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Sharon's Freediving Progress

This page details Sharon's experiences and progress with freediving

How did I get into it?

Freediving.what's that? It's a question I have answered many many times. There is still much more for me to discover in the world of the sport. A year ago I participated in a freediving course after listening to my husbands rants and raves about it. At first I was weirded out by the whole idea and didn't see the fun in suffering from lack of o2. I had many questions about safety and health as well. Of course one of them was "doesn't it kill brain cells?" After hearing all of Calvin's detailed explanations I thought I'd give it a try. Seeing what he was capable of really made me want to test out my limits to see if there was even a potential for me.

Prior to the course I tried a test breath hold and was amazed at the timing on my first attempt which was 4:30! I couldn't believe it and right away I saw why the sport was so addicting. Shortly after I began taking the course (Performance Freediving by Kirk Krack) and learning the biology and science behind it all I felt very comfortable and assured. 75% of the course is focused purely on safety and spotting and that really put my mind at ease knowing that at all times I would have someone by my side.

My next few attempts at static's were still within the 4:30 range. My record time reached 4:52 but I had a samba (loss of motor control) so it didn't qualify.

Sharon's Training Journal

[02/25/05] Western Regional Competition

My First competition

The Regional competition has finished and although there were no personal records broken, I am so proud of what I accomplished. My willingness and determination stood strong and I followed my objective through to the end. The opportunity to compete with world record holders and as well receive tips, advice and training from them doesn't come along everyday and I am fortunate to have had that chance.

Friday's competition

This was a nerve wracking day for me. So many nerves and butterflies were hindering me from doing my best. Before leaving for the competition I made sure I was very prepared. All my gear was packed away the night before and as well I had written out my strategy list and warm up schedule so I could defuse any unnecessary stress. After arriving at the pool, the team attended a briefing on the rules and regulations of the competition as well as the order of events. The team consisted of 7 men (including 3 of which hold world and/or national records) and 2 women one of which was me and the other (Mandy Rae Cruikshank) whom holds many previous world records for women. So I must say I felt a little bit like the rookie of the team. They certainly didn't make me feel like one though and had more faith in me then I did.

Following the briefing we all gathered by the pool and set our timers to "zero time". That's it.competition begins. There was no turning back from this point. After some stretching and warm up breathing I suited up. Instead of renting a full 5mm wet  suite, I figured I could get by with the shortie one that I already have. Turns out, the pool that night was 3 degrees cooler than usual due to a special event they had there. So the shortie didn't do all that much in terms of insulating which in turn didn't help my heart rate. 30 minutes after zero time it was time to enter the pool to start my warm up breath holds. During my warm up I had someone spotting me of course. The small amount of pool time you get before a competition is crucial and every minute is accounted for. Unfortunately it was a bit of a shamble. During the 2:30min warm up my spotter was supposed to signal me. I think the eye candy throughout the pool was a distraction and he forgot that he was timing me. As I started reaching some strong contractions I knew that my time had past my target of 2:30. Either that or I was having a really bad day because that was the hardest 2:30 I had ever done. Turns out I had probably gone to 3:30 and when I came up, my safety guy blurted out "wow you were down there for a long time". He forgot that he was supposed to time me which I guess could have been a miscommunication but it threw me off of my tight schedule.

