Life after the freediving course
So finally you signed up for a course and you did not regret it, depths and times that previously seemed unattainable are now to be a new "platform" from where you lust to go deeper and stay under longer. But soon you realize that it is not so easy to repeat what you did during the course. Why?
Freedivinginstructor Wolfgang Dafert (Phillipines) gives advice on what to do on your own after the course.

11 Tips On How To Hold Your Breath Longer
by Wolfgang Davert

Sometimes students of mine ask me why they achieve such good results during their course, but have a hard time to do the same at home.

Below a list of 11 Tips On How To Hold Your Breath Longer based on what i teach in my beginner freediving course. See every point as a link in a chain. It is only strong when all single links work perfect.

1. Be prepared
Don't eat at least 2 hours before any water activity. Some peoples body digest food slower and so they maybe even need a longer break. Avoid caffeine or any other substance that activates your nervous system. Keep in mind that sometimes an expectation of a time you wanna achieve can let you stumble on the way there. Instead a good goal can be:”I wanna enjoy a nice breath hold training, follow all the 11 points and push myself in my last try. I don't wanna think of the final time now.”
Prepared also means to have the perfect wetsuit for the pool temperature you train in.

2. Always use a buddy!
No water training without a buddy who knows how to do safety. Remember that one can drown even in a shallow pool or in a bathtub if there is nobody around to help. Follow a freediving course that will teach you and a friend how to look out for each other during breath hold attempts. Let your buddy check you every 30 seconds or maybe even shorter at the end of the try by tapping on your shoulder or touching the arm. The checking should start at least two minutes before your personal best. You can then give him a small but clear okay sign, and if your buddy sees no reply then it’s time to recheck and for some rescue techniques. A lifeguard or somebody not educated about safety procedures is NOT a buddy that will safe your life.

3. Relax
If you want to hold your breath for a long time it’s best to relax your body and mind before trying. So first of all take your time for this and don’t try it between lunch and coffee. Take your time calming your body and mind. To calm and relax your body don't stand upright in the water, because that uses a lot of muscle groups. Find a position on the side of the pool where most of your leg and torso muscles are not needed at all. To calm and relax your mind use relaxation techniques you learned like looking at the third eye or any other technique you know. If you are in water use the “Facial Immersion” technique for at least 3 minutes to intensify the dive reflex. And after at least 10 or more minutes of relaxation it’s time to focus on the right…

4. Breathing
Start with deep and slow abdominal belly breathing for around 5 minutes. Try to make the exhale longer than the inhale and don't forget that the pause has to be after the exhale. Don't ever hyperventilate! Focusing on the breathing can very easily make you involuntary hyperventilate. If you feel signs of hyperventilation (dizziness, tingling in the fingers) slow down your breathing rhythm and make the pause between each breath longer. After this introduction do at least also aways 2 minutes of the same deep and slow belly breathing before each successive breath hold try. So after this final 2 minutes of belly breathing ...

5. Inhale your last 3 big breaths.
For the last and final breath the formula is: More Air = More Time. Try to inhale as deep as possible into your belly AND into the chest to maximise your amount of air and your breath hold time, even if it feels a bit “too full”. For beginners sometimes it can be better to start only with a 85-90 percent inhale of your maximum. By getting more and more experienced you can increase this slowly to the maximum inhale. After your last deep inhale you just ..

6. Hold Your Breath
Try to make the start of your breath hold like a smooth transition - don't use physical energy. See it a bit like a falling asleep movement. After this just…

7. Relax
Probably one of the most important things. You have to relax your body as much as possible. Don't care too much about a low heartbeat. It helps, but often in competition or other stressful situations the heartbeat is simply higher but that should never worry you since a good time is still achievable with a higher heartbeat.Try to relax everything, from legs to your fingers. One of the most common problems is the inability to relax your neck and shoulders. And last but not least, try to relax your mouth and your tongue, so that you don’t have a forced breath hold. Keep a continues feel to your body if you’re relaxed and remember to…

8. Don’t think of the time - think of nothing or use visualisation
Don’t start counting or look at your watch, your main goal is to forget time! Best would be to think of nothing, but that is actually hard to achieve and needs to be trained. If you can’t get your mind empty or always start thinking of the time in between visualise a calm process that you can easily recall and that takes some time to go through it. Something like walking through your apartment, or driving to work. Don't think of something exiting. And when you can’t relax or concentrate yourself anymore it’s time to…

9. Fight but in an easy way
At one point while your hold your breath, relaxation is over. Also most people come now to the point where they have contractions - involuntary breathing movements. At this point you can try to mentally force yourself to make one last “relaxation session”. Even when my body wants to fight, i tell him to relax a last time. You can think of a nice grass meadow where you place yourself in. And now you can also slowly shift the air from the belly to the chest which will let you have more control over the contractions and add some extra time. Do this in a slow rhythm and use as few muscle groups as possible. A good buddy where you feel 100% safe and some coaching can help a lot when you have the feeling you can’t hold your breath anymore. So just hold a little longer and then…

10. Recover!
Before you start cheering about your new record, first you need to recover. So first get all the used air out of your system by blowing out a little bit of air (20%) and then quickly fill it again to maximum. This makes sure that you give oxygen to the most critical parts again fast! You can also try the method of hook breathing which can be of great advantage when you are close to the limit of a samba or maybe even a blackout.

11. No doubt, magical thinking or superstitious
You think your last breath was maybe not perfect? You forgot your special mask? You forgot to make exactly 10 times this special breathing technique? You just don’t feel like this is the day to do a good time?

A good static attempt is not possible with any of these doubts, superstitious or magical thinking. They will make you nervous, make yourself uncomfortable and not able to achieve a good result.

But how to avoid this? Realize that the path to nice comfortable static try is only determined by the confidence and strength of your own mind. Training under different conditions can also help. (Different times of day, different pools, under stressful situations).

Make use of the “Safe Time” technique. Find a time that you can always achieve (should be around PB minus 1 minute) and then never leave a training session without reaching that time. This way you don’t start questioning yourself, since you have to make the “safe time” anyway. No matter what.

(c) Wolfgang Dafert, 2012