Stress, concentration, relaxation – my way to 244 meters on a single breath

World Record – 244 m Dynamic Without Fins (DNF) Matt Malina


The day after setting a new World Record in qualifications of DNF (dynamic no fins), time had come for qualifications in DYN (dynamic in monofin). I have played it safe and did what was necessary to get into final A, 250 m.

72 h remaining to DNF finale. In this race I was one of the favorites for gold and I felt a little bit of pressure because of it. I knew how important is to fully recover my muscles and to not lose any power. I’ve made some short physical workout, followed by a stretching session, few minutes in sauna and refreshing bath in cold pool (4C).

Day Off

Next day was a day off. Few hours I’ve spent working on my laptop and in the afternoon, we went for a ride on our bikes. That’s when I’ve started feeling pain in my right toe. It was some kind of joint pain. I was confused because I’ve never felt such pain before in this area. Next day I’ve checked in a pool and while swimming, I didn’t notice any difference, so I was calm because it didn’t matter at all.

concentration matt malina coaching ola during static apnea turku

This time coaching 🙂

Static Finale Malina way – stress management 🙂

It was a day of static A finale. My OT was in finale B. I didn’t plan to compete in static. However I’ve made a 30 m DNF during my “static” and I’ve got a red card with 3 seconds performance time. Why have I done it? I wanted to “feel” the water and the atmosphere of start.

I like this way of preparing my mind for big attempt. Day before I come to the swimming pool at the time of the next day’s official top. I try to reproduce exactly how it’s going to be the next day. If there is official countdown with official zone, even better, because it’s making the whole thing more authentic.

That’s why I wanted to make it into A finale of static, where I would do the same thing as above. Static finale after amazing fight with Goran Colak, won Aleix Segura Vendrell with 9 min. 23 sec. Only by 4 seconds, considering penalty for late start.

Amazing, Aleix is my friend and we both met in Egypt , 7 years ago in 2009. We both were starting our freediving journey there. He talked all the time about Tom Sietas and I about Dave Mullins. It’s funny that last year we have both won World Championships in Belgrade, both for the first time.

Relaxation before DNF Finale

Later during the day, we were relaxing by playing poker with Ola, Karol and Michal. It was our favorite thing to do in Turku. Strangely enough, I was not stressed before the next day. I knew that I’m ready and I will just do my thing. What result it will bring? It didn’t matter. The most important thing in any sport, is to give everything we got and afterwards don’t feel that we could have done more or that we have lost a fight with ourselves.

matt malina plays poker with friends turku freediving

Relaxation during poker game 🙂

Karol and Michal were a little bit tensed, however, we supported each other and there was superb atmosphere in our flat!

During the night I’ve slept well and the day I’ve been waiting for the whole year has come. Will I be able to defend World Champion title? Or will I go back with nothing, without World Record and title. After qualifications, when Arthur Guerin Boeri dropped out, I had a feeling that currently there isn’t anyone else, capable of beating World Record. In sport however, nothing is ever certain, but I had this inner feeling. The question was, whether I will stand up to the task and swim to the best of my ability?

The day has come

Michal and Karol, my flat mates and training partners, both done their personal bests in finale B of dynamic no fins (DNF). 175 m and 180 m respectively. Michal, however made a protocol on wrong site of a line and got a red card.

Half an hour before my official top, it was female finale A. I have crossed my fingers for Magda and Julia! I’ve made mental experiment and instead of focusing and relaxing before my dive I was standing with everyone on the end of the line and cheering for them.

I’ve felt that Magda is capable of beating World Record here, I’ve spot it some time ago. And so she did it! Magda have swum 185 m and won a gold medal while beating World Record at the same time. World Record that used to belong to Natalia’s Molchanova, queen of Freediving. It’s really sad, that they will not have a chance to swim side by side. Nevertheless, Julia surfaced at 167 m, which gave her bronze medal. It was a Polish day in Turku already!

concentration matt malina before world record dnf limitless 244


I went to change my wetsuit and concentrate before the dive. 25 minutes left, it’s more than I need to change and relax before the dive.

