Michaela Werner is among an elite group of women who can swim 200 metres horizontally underwater in about 2.5 minutes.
She's done it several times in training at Lambton Pool. Next year, she wants to attempt it in competition with the added pressure and stress that brings.
The Newcastle freediver and mother of three young children is driven by the passion to "find out how long and how far I can dive on a single breath of air".
"This passion has led me to push myself further and harder."
Her passion comes from "the love for the water and ocean".
"Imagine when you are completely free, not even having to breathe and just becoming one with the ocean. It's an absolutely incredible feeling. One you get a taste of it, you just want to do more."
The national record for a female swimming underwater in competition is 200 metres.
Michaela, 42, has now achieved that feat several times in training, with four laps underwater at Lambton Pool.
She did so after more than a decade of freediving experience and 10 months of training for two hours a day. She couldn't attend competitions this year due to COVID, but next year she will compete.
She said only one other woman in Australia and 31 women worldwide had swum 200 metres underwater in AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea) competition.
COVID made her training extra tough. She had to deal with home-schooling, closed pools and gyms, and training in the ocean.
Her training included ice baths, yoga and sand-dune runs while holding her breath.
In the ocean, she had to battle the swell, low visibility, extra buoyancy and a sandy, uneven seafloor.
Plus, she had to battle that "annoying voice in my head telling me to stop this nonsense".
"I knew that stepping outside of my comfort zone would make me stronger. And it did."
She now dreams of swimming underwater further than 200 metres in an official competition next year.
Michaela, who is also a freediving instructor, says it is all about controlling the mind. She can hold her breath underwater in a static position for six minutes.
"Like with any sport, you can train your body and become stronger," she said.
"You can become more efficient with your breath, but ultimately when you are doing long or big dives, that's when your mind comes into play. You have to convince yourself that not breathing is OK."
Sensations of discomfort and pain make her think she should stop.
"You can't panic. You have to be really cool with all of these sensations," she said.
She does mental training to prepare, including visualisation.
"You visualise your dive many times prior to the actual dive. When you are in it, you feel like you've been there and done this many times," she said.
When she finishes a long dive, she experiences a big high.
"It's an incredible experience. How you feel afterwards - it's indescribable. Your body is exhausted but your mind is fresh. You feel alive."
When she recovers, she thinks "I want to do it again".
But don't try this at home.
"People shouldn't hold their breath unsupervised in the water. It looks cool what I do, but I know what I'm doing. I have many years of experience."
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