Lubomir Stefanoff | freediving and UW photography


Back to basic training

by on Nov.23, 2009, under Training

It’s been a while since I last wrote in my freediving blog. I’ve been quite busy recently and didn’t keep my promise to post regularly…
Anyway, what I am up to at the moment? I’m taking a step back from freediving and doing longer apneas. Well, I still might go once a month to Greece or the Black Sea for some easy freediving. Now I started the basic training – swimming and running regularly, almost no breath holds…
I’m trying to do good aerobic workouts in the pool – totaling 3-3,5 km for the moment. I haven’t done pure swimming for quite a while, and I’ve forgotten how much fun it is (I can feel the water much better without a wetsuit). A triathlon coach (the president of the Bulgarian Triathlon Federation) is advising me how to structure my training and that makes a big difference! I hope that in 2-3 months I’ll see the results…
As far as running is concerned, I’m a complete newbie and my technique is far from perfect, but I’m catching up on that. In a month when my body would be adapted to the training load, I’ll insert some apnea exercises (controlled breathing) and gradually my training will be more focused on anaerobic exercises…till mid summer, when I plan to freedive a lot!
Well, that’s for now…I’ll keep you updated about my progress in swimming and running.

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Old school Russian monofin

by on Sep.23, 2009, under Training

Today I tried my new monofin – a genuine Russian monofin for finswimming, made some 10 years ago or even more… It’s a gift from Stefan Todorov (renowned underwater video operator and former champion in underwater orienteering). I turned 25 a few days ago and that was a great surprise :)
Russian monofin - back Russian monofin - frontThe monofin was crafted from first class fiberglass material. The rubber footpockets are a bit damaged but that could be easily fixed.
This morning I tested it in the pool. The footpockes are fairly tight (maximizing efficiency) but still feel great, as if the monofin is an extension of the feet! Only I have to wear some fabric (special socks for finswimming?) to prevent blisters. The blade is a bit stiff – it’s designed for fin swimming, not dynamic apnea (supposed to be ‘long’ distance), but we’ll modify it soon.
I had not planned a training session for today, just wanted to try out the new equipment. I did an easy 50 m and felt great…the glide is longer compared to my Waterway Nemo Wing monofin. I rested for just over a minute and did another 50m…and soon I ended my 20th lap (50m) with 1:20 rest intervals inbetween, feeling really good and confident. I did not count the number of kicks…that’s on my to-do list for next week. I can clearly see the difference between open-heel footpockets (no socks necessary) and closed ones (similar to Omer Millenium). Can’t wait to try a 100+ meters dynamic with it!
Monofins pile Well, did I mention that I’ve got TWO Russian fins, not just one…The other one has a little crack right on the edge and I’ll delegate the repair works and experimentation to Volodya (spearfisherman/retired military pilot with innovative and ‘crazy’ ideas about [mono]fins design).

Enough about monofins… Tomorrow we’re heading to Porto Koufo for the Skandalopetra event…I’d better do some equalization exercises now. Stay tuned for some pics and the story behind them.