The moment of truth

Finally it was time! The safety guy slowly pulled me to the judging zone insuring that my heart rate remained low. Once in place I had 5 minutes to relax and breathe up before the big hold. At this point I found it very hard to relax and in the back of my mind I knew that this was going to be a bigger challenge then usual because of all the added factors. I kept telling myself I could do it and just to relax, but the mix of cold shivers and butterflies were fighting against me. Hearing the judges call the 30 second mark followed by the slow motion echo of the 10 second mark, I knew it was time. There was nothing I could do at this time about my thumping heart rate. "5,4,3,2,1, 0"..taking in a deep breathe I knew I was in for 4-5 minutes of torture. From the moment my head touched the water I knew I hadn't taken a deep enough breath but I was going to pull through it regardless. 2 minutes into it, the contractions started. From 3-4 minutes things were feeling very uncomfortable. The safety spotters begin signaling you 1 minute before your announced time. My announced time was 4 minutes so my first signal/tap was at 3. As soon as they start tapping you your mind can't help but think of the time. This is when you feel the most uncomfortable because you are aware of every second. Finally the 4 minute tap came. At this point I knew that it was almost over. I had reached my target and it was up to me to make the crucial decision as to when to come up. Because I have done between 4:30 and 4:45 totally clean numerous times I figured I'd have no risk making that my goal time. In the past I have done 5 minutes however it wasn't clean and I had a samba when I came up. There are many ways in which you can be disqualified and having loss of motor control (a samba) is one of the most common. There is a fine line between the seconds of when you could have a problem and it can change from day to day. From the 4 minute tap every signal from there on comes every 15 seconds and at this point I just tell myself.  "only 15 seconds more". This is the time where you have to be very careful that you don't push it past your limit. I ended up coming up at 4:37 with my breath hold but was disqualified due to signs of hypoxia. Considering all the things that went wrong with my warm up as well as the fact that I was nervous and cold I am surprised that I lasted as long as I did. Even though it didn't go into the rankings I was and am very proud of my effort and determination.

[02/21/05] A cold just before the compeititon!

Unfortunately this week I have had a bad cold. I haven't been able to train and am concerned about the competition. Hopefully by Friday the congestion will start to clear. No matter what the case I am going to do my best. I wonder if the drowsiness from the cold will benefit me because of the decreased heart rate. Ya never know!

[02/18/05] A new personal record!

Tried my first target static in the pool tonight.

I attempted a practice session to see if I could even get into the groove again. In order to compete successfully you need to have a specific program in place which consists of exercises to lower your heart rate, warm up breath holds, and triggering the mammalian dive reflex. All of these things will be of great benefit for the actual breath hold. My main focus was to figure all these things out in detail.

My warmup & target:

  • Facial immersion - 5 minutes
    (Face in water, normal breathing)
  • Breathe-up - 4 minutes
  • Warmup Hold - 2 minutes.
    Started getting contractions just as it was ending
  • Breathe-up - 4 minutes
  • Warmup Hold - 3 minutes.
    My contractions started around 2 minutes at the most. It wasn't a pleasant three minutes but Calvin had reminded me of how the second warm up is always the most challenging. He was right!
  • Breathe-up - 5 minutes
  • Target Hold - 5:00 w/ LOMC. Five minutes!!!
    I was determined to get a good time on this one knowing that it could change my optimistic outlook on how I would do in competition. I think my contractions started around the same time 2:00. As they started getting stronger I kept trying to trick my mind into thinking about anything but the seconds. Finally Calvin gave me the 4 minute signal. I knew if I just took it 15 seconds at a time from there that I could do it. I was so close! At 5 minutes I came up but with a samba. In competition the time wouldn't have been counted because of this. Personally though, I was very proud of myself for having the will power to reach my limit. Now the question is figuring out how far I should push it for the competition. I want to get a good time but i don't want to be disqualified just because I came up a few seconds too late. For the competition this Friday I figure I will come up at 4:35 no matter what. Then on Saturday I'll aim for a higher time because I will have already had a safe ranking with Fridays time.


[02/11/05] My first competition!

After months of rest .and a wedding, I have decided to re-introduce myself to the world of freediving and sign up for my first competition. Normally in order to qualify for a competition you need to do 2 or all 3 of the different challenges (Constant Ballast-deep ocean breath hold diving, Dynamic Apnea - underwater breath hold length swimming, and Static Apnea-purely a breath hold challenge). This is part of the reason I have forgoed past competitions. I'm not the strongest swimmer and still have problems equalizing with deep ocean dives so those haven't been my strengths. The judges have made an exception for this competition and have allowed me to compete in just statics. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and figure if I can just do a static and come out with a ranking, what do I have to lose.


