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What is freediving


„Freediving is not just a sport, relaxation and entertainment, it is primarily a lifestyle,“ says Martin Zajac, chief trainer of the Czech national freediving team. We asked him what is the best way to start with freediving...

Martin, what does freediving mean for you?

Freediving and everything related to it is my profession as well as my life hobby. I live with it 24 hours a day and thanks to that it has many faces and tastes for me. I am not bored even after ten years in this branch. I still learn new knowledge in this field, I meet new people and get to know myself as well. But that is life, whatever we do.

Freediving is for me work, entertainment, self-fulfilment, relaxation, sport, recreation, excitement, release, self-control, learning and mental and physical training. It is also good nutrition, art, meditation, purification and self-cognition. And when I add attitude to nature, friendship, travelling, meeting new people and still new and new challenges, I’m far from finished listing. Miško Rišian, a top competitor and a member of Apneaman team summarized it very nicely in one sentence:

„Freediving is one of few activities during which I feel most alive!“

Did you mention that freediving is a life style for you? How did you mean it?

A life style can be practically created from each sport or activity. But I mean that freediving is an absolutely unique thing thanks to its specific character! If it attracts you, you will feel desire and motivation to work on yourself actively and freediving will thereby bring under good guidance to your life physical and mental health. You will gain tranquility, ease, new friends and many unforgettable diving experiences. You will also expand your horizon of inner experiences and self-cognition.

I draw your attention to the fact that this is not a way or a life style for lazy people! It does not matter whether your goal is to become a world champion, to shoot, to photograph or just to enjoy beauties of the underwater world – it always requires an active approach. On the other hand, the bigger challenge, the more fanciful way and more space for changes!



Are not these just strong words? Why is freediving so unique?

Uniqueness of freediving lies mainly in feelings. Everybody has ever tried to hold breath and knows the feeling of strong urge to breathe in. Most people without experience with freediving breathe in spontaneously in this point, because unpleasant feelings induce them some kind of „state of emergency“. But this is different.

Each graduate learns and verifies already in the basic freediving course that he still has a lot of time at disposal in this moment. He can therefore calmly continue to dive. This requires training of course and expert guidance - ideally already from the beginning.

Sense of freediving is definitely not to „hog“ the best possible performance at all costs, it would be a wrong attitude. It is about understanding of what is happening with the body, about the maximum possible relaxation associated with perfect self-control and in optimal case with so-called „self-coaching“. Magic and uniqueness of freediving lies in the fact that your performance depends only on you. An apneist is in the given moment „alone“ in the given place, he is just Here and Now! It requires one hundred percent concentration on being in the present moment, on perception of inner feelings and states, on work with them, but also on perception of outer conditions. That’s what I consider as one of the greatest benefits of freediving.



Can training of freediving affect normal life as well?

Yes, I would say that freediving can affect normal life quite essentially. Our ancestors declared „healthy body – healthy mind“ and reverse is also true. Freediving training includes both physical and mental preparation. Let us realize that it is a comprehensive approach to a human being and it is up to us what instruments we choose for ourselves.

On the recreational level we follow more our feelings and we choose instruments we will like. But a competitor does not avoid forms of training that he will not totally enjoy, but that is the top sport! How is a freediver supposed to create his own interesting and beneficial year-round program?

The key is regular exercise! We choose additional sports within fitness training according to the training phase. Here we can file several sports from jogging to gym. The most important thing is whether we build general fitness at the beginning of the preparatory period or whether we are in a specific training phase and we solve for instance short-term force endurance. Joint flexibility and flexibility in the chest and diaphragm are important. Stretching and mainly yoga will help here, as it will lead us to better breathing, increase in breath volumes and purification.

An essential part of freediver’s preparation is healthy food. A clogged and hyperacid organism functions badly even in normal conditions, but for a freediver it’s doubly true. Mental preparation includes the entire spectrum of exercises focused on concentration, relaxation, self-control and self-management, visualization and positive thinking. I will summarize it: If we harmonize it into one functional unit, it will definitely positively influence quality of our life.



Is freediving a sport for everybody or is it just for belters with racing ambitions?

Freediving is becoming worldwide more and more popular, there are freedivers of all ages from four-year old children to pensioners, but most freedivers are students and people in middle age. My older daughter Jindřiška started with freediving at the age of four, now she is thirteen years old and she dives without problems to the depths of over 30 metres. Last year we prepared a holiday freediving safari on the boat in Egypt for twelve children at the age from five to twelve years and they enjoyed it perfectly!