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Thoughts on static apnea

by on Jul.10, 2009, under Training

Static apneaRecently I’ve been thinking more about how I do static apnea. If I have to choose what kind of freediving I’ll do in a certain day I would definitely say that it wold be constant weight with monofin. That’s what I really like, it’s practiced in the sea, I enjoy the pressure on my body when I go deeper and I can relax and concentrate; and furthermore, there is always something to see from the marine life.  It’s different with static apnea – especially when it’s done on land. There is no physical effort, one just tries to relax and play with the mind. Sometimes I do easily good static apneas – when I’m concentrated and enjoy the holds. But sometimes I get bored quickly, I cannot concentrate at all, let alone decide to stand some good contractions. I know that it’s important to do decent breath holds and I have to work on relaxation and concentration. I’ve tried different techniques. During the first 1-1:30′ of the hold I check and relax my muscles; then I start visualizing in great detail some pleasurable moments from the past – thus occupying my mind and ‘forgetting’ that I am holding my breath. I’ve also tried visualizing a scene from nature and it works great.When the contractions begin I’m still able to visualize another reality, but for a short time. Then it becomes harder and even though I know I can still hold my breath safely, I’m tempted to quit early. I’ve tried doing some series of pressing my fingers with the thumb, and it ‘steals’ time. Some days it works – but last week I couldn’t concentrate and my mind was everywhere…which led to quite short apneas. I tried longer ones – and did some – but it was not fun at all – I struggled and forced myself to do them. I wonder if good static times are achieved with determination or more likely with a relaxed mind…or both.
Usually I set some goals for my training sessions, but sometimes when you have a bad day it’s better to switch to other exercises and focus on heaving fun or have some rest. Thus even when I haven’t reached the goals I would be satisfied. Of course the line between ‘a bad day’ and ‘not motivated to train’ is thin, and I’d rather have more successful sessions. I train and freedive for fun, after all.
Today I went to the pool and everything worked fine, no hard times in getting in the mood for some breath holds. Now I’m trying to figure out my own routine that will always work – that’s why I’ll write down some observations and test them in the future.

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Pool sessions 13-14 June

by on Jun.14, 2009, under Training

lingering_at_the_bottom1Two weeks till the next freediving trip to Greece… This weekend we had to settle with an outdoor swimming pool (in Sofia) which was a good place for training.  Despite the parties held on Friday night, 6 freedivers/spearfishermen appeared at the pool on Saturday – it’s a good number, considered tha fact that freediving and pool training for spearfishermen are not very popular in Bulgaria…yet. One of the pools is 5.6 m deep and in the morning wasn’t crowded. We did many dives and static apneas there – you can see the clear water on the pics. I wasn’t able to do longer apneas because of the cold – I was shivering in my surfing wetsuit after an hour in the water.

Wet static - MitkoMitko was doing great and logged several good dives on my divewatch. He even broke my humble 2:20 record (done at 10m last summer), so I decided to wear a full wetsuit ot Sunday and log a better time – it’s my watch…and I had done much longer static apneas without it! I thought for a while about my approach to freediving – I do it for fun and for my own pleasure, but I have to admit that I felt the competition demon in me.  I had won many competitions (not in freediving) and I like winning in general…but  I haven’t thought that this could be a driving force for my freediving… Well, we will see, I’m a beginner and I have to learn more about myself…Competing (with friends) is not a bad thing, we had a lot of fun during that two days. (I guess I bother with ‘competing’ cause I’m far from the sea and had tons of work to do.)

Freedivers in a poolWe didn’t miss the chance to make some figures in the pool – it was kind of hard in the beginning, laughing a lot underwater because of the lack of coordination between us. After a few tries we managed to form a decent circle on the bottom (Ivozag played with my camera and captured it; Thanks for the other good pics, Ivo!). We also attracted some kids  who were astonished at the fact that a human being could stay underwater for several minutes and come up alive! It sounds funny, but we had to be responsible when we train during public hours at the pool. Kids tend to imitate what they see…and doing that with freediving could be disastrous.

Static apnea at the bottom of the poolSunday was a different day – much warmer, no wind…and full 5 mm wetsuit. I wanted to do dynamic apnea in the 50 m pool, but for a warm-up I did some static apneas in the deep pool. I regained the ‘record’ on my divewatch, but Mitko broke it again…Well I gave up the idea of max dynamics and after a short break started again with statics at the bottom.  Soon I set a new ‘longest apnea’ (according to the divewatch) that Mitko couldn’t break.  Next Sunday I’ll try to set a longer one, close to my PB (5:03 at the moment).

