Recently, during a shallower freediving session (that was forced on to us due to bad weather), I was diving down to the sea floor and just lying still on the sandy bottom playing with the sand in my hands. It was here during these breath holds that I was reminded of the importance of fun for freediving training. So for this blog post I wanted to discuss the concept of fun in sport and the importance of making practice ‘fun’, and how this can apply to freediving.
Freediving is a sport that can too often be overly focused on its end goals as a measure of success, as in “how deep was your dive?” or “how long did you hold your breath?”. Even at a recreational level it is still very easy to compare yourself with the person training next to you, or even comparing yourself to your own performance in the session you had last week. This ‘end goal’ focus can not only cause anxiety or increase fear of ‘failure’ but also as a consequence, reduce performance and decrease the positive feeling and sensation of the dive (which is why most of us do it in the first place, right?).
If we can try to recall our childhood when we played with our friends, maybe it was a football ‘kick about’ or a game of tag. There would usually be a winner overall but it more often than not, that that didn’t matter. The reason we played was for the joy of the play itself, not to try to beat our friends! To bring some of this fun back into adult sports can be very beneficial but at the same time it is difficult, especially to put our ego to one side. Having fun can increase physical and psychological health, releasing endorphins and decreasing stress. And what was the favourite word of us freediving instructors that we say to our students during the courses? .......RELAX..... This word is used so often in freediving that sometimes we can lose perspective of what we actually mean by it. Relax what? Relax how? Participating in an activity purely for the pleasure of the activity itself (with no end goals expected), can open up a doorway to new levels of relaxation due to the decrease in performance anxiety, (which creates tension and stress in both body and mind).
So what can this mean for our freediving training? It means sometimes dive off the line. Dive down to blow a bubble ring. Dive down to play with the marine life. Dive down and close your eyes. Dive down to look into a tunnel to see what is in there....just for the hell of it (exploration is FUN!). Sessions do not have to be about depth or times on every occasion. Playing and fun can distract from the breath hold and any anxiety (conscious or otherwise) associated with it. Hang and close your eyes.... Feel the sensation of the water on the skin... Try something new in the water with no expectations (no-fins maybe)! Or even like me, just lie on the seafloor totally engrossed with what small details or tiny creatures are before you on the sand, and this could provide you with a level of relaxation (and dive times) that simply cannot be achieved through force.
Thanks for reading