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
 Hi! I have a problem with contractions at first urge to get air in dynamic apnea. I'm a swimmer for over 14 years and dive when I get the chance(once a year at the sea and in pool on trainings). Now when I dive, after about a minute or less, I start getting contractions in chest, urge to get air on surface, a little bit of panic... an unpleasant feeling in general, and stronger contractions. Could you please explain to me how do you OVERCOME THE CONTRACTIONS. With practice I managed to extend my time under water by just trying to ignore contractions and unpleasant feel. Is there some tips, trick or advices on how to easily overcome this FIRST CRISIS? I can do much more time on static apnea but on dynamic, the contractions start much earlier and stronger because of more oxygen my body needs to move and it's much harder to ignore. any advice is welcome.
Thanks in advance! Cheers!
Salaj Darjan
(Croatia-Bosnia-Adriatic Sea)
 Probably your best bet to overcome the sensations is to work through the CO2 tolerance tables and practice them regularly.
 It was good info. I was wondering on ways to find a dive buddy to practice my breath holding tech. I m in southern california if you know of any sites to go to
 Hi Danny -- I'm sure that you'll find others on DeeperBlue who would be willing to meet up and train together. Good luck!

I'm just after seeing your posting now. I competed in Ibiza for Ireland in 2001, and since then have done a 5:16 static at the 50m pool in UL. There's another chap in Nenagh who has done a 5.00 dry too. Hope that helps! You can email me on if you like. Cheers.
 hi, just wondering on some training tips, i can hold my breath for 2mins 30sec and have recently started running 3 times a week for 30mins, 2 sessions in the pool a week doing underwater laps and diving whenever i can, any advice on increase my breath hold plz
2006-11-14Walter Johnson
 Just found this page today, very interesting. I tried breath hold today and stopped at 2 minutes when contractions began. I don't want to go past that point because I don't have anyone helping me. No problem going to 2 minutes though. Very interesting.
  I am an underwater escape artist and can stay underwater for almost 2 minutes. What is the best way to increase my ability to stay underwater as I free myself from special underwater handcuffs?
 i am trying to find out a bit about freediving before i go on my course because i have a while to wait.i am very physically fit but would like some tips on the mental side of training,like relaxation to overcome contractions.cheers.
 He Sharon,

Yesterday was my first experiance with Static apnea, I could hold my breath for 4.23 . I also had a Samba. Thank God i was also in the hands of a expert. While searching on the internet about "Samba" i bumped in to your site.
Do you have some detailed information about this matter?
 hi. i am a freediver also and my pb is 4:38. i would reinforce your advice on anyone interest in freediving to start by taking a course, as they will find out you can never be too careful, particularly having a good spotter. also, where are competitions announced and do you have any idea what the irish static record is?
 Liked what I read. Am a competitive swimmer - age 54. Good breath control and use of visualization due to coaching. What about serious inner ear problems, complications as I have difficulty with very shallow pool depths and many ear infections as a youth?
 To be honest, I don't know what the implications would be. Definitely worth asking your doctor, although many of them are not as familiar with freediving, unfortunately.
 Great read. However I seem to have the same problem as Conrad, I cant seem to reach anywhere near the 1:30 mark. I am 17 and Im an avid surfer. I teach watersports at a local centre here in Ireland and spend my days in the water but cannot hold my breath very long under water when attempting free dives. I think at best I can only dive for 50 seconds. Would really appreciate some advice or reccomendations if you have time. Cheers. Roars. =)
 A short training course (like the one I took) could easily make a huge difference in getting closer to your limits. By the sounds of it, you are probably limited by the uncomfortable sensations and not your actual physiological limits. Training will show you how to relax, lower your heart rate, trigger your diving reflex, minimize your oxygen consumption, reduce the CO2 buildup (which is primarily responsible for your urge to breathe), recognize your physiological limits, etc. Because of the inherent dangers, this is definitely an area where the techniques must be taught by a professional under supervision. Have fun!!
 Really interesting reading. The most I could do was 3:35, with no stressors around. Could use some tips.

I read your story, and I am very impressed, yet intrigued! I am an avid freediver, and I cannot even seem to hold my breath to 1:30 - 2 minutes! What is the deal ! I ahve all the stuff to enhance my diving! freedive fins, milleniums weights, I try to relax, but I am not sure what my problem is! Also sometimes whrn I dive, I get dissy, an ddisoriented! I usually surface and relax at that point until it goes away! please advise!

thank you


Sharon will respond here soon!...


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