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Freediver Focus
the lows and lowers of competitive freediving
Record breaking freediver sara campbell took time out of her busy schedule at the recent World Championships in the
Bahamas to look at the personal highs and lows of training and what it really takes to be the best in freediving.
Whatever our training regimes, we are all to be found at Dean’s Blue To a large extent peoples’ individual training depends largely on the
Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas where the World Championships issues and challenges they face. In my case I know that in order to
are being hosted - the first time in three years that they have been improve further I will need to work on strength and stamina as well
held outside of the Red Sea. Many of the athletes have already arrived as technique. Other divers have problem with equalisation beyond a
and are increasing their depths and improving their techniques. certain depth and so are addressing this with mouthfill practice and
FRCs (functional residual capacity - diving on only half a lung-full of
The question I’m asked most often is quite simply, ‘Why?’. Which is then air to simulate pressure at depth). Others face lung squeezes where
rapidly followed by ‘How?’, and it is this second question that holds blood is being forced through the lung membranes into the airspace,
most fascination for me. Particularly given the rather ridiculously which sounds nasty, but clears up 100 per cent within 24 hours of the
rapid ‘descent’ I made to the top of this beautiful and quite literally dive in all researched cases and simply means that the diver is diving
breathtaking sport. The reason this question fascinates me so much below the depth that their lungs can handle, or are suffering stress
is that despite the number of dives I have now clocked up to depths and tension at depth.
that make most scuba divers blanch, such a huge percentage of this
question remains unanswered - and currently unanswerable. So, if We all watch our diet, but again people take very varied approaches
we don’t know ‘how’, how on earth then can we train to improve? to this. Most of the men drink protein shakes directly after their dive,
and some top divers actually skip proper meals the day before a big
Looking at the top men and women, it is almost impossible to say dive and replace them with carbohydrate shakes instead - supposedly
that there is one school of thought and training that is consistent easily absorbed, less stress on the digestive system and delivering
across every athlete’s routine. Of course we’re all desperately the highest percentage of carbs possible. Personally I prefer to keep
secretive about what we do behind closed doors, but I do know that my diet as natural as possible; lots of fruit. My carbs come in the old-
training ranges from tough workouts in the gym, hours and hours of fashioned form of rice, pasta and potatoes, plenty of green veggies,
lung stretches, daily breathhold sessions in front of the TV to take the and protein through fish and chicken. To prove that there’s an
mind off the discomfort and boredom, and lots of diving. However, exception to every rule, one very good diver friend springs to mind;
the majority of the top divers don’t live within close access to deep I remember him watching me with fascination as he guzzled glasses
training waters; Herbert Nitsch, the world’s deepest man, flies planes of coke and polished off a meal of deep fried chicken and chips with
for a living and is more likely to be found at altitude than at depth; a coffee and a large slice of cake. As I said, there’s no fixed rule!
Natalia Molchanova, my main rival and super-tough female diver,
lives in Moscow most of the year where she keeps in condition in the In order to dive deep and dive well there are so many factors that
pool; and me, well I just get in the water at the Blue Hole and dive as must come into play at exactly the right time. The mammalian dive
deep as it allows me (I’m currently scraping the bottom at 92m on my reflex must kick in to allow the blood shift to occur to protect the
training dives - anyone got a spade?). lungs and brain; too late and the diver will suffer a lung squeeze
Issue 4 January - February ‘10
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