Esoteric Sports Psychology - for freediving
Understanding, acquiring skills and shaping attitudes.
Short version of a longer text. © Sebastian Naslund

The aim is to have body and mind working as one – achieving a state of flow. Flow as a state where you naturally do the right thing, lose sense of time, and even lose a perception of self - where the mental noise and inner conversation dies down and you are what you do.

Physical training
The most obvious things that has to be trained would be: 1) muscle, 2) cardio, 3) technique, 4) apnea, 5) warm-ups, 6) max attempts, and also training of 7) lungs and 8) ears. Not forgetting to mention a close look on 9) diet and 10) equipment, and of course finding a coach, or simply an assisting dive buddy. Perfection in all these areas will make a truly great freediver.
All of these areas need dedication and understanding in order to reach elite level. It might seem a pretty straightforward task of time and effort (if you know what and how to train) but yet even if mastered it might not be enough to be able to excel, or even reach your potential.
In freediving, and indeed all elite sports you will fall short if you haven’t mastered the mental aspects. You spend hours on changing your body, and might only think the rest is about willpower or just wanting it bad enough. In some happy cases that might be fact, but seeing your mind as something set apart from your body, and thinking it is the body that does the performance will not bring out your true potential.

Vision and goal setting
Setting a goal easy, reaching them can be difficult. It does not have to be a specific goal, or a number, or a record – It is enough with a commitment to be better than yourself, or pursuing a feeling, a vision of a perfect dive. Numbers take care of themselves.
- Have your dream anchored down in your consciousness as a plan.
- It is important that your ambition poses a significant challenge. Something you just might be able to do.
- No manual, coach, or system has the final say, you chose what you feel is right. You set your own standards.
- Usually it is not possible to create a true vision of a goal until you have the understanding of the sport and the way your body works.
- Your vision can not be bigger than the motivation or discipline needed to achieve it.
- Have both long term and short term goals. Set general goals, and specific goals.
- Write them down. Describe how it will fell when you have achieved your goal.
- Tell yourself why you want to achieve this.

- Write down what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your goal.

- Write down what is missing to achieve your goal.
- Have only positive goals (no “I shall not…”).
- Celebrate and reward yourself after each goal you have reached.
- Be specific: write down:  what you train, when, where, and how.
- Ask yourself what exactly every exercise is good for, what it will do for you.
Understand what kind of competence you are building. “I do this because I want to achieve this”.

Confidence & motivation
- Acknowledge that you are building a new personality. New skills will need a new identity. Are you escaping from another identity? That usually does not work. Why are you doing this, who is this “new you”? - What does your a fear of failure look like?
- And remember, at the end of the day you are not your last results. It is not what you do, but who you are.

-  Confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself you are in “dire straits”. Confidence is the belief that you can be successful at a task. It will create a relaxed mental state and a carefree approach.
- First of all remember, you are a freediver, there are no cooler sport, just by doing it you are success.
- Once you discover that you can do PB without any warm-up dives you will earn great confidence. Its all there, your diving skill is ready to be deployed. Just get in the right mood, do your desired breath up and go.
- Fake it till you make it. Copy the best, pretend that you are fully trained and go the full length, who knows, it might work.
- Give yourself arguments for why you are going to succeed.

- In every training session you are adding a piece to the vision.
- Understand that you are training many factors that all together will build an athlete.
- The key attitude is to change your perception of time – having a living conviction that small acts of today are shaping your future.

- See changes. Look back and see that you have changed. Look for improvement, not perfection.

 - If progress is slow, remember you are building up to an “evolutionary step”.
- Decide if you are motivated by structured training, or intuition driven, or a mix?
- Determine if you are you a person driven by positive or negative feedback?
- Give yourself credit, not for what you do, but that you actually tried. Some people never even try.
- Fed up? Switch sport, try something else, at least another discipline.

Performance & limits
Do not fear anxiety/stress – if it is there - just accept it. Observe it for a while. It is not your perceived weakness that is the problem, it is what you feel about your weakness.
- Be sure to have many versions of warm-ups so you can adapt to shortness of time.
- The purpose of warm up is mainly to get in the right mood.
- Freediving is a mystery, even with the worst of preparations you still can perform your best if you manage to get your emotional state right.
- When at a competition site, make this your arena, take a walk around it, every corner, express your right to be in the way, to be seen, stroll around the pool, imagine yourself in the pool.
- Do not expect a good day or an easy run. Keep it in you mind that it will not feel nice. Expect a long, extremely long easy phase, but do not forget the fighting phase.
- Make sure your max attempt is the real thing, set a date and a time (just like a comp) and start with a countdown.

- When exploring your limits it might be a good idea to forget about any set goals and just focus on the right feeling. Let the numbers come to you, instead of chasing after them.
- It can be very daunting to go for max attempts. Just the thought can make certain people feel the taste of failure. You must understand that a max attempt is not a PB attempt – it is just to try to see how far you can swim this day under these circumstances.
- A max attempt is a way to ask yourself: who am I?
-Pushing yourself is not easy, and even painful. Seeing the physical reactions as something biological that you understand will enable you to endure longer. What you understand will make not you freak you.
- Its only freediving– just do it.