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Dry statics

by on Jun.05, 2009, under Training

I haven’t had a lot of time for training this week, so I decided to do dry CO2 tables 3 times. Well, I don’t like them at all but there is some value in doing them…especially if you cut down the rest intervals and don’t cheat with hyperventilating. Typically I do a few warm up breath holds an then I start the following table:
2:30 hold – 1:30 rest
2:30 hold – 1:15 rest
2:30 hold – 1:00 rest
2:30 hold – 0:45 rest
2:30 hold – 0:30 rest
2:30 hold – 0:15 rest
2:30 hold – 0:15 rest
I feel OK in general after the last breath hold – I am getting used to the contractions. On Wednesday and today I rested for 5-10 minutes after doing the table and attempted longer apneas – I did several around the 5 minute mark, but did not enjoy them much. I’d planned a max attempt in the swimming pool for tomorrow, but we are going to the Aegean sea (Thassos again) for 2 days of freediving so the max attempt will be on next Saturday. I’ll try 40 meters in constant weight if I feel ok, otherwise I’ll do other drills and take lots of pictures with my G9.

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Training in the pool

by on May.12, 2009, under DYN, Training

Now that I finished the basic preparation, I won’t spend much time training out of the water (running and cardio in the gym). I don’t think I’ll have the chance to go freediving again this month, so my training will be mostly in the pool (3 times a week) +some  dry CO2 tables. Here is how my typical work out in the pool look like:

10 x 50 m with the monofin, 1:30 rest

10 x 25 m sprints underwater, 1:00 rest

500 m monofin swimming – 25m underatwer/25 m on the surface (active recovery)

After that I usually spend 15-20 minutes doing some monofin drills – swimming on the sides and back, focusing on the knees (as I saw from a recent video footage I bend them too much).

After today’s session I thought for a while about the benefits of this kind of training. To be honest, I think I’m not training hard enough. I can swim easily 50 meters DYN with the monofin with those 1:30 rest and I don’t feel tired at the end of the workout. It’s high time to start doing either more meters or decrease the rest intrevals (I’ll try 1 minute rest on Thursday to see how I feel). After all, the body needs to get stressed to achive a good training effect. I haven’t done long dynamic apneas recently and last time I tried to pass 75 m I just didn’t want to suffer the contractions and came out early exactly at 75 m. Staying in the comfort zone won’t yield good results. Doing longer distances regularly (including max attempts) will help me get used to contractions and finally make the 100 m swim (I’m sure I can do that, just need some time to prepare mentally). From now on I’ll do one max attempt every week both in static and in dynamic…hope to see results in the near future. I haven’t done much wet staics either cause I usually  wear a 2.5 mm shorty wetsuit and get cold pretty soon, so maybe going to the pool with full suit on Saturdays is a good idea – I won’t be the only one with a spearfishing suit in the water – probably Mitko and Vov will be there too…

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Freediving in Gokceada

by on May.07, 2009, under Freediving, Training

In the beginning of May I had the chance to  visit the Turkish island Gokceada for a few days. I trained at shallower depths there although I’d planned to do deeper dives (30+ meters) in constant weight.

Gokceada is not the perfect place for freediving, but we opted for it over Halkidiki (Greece) because Ivan (a friend of mine) wanted to go spearfishing and in May spearfishing is not allowed in Greece. I don’t like Gokceada as much as the Greek coast because of the wind and the reduced visibility due to the sandy bottom.  Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun there. We stayed in the South-western part of the island and used a boat to get further from the shore to find depths of 20+ m. In the beginning I was pissed off because I was not going to do deep dives but soon I decided to focus on technique rather than depth and found out that it’s very beneficial to concentrate on only one thing during the dives- i.e. equalization and position of the head, duck dive, finning technique, free falling, etc. During the last two days I worked mostly on the free fall phase of the dive.  When I started diving along a weighted rope I noticed that my body tends to go a bit sideways when I stop finning (which affects my concentration). So I did many repetitive dives and tried to stay streamlined and sink vertically. Now that I can do it in a better way I enjoy the free fall even more! Next time I hope to use the Frenzel maneuver for equalizing the ears (I’m doing the exercises on a regular basis and will test this technique first in the pool).

Regarding the underwater pictures – I did try to take macros of some interesting fishes but the shots are far from great and I’ll keep them on my computer :-) .

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