Freediving is a fast-growing sport but that still remains marginal for obvious reasons: holding our breath and especially underwater is scary. And while many people find the idea of diving without artificial air supply beautiful, they also feel like “it’s not for me”. As a matter of fact, comfortably going down to 5m meters underwater on 1 breath and hanging there a little bit seems inconceivable to most humans while any certified freediver will know that it can actually be a piece of cake. It is the same for a breath-hold: most “normal” humans can barely conceive comfortably holding their breath for a full minute while it is something easily achieved by a huge majority of beginners during their first class.
So the question remains: how difficult is learning to freedive?
To reply to this question, we must first understand how learning and adaptation works:
The human body, brain, and nervous system are capable of an insane range of skills, our adaptation and learning possibilities are absolutely phenomenal (I’m sure you already spent enough time getting lost on the internet to agree with that). In order to develop those adaptations, we need stimulation and recovery. The challenge is that to avoid any kind of rejection of the learning (or the training), the level of stimulation must be adjusted so it remains 100% manageable.
Choose your difficulty!
Regarding freediving, everybody can already hold their breath, the question is “for how long ?”. The good news is that the answer doesn’t matter much for you to start learning and progressing. Remember all you need is stimulation and recovery. The stimulation can be anything from “just a little bit uncomfortable” to “maximum attempt”, in other words, you do not have to try to hold your breath as long as you can to develop adaptation and progress! In freediving, we can choose the level of stimulation with extreme precision because time, depth, and distance are continuous variables. What does it mean? It means that progressing in freediving can be as easy or difficult as you (or your instructor) want it to be!
Little secret: the easy and enjoyable way goes further 😉
Let’s play !
If you have never tried any kind of freediving before, let’s do a little experimentation together. Sit comfortably and put your phone in timer mode: You are going to do a series of breath-hold of 20 seconds.
-Set your timer to 20 seconds
-Breath normally and keep your mind calm
-Take a big slow and gentle full inhale
-Start your timer and your breath-hold
-Relax your shoulders and neck
-Relax your jaws and your tongue
-Keep your eyes closed and do not check how much time is left: just stay focused on the present.
-When you hear the timer, resume breathing and relax (do not try to go further !)
Try then to “judge” how easy/difficult this breath-hold was and keep the information in your head
Repeat 3 more times but make sure you take all the necessary time to recover 100% from a breath-hold (both physically and mentally) before starting the next one.
You have now completed 4 breath-hold of the exact same duration: How does it feel? was it becoming easier and easier?
- If you gave up during the first breath hold it means 20 seconds were too strong a stimulation for you. It doesn’t mean freediving is not for you, it just means this specific exercise was not adapted to your level and you can probably try again with 15 seconds (or less).
- If they all felt the same, my guess is that you are already used to some kind of breath-hold activities and the level of stimulation was way too low for you, you can try again with a longer timing. Also make sure you had enough recovery time between the holds
- If it felt easier and easier, congratulations! You just completed your first training and built up confidence in your breath-hold abilities.
Don’t get me wrong, this little exercise is absolutely nothing compared to what you will learn with a professional instructor but I hope it can give you the idea that as long as you remain patient with yourself, learning to freedive and can be a very fun and enjoyable process accessible to anyone comfortable in the water!