Body/mental awareness & relaxation
- Awareness is the prerequisite for change, a necessity in order to master relaxation, or reach flow.
- It will be much easier to attain this skill if you like your body. You have to emotionally grasp that your sense of self has to include your body. It is not an appendix to the brain.
- Mind and body is constantly communicating and having an effect on each other, they interlace, any dirt in one part of the machinery and the other part is instantly effected.
- Identify how you react to stress. Observe your thoughts and emotions when under stress.
- By switching between tensioning and relaxing – relaxation will be deeper. The yoga position called “the boat” is an example.

- During relaxation visualize and tell your body to relax deep in the muscles, body part by body part.
- Do psychic breathing – create a steady slow airflow in and out by blocking slightly at the epiglottis in the throat.
- Get active, release energy: physical movements (jumping, yoga, dancing, swimming, tensioning). You might even have to use sounds, humming, singing and if applicable: scream. You are the athlete, it’s about you, don’t care what others think.
- Stop, close your eyes and listen. Make a mental list of all present sounds. Try to identify the smallest sound of them all.

- Chose one activity that you always do – and chose to do it in slow motion. Like brushing your teeth, or opening the fridge, or putting on your shoes.
- Do nostril breathing. Imagine only feeling air in one nostril while breathing in – and then imagine only feeling the other nostril when breathing out. Slowly back and forth, right to left, and back. No hands involved. You can add counting of breaths as well. Start from 0 if you lose count.
- Observe how you evaluate and judge everything you see: good, bad, interesting, normal, boring, weird, stupid, fascinating. How you compare your self and how you evaluate how everything relates to you. What it can, or can not do for you.

Visualization - creating an image in the mind.
Rehearsing a challenge beforehand by visualizing will prepare you in a subconscious way. Do it several times, check several alternatives, look at it from different angles. Preparation, countdown, how it feels, how you do everything right. How you succeed, finish it perfectly, hear the applause. Visualize it again, see it in slow motion, freeze certain situations where you feel stressed or nervous, smooth it out, solve it.
- A detailed “first person” view, or visualize it from a third person, stepping back, getting an overview, seeing yourself move.
- All senses or some specific ones:
Kinaesthetic (imagining how it feels when you do it), Visual (just seeing it as a silent movie), Auditive (a focus on the sounds), or you might be comfortable with a more linguistic approach, talking yourself through your performance.
 - Visualization is a skill, practice by imagining simpler things. Close your eyes now an imagine yourself getting into your suit.
- Close your eyes and remember your actions from the second you woke up and onwards. Recount every movement and thought.

Reprogram the situation. NLP / Affirmations
Words are thoughts, thoughts can control our emotions. When in training, or during relaxation, when it flows, when there is harmony, start using a cue-word that will remind you of this feeling. Connect a mantra to every kick or stroke. Load the word with positive feelings so that you can use that word and return to that mental state in the future when needed. Combine with affirmations. “Gosh – this feels good”. “Wow – I am relaxed”.
- Repeat positive commands to yourself, over and over, "relax, focus," "I can do this”, “I like this”, “I have trained for this”. Say to yourself: “I might actually make it”.  Give specific commands: “Reach and relax”. “Kick and gliiiiiide”.

Mind control games

- Plain work ethic, laziness will get you nowhere.
- Sometimes the training session of the day is nothing but an exercise in discipline: the fact that you showed up in gear is enough. It is not what you do, but that you did it.
- Remember, it is not always fun.
- Short focused training, can be better than lots of sloppy training.
- Discipline is much easier the day you realize your brain is always looking for a short cut, the easy way out.

- Observe and understand the “quitter” inside of you. Note the thought right before you are about to give up. What was that thought?
- Discipline is a choice to override the first inclination to do something else.
- Cultivate habits, and remember, every time you break a good habit, you are stepping away from your goal.
- Are you a control freak? Well, then ease off.  If you are not a control freak, try becoming one.


Sense of perfection
– The athlete that is not looking for perfection in every move while in regular training, will not magically deliver it in competitive situation. Train according to your highest intentions.
- It is about anchoring new habits in your muscular memory, in your thought patterns, as well as getting rid of old ones. It all comes down to care for the details.

- Split a movement down to its ingredients, perfecting them and assembling them all again. The thumb, the hand, the arm, the torso, the full movement. Again, again, until you are not thinking anymore, until you are in the movement.
- Its not about the finishing line, the edge, the surface – it is about the process. Focus on process. It’s an attitude.
- If there are too many details, you might want to bunch them in groups, simplify them and chose the most important one. For instance, to focus on a certain speed, or counting, or focus on reach - might solve technique.

More later...

More later...