Freediving pool competitions for beginners
First time competing?
Most commonly when a freediver first competes they do so in the pool. The following is a basic guide on how to get ready for competition, what to expect and a few tips to make your first comp a fun and educating experience.
Should i sign up?
The biggest hurdle for many newcomers is signing up. competition isn’t reserved for the top tier elite athletes. competition is for any diver of any skill level, giving you a valuable chance to pick brains of other like minded individuals as well as providing a set goal and a deadline to apply to your training. many divers begin to see big improvements in their own training once they take an interest in competing and start setting goals for training in the lead up to a date.
But i’m not ready……
Many strong upcoming divers refuse to compete because they feel they are not ready for competition “ill do it when i’m at ###m” “i dont know how to do it” “that seems like too much stress”
The interesting thing for most first timer competitors is the first experience is about learning the basics of the rules and protocols as well as coping with the extra added stress of starting to a countdown, lots of people watching you prepare and placing too much focus on what other people are diving. Very rarely do newcomers set a record or personal best and its a good way to approach the first time as a learning experience focusing on having fun and relaxing more than anything else.
taking this mindset to your first competition will not only make your first comp a positive experience but will also give you great mental fortitude that you can now apply to your personal training.
How should i get ready?
When preparing for a pool competition you should learn how to “taper” your training. tapering is the process of preparing the body for extreme endurance performance and at the same time reducing the risk of overtraining or injury allowing adequate rest both physically and mentally. usually tapering is considered a 4-6 month process however you can apply the same principals of tapering into condensed cycles
How do i Taper?
Most divers like to taper for performance in about a 6-7 week cycle. this can be lengthened or shortened depending on your type of training and baseline physical fitness. For the first 3 weeks your training for both pool and dry should be focused on heavy physical training with high volume and intensity. think surface swimming tables, heavy co2/lactic tolerance sets, Apnea walking, strength and weight training. the purpose of this is to develop the strength and resilience for longer hypoxic swims later in the program.
weeks 1-3 pool example:
10x Dynamic over/under 25m
10x 50m Dynamic 00:45 recovery
5x 25m freestyle sprint / 25m Dynamic
4x 25m no fins Dolphin sprint
Remember to alternate your training and allow for adequate rest and recovery between training as well as allocating a set rest day. As you approach your 4th week start to slow the sessions down, place more focus on longer swims and on drills like delays and slow swims that encourage longer dive times. Begin to start each session with 1 maximum effort no warm up swim while your body is still fresh. Practice drilling starting to a countdown, your surface protocol, timing your laps and get your buddy to film you for extra feedback. your dry training at this point should move away from heavy gym training, Place more focus on flexibility and range of motion with light body weight exercises like yoga or short HIIT sessions. Training statics dry is also beneficial but can also be used as a visualisation exercise. Figure out how long your max swim takes and practice holding your breath for that time or greater while visualising your swim. allow for a full recovery and repeat at least 5-6 times 3 times a week.
Start incorporating visualisation exercises and basic mindfulness meditation practices. there are many apps that provide basic coaching for free. try to fit in 10-20mins practice a day, preferably in the morning before you eat. the benefits of visualising your diving can help you relax as well as provide a mental scaffolding of your routines, technique and how to deal with any problems that may come up.
weeks 3-5 pool example
1 x Max swim (countdown,surface protocol)
1x sub max swim 80%
5x delay at start 1:30 50m DYN (increase by 15s each set)
2x 50m DYN slow as possible
As you approach your final weeks of training you should treat the session like a competition. get to the pool, set up and do your final prep how you would at the competition. I tend to do 1 max swim followed by 2 more sub max swims then call it a day. sessions at this point of the cycle should be about 1 big performance being mentally prepared and nothing else. there is little advantage that can be gained from loads of heavy training right before a competition and a higher risk of overtraining risking injury. place your focus on the mental prep and staying relaxed and in your routine.
focus your training from now all on one big performance at least twice a week, turn up to the pool try to push that personal best out further. if you have put in the effort in the earlier weeks of training you should be able to move your numbers up and should feel much stronger while doing so. keep rehearsing your timing and surface protocols. dry training place focus on long max effort static holds or repeating sub max times with a decent break between to fully recover.
For registered AIDA ranking competitions you are required to present a few pieces of information on the day usually before or just after the briefing:
register as an athlete via the AIDA international webpage so your results may be recorded in the database details can be found here
your current Passport to prove nationality and validate for national records
A medical clearance from a doctor signed, dated and stamped stating a non contradiction to freediving
any liability form or media releases required by the organiser.
Setting goals for the competition:
For first time competitors competition can be stressful as it very unlike regular training dives. its common to see many divers attempt a personal best or fail there dives as they have set a target and will not alter from it if the dive doesn’t go as planned. Treat your first dive just like any training dive set a distance or time below your personal best as your goal and adjust your plan once your reach that if you feel comfortable. unless you are attempting a record, a strong conservative dive will be more rewarding compared to a high risk dive that will most likely result in a red card potentially knocking you out of any points races. A good mental prep technique on comp day is to sit behind the lanes and practice your visualisation exercises to the official countdown, then rehearse your dive over in your head.
Everyone has different experiences from their first competition. Its important to remember to have fun with it and take the chance to meet other competitive divers who have been through the exact same scenario as you and may even have some good advice to set you on the right path.
Have fun competing and remember to never train alone.