A person interested in doing freediving is supposed to be healthy, but it is not a necessary condition. Today people can dive even with diabetes, higher blood pressure and other handicaps. It is important for us to be sure that an interested person does not suffer from such a serious disease that could threaten his or her life during freediving.

I recommend all adepts to undergo an examination in a specialized workplace where they can find doctors who understand the freediving issue. The adepts will undergo not common evaluation of health state, but also a stress test, a spirometry and a diving reflex. Then you will be sent to ORL. If everything is OK, you can just choose a suitable course and let us change into swimsuit!



Do I have to undertake a course, even if I do not want to compete and my goal is just recreational diving?

It is not a condition of course, but in spite of that I really recommend to undertake a course of a corresponding level. There are many articles, recommendations and advice on the internet. But an inexperienced interested person cannot distinguish whether they are good or bad. Read something is one thing and live something through and experience something in practice is another thing.

We dive for pleasure, recreation and entertainment. It is entertainment till the moment when a problem occurs and something unexpected happens, with which we have no experience and we do not know how to solve the situation – and then it may be late!

In a course I get quality information and I train everything in practice quickly and under qualified supervision. This process has significantly higher value and quality. We will understand sooner or later that investment in the course was a good choice. A few students confirmed me moreover that they started as autodidacts, but they significantly improved their performances only after completing a course.



OK, so I will go to the course. But how will I know what course is the best for me?

A beginner has to decide for a training system first. There are more training systems in the world and each of them has its value. A concrete school and the personality of the instructor leading the training are much more important. Length of his work experience as well as his performances can also give you some information and positive references come in handy as well. Not everybody is able to share experience, even though he collected a lot of valuable information on his way to good performances.

Important: Beside price of the course find out as well what you get for your money. Course length, number of theory lessons and especially how much time you will spend with practical training in the swimming pool, with stretching, breath training etc.

The course is supposed to terminate with issue of internationally valid certification. It is an advantage if you find an instructor in your neighbourhood who organizes advanced courses as well. Find out training possibilities after course termination, so that you can further develop what you learnt in the course. Do you already have experience with freediving? Then consult a choice of a suitable course with an instructor. Courses follow each other and it would not do you good to skip a training level.



I want to continue to improve after termination of the basic course. Does it make sense to undertake some special courses?

Definitely! Special courses help freedivers develop their basic skills learnt in the courses, improve and learn what they already can do, learn completely new techniques determined for athletic form of freediving, so that they can push their limits to the edge of their individual opportunities. In the Apnea Academy system it is possible for instance to undertake a course called Mental Training, where participants will improve relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques, in the Advanced Equalization course they will learn levelling techniques and in the Advanced Monofin course they will move efficiency of swimming with a monofin almost to perfection.

The Variable and No Limit course is tailored for competitors who long for dives without any restrictions, but with maximum safety. The Rescue and Safety Freediver course is sought by those for whom safety is the priority number one. Everybody will simply find his own course.


You are a passionate freediver and you do not let your know-how only for yourself. How many students did you bring into the world in which it is not necessary to breathe?




I do not record statistics, but in the eight years I have been dealing with training it has been several hundred students. I am happy that some of them have become representatives and medallists of top world competitions. I currently focus on advanced and special trainings and I lead training events abroad for domestic and foreign students.






What do students most fight with? What is difficult for them and where they make most mistakes?

I had many students focused on freediving as a sport in the past. Today students want to do freediving mainly so as to enjoy nature in peace and to swim with dolphins, manatees and sharks. Yachtsmen sometimes come so as to be able to loosen a stuck anchor at the bottom of one sea on one breath, students with various phobias come and hope that freediving will help them, which often happens.

We teach groups of scuba and technical divers how to increase safety of their dives thanks to freediving techniques. Most students fight at the beginning with psychological component of freediving, when they interrupt a dive unnecessarily before they have to because of unpleasant feelings of strong urge to breathe induced by carbon dioxide.

A common mistake is that students „overbreath“ thinking that it will help them to achieve longer and more comfortable dives. They also have a problem to distinguish whether they are relaxed enough. Sometimes we fight with kick technique, because long freediving fins require at least basic fitness.

Ability of pressurization in the middle ear is absolutely essential for a freediver. Therefore I recommend to people interested in a course at the sea to consult it in advance and to check this ability before going abroad. It could happen that even after one week of strenuous effort the interested person will not succeed in „getting over“ pressurization. It is frustrating for both sides. Pressurization is often the most difficult thing even for experienced competitors. For example Goran Čolak, Croatian, a world champion in the DYN discipline, swims 280 metres in a swimming pool with a fin and in spite of that it is a problem for him to dive into the depth of 90 metres. It is a huge disproportion for such performances.