Stress -> Concentration -> Relaxation

When I was sitting next to my lane, I’ve started to feel stress. Stronger than during qualifications. I thought “uff, good that I’ve made a World Record in qualifications, at least I have a one good dive if it goes bad here“. I’ve quickly identified this thought. I’ve realized that my ego started to compensate the failure. I was jumping between past and future time. It’s not something I want to do, because it will go all down the road. I’ve quickly brought my thoughts to the ground and focused on here and now. 

When I’ve entered water before official top (OT), all the stress went away and I’ve started to feel just like before any other training. Absolute zero stress, slow and relaxed breathing with my eyes closed, almost like failing asleep. Stress tried to get into my mind but there was no place for it. However, good that stress was present and controlled, because it was enhancing my dive responses, thus my performance was increased.

My mind was empty, I didn’t feel my body, just noticed movements of my diaphragm. I was in some kind of trance. One can say that I’ve entered “flow” state before the dive. Last 2 minutes to official top passed very quickly and I could finally start my attempt.

matt malina flow state concentrates before world record dnf limitless 244 concentration

Flow… fot. Daan Verhoeven

I remember only glimpses of my thoughts

Honestly? I don’t remember much from the dive. Only some random images here and there. It happens to me very often only on the best dives. It’s called flow state. I can say that up to 200 m I was in some kind of a dream. I didn’t feel any contractions, discomfort or burning in my arms. It happens somewhere beyond consciousness. I notice when it happens for the first time, but somehow I can suppress that feelings, move them to the  the small part of a brain, behind the doors, then I lock the doors and throw the key away. This feelings are gone – metaphorically speaking.

When I am at 200 m I awake from such state. I try to control how I feel and how much more I can roughly swim. I’ve decided that I swim one more length and will see how I fell at 225 m. At 225 m not much have changed in term of my performance and I have decided to continue on the middle of the line. I was curious about what will happen next. Approaching 250 m I got scared a little bit, because it’s unknown area for anyone, at least officially, so I have decided to finish my dive there, at 244 m.

matt malina happiness world record dnf 244 world champion concentration

Wow! World Record and World Champion on a single dive! fot. Daan Verhoeven

Being curious is crucial factor that influences our motivation

I had a reserve, don’t know how big, but this feeling is important. It makes me curious, and being curious is a great motivational tool. I can say that now in DNF I don’t explore my capabilities anymore, but human capabilities in this discipline. It makes me even more curious. I wonder, what next World Championships will bring, but I can say now, that 250 m DNF is only matter of time, while half a year ago it was an abstraction, at least to me. Will see who gets there first.

It happened, I have made my dream came true. I’ve become World Champion while beating World Record. Now it was a Polish day in Turku. Together with Magdalena Solich, we both established new World Records and won gold medals. It never happened in history of Polish Freediving, maybe even in whole Freediving history it never happened. I can proudly say that Poland dominates DNF world at the moment!

matt malina swim dnf style technique underwater pool freediving apnea concentration

It was a good dive! fot. Daan Verhoeven

Almost 10 lengths of pool on a single breath of air

Back to 244 m DNF, I must say that this dive was almost perfect mentally. I’m happy that this kind of dives happen more often. However it’s not always the case, sometimes dive feels very bad and each 25 m last forever. Luckily it doesn’t happen on competitions anymore.

But who knows, maybe I won’t have such a good dive ever again and I won’t be able to progress? On the other hand I know that this type of thoughts are compensatory mechanisms to protect our ego from failure and let’s hold to that 🙂

At some point I will describe the last day of World Championships, epic DYN finale (dynamic in monofin).

Special thanks to my official sponsor Grena LTD and BANDI cosmeticsFreemoon for sponsoring Polish Freediving Team at World Championships in Turku.

More photos available to see in my gallery, click here to check it.

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