LIMITLESS WITH CHRIS HEMSWORTH Exclusive Interview With World Champion Freediver Tanya Streeter

Limitless with Chris Hemsworth is now streaming on Disney+, and we recently sat down with world champion freediver Tanya Streeter to talk to her about how she trained Hemsworth to spearfish!

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Limitless with Chris Hemsworth is now streaming on Disney+ and ahead of its launch, we were able to sit down with a number of experts to talk about their incredible work with the one-and-only God of Thunder and how he pushed himself further than ever before. 

In the "Fasting" episode, Hemsworth faces arguably his greatest challenge ever: not eating any food for four whole days! With him expected to hunt for his meal on the final day to break the fast, he seeks out the assistance of world champion freediver Tanya Streeter, who coaches him on how to increase his underwater breath-holding capacity.

Reaching a depth of 525 feet, Streeter once held the overall "no limits" freediving record, which, at the time, was greater than the men's record, and is still the women's world record for No Limits Apnea. She tells me all about reaching that amazing depth and how her methods can not only improve your skills underwater, but also in your day-to-day life as we look to increase our longevity. 

Check out the full video interview below and please remember to SUBSCRIBE to my channel!

ROHAN: Chris is obviously a unique case study, especially with his Thor physique, and so, because of his advanced physical form, was he able to adapt faster to your methods or do you typically find with your students, that anyone can learn and use these methods to improve? 

TANYA: Yeah, there's a lot in there. So, I'm never surprised by anybody being able to learn because - well, because I could learn and I could go to the extent that I could, and the only reason I could do that is because we share our mammalian physiology with diving mammals, so to me, a large part of my success I attribute to our innate ability to do it. So, I would argue that anybody can do it. However, Chris was a brilliant student.

Now, full disclosure, I had to google him when I was told who this was going to be leading the series, because I don't watch a lot of TV. *laughs* And of course, I felt like a complete idiot and my friends were like, ‘How can you not know who that is?’ So, when I figured it out, I was like, well, this is a strong fit, young man, and he wouldn't have signed on for a project like this if he wasn't willing, and so those are all the things that I look for whoever I'm going to work with: ‘Are they willing?,’ and strong and fit helps - and young men typically are pretty goal-oriented as well.

So, I didn't have any qualms about whether or not he was going to be able to do it. I was just infinitely surprised at - he was a great student, and he was a great student in the face of quite a lot of adversity, not just, you know, on a film shoot, that's obviously his comfort zone, not mine, but so, that clearly didn't faze him one little bit, but he was pretty darn hungry and depleted, and he was full of grit and grit is what you need, when you're facing your own inner fears and issues, and maybe he was, maybe he wasn't, but when you're freediving, it tends to boil it down to some really core, intensely personal things that you face.

ROHAN: When you first meet Chris and teach him how to fully use his lungs, he's just starting his four-day fast, but when you see him again on the last day, he's nearly at the end. What differences did you immediately notice between him on Day 1 and on Day 4? 

TANYA: He was tired, and he was depleted, and, if you're interested in the topic, and I, from a background was interested in it, and fast myself, so I was very clear and very familiar with what he was going through, and I know that all the science is there, and you believe the science and Peter Attia is amazing at conveying the science and the fact that he was fasting with Chris, you have this sense of solidarity, which is great.

What nothing really can prepare you for is how it erodes your mind and your will, and your drive, and you can be so incredibly strong one minute and then just mentally want to just throw the towel in. So, the only difference that I noticed was perhaps just the things that get eroded when you are just exhausted, and that can be willpower, but I mean, he's clearly not a quitter, and he wasn't about to quit. What you see in the film is complete reality as far as his openness to what he was enduring. Lots of people fast or go hungry - keep in mind, he was working out. He wasn't just working, he was working out his body as well.

So, there was a lot going on there that he was facing, and he was just tired, but he was resolved. I mean, I think with any of these things, when the end is in sight, you kind of can get that extra kick, at least that's my experience with fasting and every freediving record I've ever set. I've always left the surface and told myself, ‘In three minutes, this is all over. I can do this for another three minutes.’ So, I would imagine that there was a bit of that going on in his head too, but yeah, I mean, from beginning to end, he was completely committed. He worked really hard. A fantastic student, for my short period of time, a pretty freakin amazing human being, but, yeah, he had what it took and he did it very gracefully.

ROHAN: I was really fascinated by how you explained that we don't typically use the full capacity of our lungs, and how changing that can help us improve, especially in terms of underwater activity. Would you say it also helps with other cardio exercises, running, sprinting, our day-to-day, etc.?  

TANYA: 100%. Yes, 100%. That's how I'm going to make my billions. *laughs* The reality is that oxygen is the only fuel that you can consistently, continuously put in your body unless you're free diving, but in all other air-breathing endeavors, be they athletic or otherwise, oxygen is the fuel that you have access to, just by breathing. So, learning to breathe efficiently, making sure that the respiration, the exchange of gases is taking place as efficiently as possible, happens when you know how to breathe and know what parts of your body to expand, and you can see in the film, Chris has natural athleticism.

It did not take long for him to be able to identify the muscles that he needed to use to be able to access the lower part of his lungs, and to be able to force air down there where a greater exchange of gases can take place, and what that means physiologically is basically you're going to get rid of a lot of carbon dioxide from your system by breathing efficiently like that, which allows for more space for oxygen, but also carbon dioxide is the gas that when it builds up, it gives you that desire to breathe, that air hunger, and triggers the diaphragm to contract so that you take the next breath in very simplistic terms.

