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Interview with freediver, Billy Middleton

1. What is your greatest strength and why?

All sports have a mental component, but freediving especially so. The mental side has always been my strength, as I did not come in with lots of natural athletic ability. Specifically, being able to remain calm in extreme situations by understanding the physiology and physics of being deep underwater allows for successful dives even if things don't go 100% as planned. There are also a lot of components that have to come together for deep dives, each one needs to be figured out and I enjoy that puzzle.

 

2. Describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision in a match and what did you learn from that experience?

In competition I always strive to dive my plan, minimizing the need for quick decisions. The first time I attempted 200 feet in competition, however, I had a lens start leaking water into my mask for the first time and the distraction caused me to miss an equalization (couldn't "pop" my ears) at around 170 feet. The quick thought at that point was: Don't try to force the equalization, it's not worth the potential injury and there's already enough going on here to make the call to turn early, so I turned around and headed for the surface. Despite the added stress, I came up clean. This reinforced that it's always best to make the safe call in those situations, and the experience added one more thing to my list to mentally prepare for. It's always better if you've thought through potential issues ahead of time to minimize surprises during a dive.

 

3. How do you handle stress and pressure?

Freediving is funny because we try really hard to relax. We need to conserve O2 while exerting ourselves to perform a dive. This is both mental and physical, and helps with competition performance as well as daily life stresses. I find that the best way for me to handle the pressure to perform a dive is to have a detailed plan for every stage of the dive - you'll hear people refer to this as visualization. When the time comes, just stick to the plan and everything should work. When the plan turns out to be wrong, be ready to accept it, figure out what needs changing, and purposefully redesign the plan for next time. It also helps to train in adverse conditions, so that wind/waves/rain/current/gear issues are things you're already familiar with.

4. If I called your coach right now and asked him or her what is an area that you could improve on, what would he or she say?

1- that I have too much on my plate and need to have better dedication to recovery time.

2- it's time to work on conditioning the legs for swimming down and back, since I am currently focused on improving deep equalization of the ears which I train using Free Immersion (using my arms to pull along a vertical rope) because of the increased relaxation.

 

5. What excites you most about your career as an athlete?

Dedication to expanding my capabilities. I've completely changed my lifestyle (for the healthier) in order to learn how far I can go as a freediver.

 

6. What is your most favorite aspect of the Masimo MightySat?

There are 3 big things that make the MightySat a must have for me- My most favorite one being the ability to plot your stats live in the Masimo Personal Health app. Other pulse oximeters give you a snapshot, while MightSat gives you the live stream. This means you don't have to pay close attention during, say, a dry static breath hold (holding your breath, laying down, as long as you can, when you should be relaxing) because you can look back at the data afterward. The plot also gives you the trend rather than that single point, so you can see how your body was reacting over time.  

The other 2 aspects I love are the top quality SpO2 measurements because they're so important for understanding your condition after hard training or especially lung injury, and the respiration rate helps an athlete to quantify the breathing pattern being used and how that affects O2, heart rate, and performance.

 

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