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“Just relax.” I think all of us have heard this from our Instructors and Coaches…

Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld gives tips on how to be relaxed in freefall

My first thought when my instructor told me this was “Are you f*cking crazy?! I’m jumping out of an airplane! I am anything but relaxed!”

Seemed like the craziest thing I ever heard. But it’s true. As soon we actually learn to relax everything becomes easier, everything.

This is true for students as well as competitors and world record participants. But how do we make it happen? We want to relax. We intend to relax. Then we leave the plane and are so far “over the line” that we never even think about relaxing. We forget completely. Well, here is a plan that has worked for me at all stages of my skydiving career…

During the ride to altitude as we get closer to jumping we usually become more and more anxious and amped up. The excitement and anxiety builds as we get closer to the door, peaking as we start climbing out. By the time we exit we are boiling over only to be hit with the sensory overload we get on exit. Try this instead. During the ride to altitude, focus more on calming down and controlling your energy level, especially as you get closer to exit.

spend your time calming down during the ride to altitude

Being calm starts in the aircraft
Image: Dan BC in a Skyvan aircraft at Skydive Perris, photo by Dennis Sattler

AFF

If you are an AFF student you probably are going through the jump, being sure you remember every detail, worried you’ll forget. Trust me on this, being calm is more important than remembering the jump. If you forget the sequence your instructor will remind you and if you’re calm enough you will be able to easily respond. So spend your time calming down during the ride to altitude. The last few minutes before exit slow yourself down, breath, don’t worry about the sequence. You learned it on the ground and you will be able to bring it up if you’re calm enough.

Once in position for exit stop, pause. Take a slow deep breath, you have time. Calm yourself down. Then begin the exit count.

Most new jumpers exit the plane and take a few seconds before they realize they’re stable. Usually there is a count something like this, “Out, in, go, arch one thousand, two thousand, three thousand.”. At the moment when you realize you are stable, instead of beginning the sequence, pause, take a deep breath, wiggle your fingers and consciously calm down. Let the wind blow your body back into a nice arch. Then begin the jump. You have time.

By doing this you make calming down, relaxing, part of the skydive rather than a hope, wish or prayer. It becomes part of the sequence, and the most important part.

The proper amount of calm is way calmer than you think. Realize this, if you were unconscious and laying on your belly in freefall your body would blow back to your perfect, comfortable arch. You core is where the weight is, like a badminton birdie it will always go to the low point. Your extremities will blow back to whatever your level of flexibility will allow. Your perfect arch is what the wind wants to do with your body if you’re calm and relaxed.

Dan’s recent scratch 8-way teams of all-stars at the 2021 US Nationals
Photo by Craig O’Brien

Competitors

As competitors my team used almost the same process.  We came up with it during one particular training week.  The original Arizona Airspeed team always used the term “on the line” to describe those best jumps where we calm enough to go as aggressively as possible while still able to stay completely under control.  “Over the line” referred to the jumps we weren’t calm enough and were too aggressive.  “Under the line” would refer to when we were too cautious and not flying strong and confidently enough. 

We were debriefing after the first training day and realized we had been over the line all day.  We made it our goal for the week to calm down and put ourselves right on the line.  But despite that being the goal we were over the line every jump.  This literally happened every jump, every day that entire camp.  At the end of the week we truly couldn’t believe it.  We had one goal for the week and made literally zero progress towards it.  We discussed why we weren’t able to calm down as we had intended.  I suddenly realized that not once after exit did the thought of calming down ever occur to me.  We planned to be calm, we wanted to be calm, our goal was to be calm.  But we never actually did anything to make it happen.  We came up with a plan to fix this. 

Our team would prepare the jump completely prior to getting on the plane.  On on the ride to altitude we’d focus on creating the calmness we strived to have on all the jumps.  During the last few thousand feet I would just repeat the sequence as a calm, quiet little meditative mantra, “A, L, 11, 7.”  “A, L, 11, 7.”  When we were lined up in the door and ready to exit, right at that moment where our adrenalin would be peaking, we’d all stop together and take one more breath and remind ourselves to be calm.  We would then exit and work through the first page of five or six points. 

At that moment before starting the second page we would literally stop, breathe and again remind ourselves to be calm. It worked! We made the thought to stay calm part of the jump sequence! From that point on we were able to far better control our mental state on the jumps. Regarding the moment before starting the second page, it didn’t take any time at all. No one could look at the video and see us “stop”.  It was just a thought to be conscious of choosing to be calm.    

Author Dan BC in relaxed mode jumping with cameraman Norman Kent, photo by Craig O’Brien

In any type of skydiving have a plan for when during the jump you will stop to remind yourself to be calm.  It won’t happen only because you wish it to.  You need to make it happen. 

I promise you this will work. Everything, I mean everything will become easier. Please give it a try and let me know how it goes.

One more thought… Learning to do this in skydiving will open the door to being able to calm your mind down in any stressful situation. It is a skill to learn that will help you face any challenge. It helped me immensely when public speaking or getting my pilot’s license. It is one of the many invaluable life lessons we learn as skydivers!


Article by Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, author of “Above All Else“.

Read Dan’s article on using calmness to Perform at Your Best

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Meet: Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld

Dan is Manager of Skydive Perris & Author of the highly acclaimed “Above All Else” book. He was a founding member of Airspeed and a multiple 4- and 8-way World Champion, competing for more than 20 years. Dan developed a training system through Airspeed and coaching so many teams. It works. His personal and coached teams consistently performed at their best in competition and often won – three consecutive and different Women's World Champion 4way teams for instance; Synchronicity, Storm and Airkix. He has so much passion for the sport, competing at Nationals every year, organizing at World Records, and trying new areas like Crew and freeflying. As a P3 skydiving organizer, coach and motivational speaker, he is inspirational.

Dan is sponsored by Skydive Perris, Sun Path, PD, Kiss and L&B altimeters.

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