By: Owen Costello (Ocean Deep Yoga, PFI Freediver Instructor, 500hr Yoga Teacher, guitarist of 16 years)
“If you go to slow you never get it. If you go to fast, you never get to get it good.” – Ryan Montbleau, Pacing Like Prince.
I love this line and I love this song. As a yoga teacher, I’ve dug for, been taught, found, and shared wisdom from ancient texts, psychology, Bhuddism, Hinduism, the Bible, anatomy, etc. As a freediving instructor I’m inclined to look at sports psychology, technique, training methods for freediving and other sports, and understanding the relevant physics and physiology. However, I think there is something to be said for the wisdom and timeless truths captured in some music and this song in particular: “Pacing Like Prince” by Ryan Montbleau. I find that it really resonates…. Dare I say it… strikes a chord…. I digress.
This line applies directly to freediving, yoga, and really anything you want to get better at but for specificity, we’ll keep it to freediving. “If you move to fast, you never get it.” How true is that? Freediving has taught me, among other things, the value of slowing down. However, there is a line because the extreme of moving slowly is hardly dissimilar from stagnation. I’ve heard many freedivers, especially when faced with an obstacle, (like equalization issues or poor relaxation on a given day) say things like “I need more practice. Maybe it’ll be better in a few months after the right dry training.” Some catch-all reason to stay out of the water for months. I’ve done this too. Looking back on it, it was out of my own ignorance of what to do about it and doubt that I could easily and quickly move past a mental block or sticky ears, that I resolved to pause freediving for a longer period than necessary. (Side note: Ignorance leads to fear. Doubt arises from fear. Fear perpetuates ignorance as it often cripples us from trying to understand.) The antidote here is SELF-TRUST. As we develop as freedivers, we learn to trust our body’s intelligence and develop a dialogue so we can accurately interpret the body’s messages. Now, I should add here that having the right coach and buddies is a crucial ingredient to significant progress. There is no substitute for deliberate training: time in the water, exercises, stretching, dry equalization practice, pool training, setting clear and specific goals, measuring your results, etc. However, at times we may fail to give ourselves credit where credit is due. We may pass over the opportunity to acknowledge our strengths and accomplishments which may take away from our confidence when diving. If we do not feel confident, of course our performance will suffer. While it may be true that we could benefit from professional coaching, don’t immediately throw in the towel and let the mind start inventing “reasons” to stay dry for months, or deprive ourselves from our love of the deep, suspended between breaths. We may find that we don’t need as much “work” as we think we do. Have faith in yourself, trust your body. Move forward and dive with confidence. Don’t stagnate. I hear Montbleau’s voice in my head singing “If you go to slow you never get it.” If every set back causes us to stop all together for longer than needed, we never make any progress. But that doesn’t mean move fast.
The second part is “If you got too fast, you never get to get it good.” This is also true in freediving and I can speak to this firsthand. Due to my eagerness to pursue depth, I’ve suffered barotrauma several times to both trachea and lungs. I was moving so fast I never got “to get it good.” I was making my dives and my watch read a bigger and bigger number but there’s not much satisfaction in spitting blood into your hand moments after a dive that, lets face it, didn’t feel right long before any injury took place. To use Montbleau’s phrasing, “getting it good” on a dive means not only hitting your depth but doing it in a way that feels amazing. Every meter can be pure bliss if we progress at the right pace with the right instruction. Moving too fast can also look like being rushed and tense on the line itself, within the parameters of a training session. This could come from peer pressure, or an encroaching deadline or time constraint, or something simple like cold water. All of these and more have affected my relaxation during training but then it just becomes part of the training. I get the opportunity to practice managing my mind and emotions using just my breath, and my environment. For peer pressure, I handle this now but realizing that it was all in my head. My buddies and instructors over the years were and are very patient and want my success, as I do for them. If you are diving with people who egg you on, are impatient, and/or make you feel unsafe or uneasy… get new dive buddies. Another trick I use, is simply setting the timer on my watch for three minutes. This is a perfectly reasonable time for a breathe up, even for 60m dives! With the timer going, I know that anything that comes up until that chime goes off is grounds for dismissal. Just for the next few minutes while I do my dive. During my breathe up, I often perform a condensed yoga nidra body scan. This, combined with a 3:00 is great at helping me forget about how much time my brain thinks has gone by versus, you know… reality. At the end of the time, I calmly turn off the chime and take my final preparations before I begin my descent. If you struggle with anxiety on your dives, give the timer a try. Notice how many times your body attempts, or wants, to dive within a 3:00 window of time. I’ve seen it many times where divers sabotage themselves simply by imagining that more time has gone by than what actually has. You may find that 3:00 feels like much more time that you think. As for the cold water, I’ve been dealing with this the past few months with winter here in Hawaii as, historically, I don’t last long once the shivers start. Lately, they’ve started during my warm up dive. This has been a blessing in disguise as it has forced me to become for decisive and confident in my dives. My winter sessions have looked something like this:
- Warm up: ~18m hang until first urge to surface.
o Maybe two if the first was awful
- ONE Target dive (last session was 55m)
- THREE Technique if I’m not too cold for quality.
o I pull the line to 30m
- Pau (finished)
I used to do the opposite. Much more “building up” to the target dive but by then, I was often too cold to perform well. I would either not attempt the dive at all or “send it” and, in the past, suffer an injury. I huge boon to my confidence was also work with the equalization tool. I was able to fix my issues with the Frenzel technique, have become much more proficient than I was at mouthfill management, and consequently have since stopped having squeezes consistently. In hindsight, the key was slowing down.
To bring this whole thing full-circle, I “never got to get it good” because I was going too fast. Too fast in a training session, I was having poor quality dives. Too fast in my overall progression and I struggled with repeated squeezes in the 30’s and 40’s. On the other extreme, I’ve moved too slow in response to injury or circumstance almost to the point of stagnation. Things were too slow to get it. So remember in our dives and in our lives, “If you move to slow, you never get it. If you move to fast, you never get to get it good.”
Thank you for reading. If you would like to work together, I am available for coaching, entry level courses, and private yoga. Coaching and yoga can be done on zoom as well as in-person.
By: Owen Costello, owner/founder of Ocean Deep Yoga: Freediving and Yoga, in Kona, HI, USA
- PFI Freediver Instructor
- PFI Supervisor
- PFI Safety Diver
- 500hr Yoga Teacher
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