/instructor, your only job is to apply the directives and limit hesitations to optimize progress. However, being able to think critically is of course a quality that would be a shame to go without. So, once a training cycle is over, it’s time to question yourself. In order not to get lost in this process, here are some principles to keep in mind.
Understand the logic and the premises.
As I said above, each method has its own logic, so now it’s time to try to understand it as accurately as possible and to identify its workings. I also recommend that you try to identify the premises of this logic, i.e. the starting points that will seem “obvious” to your instructor/coach but that are not necessarily shared by everyone. An example of a premise might be the definition of relaxation as we have seen in this article. From these premises will flow the rest of the method and identifying them will allow you to better accept or reject an approach.
Play the devil’s advocate.
Choose the approach or advice that seems the most absurd to you and see how you can best defend it. That is, rather than seeking to validate your current beliefs at all costs, make an effort to sincerely understand and defend the benefits of what you naturally tend to reject. Of course, this does not mean that you will finally adopt this approach, but it may allow you to extract aspects (even small) that you can integrate into your personal vision. It will also allow you to leave a little more room for a potential future evolution on your part (perhaps several years from now). By sincerely understanding the reasons and logic of an approach different (or even opposed) to the one you currently have, you will be better able to change your mind if new elements come up against your vision (or in favor of the other) and make adjustments when necessary.
Identify the “real” reasons.
Sometimes when you explore the logic of an instructor/coach, you will realize that it does not make sense: that is to say that the explanations he has given you are simply absurd or scientifically false. Of course, it may be tempting in this case to reject the instruction linked to this absurdity but before doing so, try to go a little further and look for the “real” potential reasons. Your instructor may be relying on his personal experience for which he has given a dubious explanation afterward. This should not prevent you from looking for a better explanation: the instruction may still be valid, but for a different reason than the one you were given. Being able to identify the “real” reason for an instruction (when there is one) will definitely allow you to surpass your mentors and make you grow.
Freediving is an extremely young sport and it is important to be able to grow with it. Following gurus, mentors, coaches, instructors (…) will certainly allow you to get results but if you want to surpass them or at least gain in maturity, having periods of reflection is essential. Try to keep these periods of reflection away from your training to maximize your chances of success and remember that your critical mind is your best weapon: use it!