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Pro Tips: How to Start Freedive Training with Amanda Smerge

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Freediving has always been the ultimate connection between human beings and the sea, and learning how to do it well is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. Going deeper, staying longer and becoming comfortable with yourself in an ever-changing environment are good lessons for ALL outdoor sports, not just the obvious ones like spearfishing and surfing. So how do you get started unlocking your potential for freediving and beyond? We asked Padi-certified freedive instructor and Adventure IO guide Amanda Smerge to give us the basics.

photo courtesy of @depthwishfreediving

AIO: What are some things that people starting out freedive training need to consider?

Amanda Smerge: Never train breath holds in the water without a qualified safety instructor, never dive alone and never hyperventilate! Those are my main rules.

The number one thing to remember is that having a good breath hold has more to do with the mind than the body. It is truly mind over matter. When we get the urge to breathe, roughly around 30 seconds in, it’s your body’s natural alarm system to take a breath but it’s NOT from lack of oxygen. It’s from a raised level of Co2, which makes you feel very uncomfortable. With an instructor’s guidance, you will learn how to block out this alarm system, relax, and hold your breath longer.

photo courtesy of @bobfanok

AIO: What’s the best way to start?

AS: Taking freedive lessons, honestly, it is the best way to start. But you can do DRY Co2 tables. The most simple and effective table is 8 breath holds in 4-minute increments. Hold your breath as long as you can, then breathe normally for the rest of the four minutes after you exhale. Then repeat 8 times. This helps train your Co2 tolerance and mammalian dive reflex. The idea is to never push yourself to extreme levels and to stay calm. If you’re feeling any anxiety, stop and breathe. There should be no anxiety, only a slight challenge. If you create a negative relationship with breath holds early on it can be detrimental to your progress in the future. I always say “the mind is like a pregnant woman; once it’s screwed you can’t unscrew it.”

photo courtesy of @caymanjason

AIO: How does a day with you help people to learn faster?

AS: Like anything we learn, having the correct tools and a professional’s guidance creates a solid foundation. A Level One course is only the beginning of your training. It teaches you all the fundamentals and it gives you the foundation for much deeper dives. Through the course you learn the physiological effects diving has on your body. You learn that you, like everyone, have the superhero ability to hold your breath and dive deep underwater. I’m there guiding you during static training and on every dive to give you the confidence that you need to push your “mind-made” limits and to unlock your potential. Last but not least, you meet new people with the same passion and love for the water creating friendships and life long adventures!


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