Now, when I work with students, typically, children and women are better at accessing that lower part of the lungs, and, with kids - okay, let me backup, if you ever want to know how to breathe properly, look at a dog, you know, an animal or a child, a baby because they belly breathe, and that's because nature instinctively knows that that's the most efficient way to do it. It's only as we get older, that we tighten our core and suck our stomachs in and we don't let that part relax and we become chest breathers, which is super inefficient, but for whatever reason, kids when you say okay, well, you just have to pretend you're sticking your stomach out. Like let me see that basketball in your tummy, and they'll boom, they stick their tummies out and that's it and those are the just the same muscles that you use. Typically men are, you know, they're bigger in the chest, they want to use their chests to breathe. So, it was really pretty impressive how quickly he picked it up that this is where, this is what we're doing, and at one point, I think during the shoot, I don't think it made the film, but I grabbed his hand and I put his hand on my stomach and said, these are the muscles. These are the ones and it's like, ‘Oh, okay, yeah..” and that's because he's an athlete.

ROHAN: I believe Tom Cruise learned how to do it for his last Mission: Impossible, but you're able to hold your breath underwater for over six minutes - can you tell me more about how you trained to do that? What's the process like? 

TANYA: The first thing in training yourself is you get a buddy, you just don't do any of this stuff by yourself, even if you're laying on your couch in your own living room, you have to do it with somebody else. Just to put it into context, my best breath hold was six and a half minutes, the world record today, the men are over eleven and I believe that women are over eight or nine minutes. So, you know, that's 20 years ago that I was holding my breath that long.

I think now, if I focused on it and trained or at least prepared, I could probably get between four and a half and five minutes, and that's because I understand how to do it and I have sort of muscle memory recall, but mostly it's because I'm a mammal, but as an athletic mammal, I know how to use my brain and to override some of these instinctual things that your body is going to tell you to breathe.

Basically speaking, when you break it down, you need to have a high level of cardiovascular fitness, you need for your heart and lungs to be working well together, and you achieve that through aerobic and anaerobic workouts. That's how you build your aerobic capabilities, your VO₂ max, and in doing so, you're making that system stronger, you make the system of functioning on, especially if you're working out enough anaerobically - breath hold is highly anaerobic, you're not breathing, therefore, it's anaerobic.

So, it becomes an endurance anaerobic thing. For example, for me, when I was training and competing, I worked first on strengthening that base, if you'd like, with my cardiovascular fitness, and then I would look at conditioning, the actual act of breath hold, which is then with repeated breath holds, and there are complicated systems and tables that we use, where we restrict how much oxygen you can use, but you have to hold your breath for the same amount of time, or you have the same amount of oxygen, say three or four breaths, and then you have to hold your breath for incrementally longer periods of time, and it's like anything that you work and train for, you're going to have good days and bad days, you're going to not be successful, which is why you have a buddy there, but overall in the big picture, you will improve your general capabilities.

The reality of it is, we have a biological physiological human capability of doing this, mammalian capability of doing this and that's why we can, it's just you have the combination of the mental drive, the physical fitness, and then you have to want to do it, and that's about it, all in the right quantities.

ROHAN: The episode introduces the world to underwater hockey, which looks like plenty of fun, but also incredibly taxing. Is that a common training exercise and what made you know that it would be the perfect training exercise for Chris?

TANYA: When I was 19-20, at University in England, I actually played. Over there, we call it Octa-push, but it’s underwater hockey, and that was long before I was a competitive free diver. It was actually long before I even knew that freediving existed as a sport. I didn't discover that for another five or so years, and for me, it was like well, there's a workout in the pool and it's competitive. I love it! Sign me up!

Before that, I was an obsessive lacrosse player. So, I'm pretty physical. I like to push to the limits. I love team sports, you know, all the things. It's a controlled environment. He's an athlete, he likes to compete. You can tell his relationships with his best friends, who now work with him, like he's a people person. He likes to be around people, compete against people, lift other people up and then, beat them. That's just being an athlete.

So, yeah, I mean, underwater hockey seemed like a no-brainer. The fact that they had a team there in Brisbane at the university, fantastic. It's shallow, and the thing about freediving people think, ‘Oh, you have to be diving deep all the time.’ You don't, you have to be pushing yourself in a breath hold situation, and that's what underwater hockey does, but then the other thing that makes it unique to spearfishing, which is where the sort of risk factor comes in, is that your attention is taken away from your breath hold, which can be a good thing, because there's nothing like negative suggestion to help you quit, right?

If you're just laying there and I know this because even though I could hold my breath for six and a half minutes, it was the discipline of the sport that I hated, because in my mind, if I'm just laying there face down like this, if I want to breathe, I just go like that and lift my head up. I don't have that kind of willpower. I was really good 400-feet down, you know, I'll make it back to the surface. That's the difference, so when you're playing underwater hockey or spearfishing, you sort of take your mind away from the breath hold part and then you're exerting yourself.

So, it just seemed that underwater hockey was going to be - short of actually spearfishing itself, which comes with inherent risks in a less controlled environment like the ocean - underwater hockey seemed to be a great way to recreate some of the things that he was going to face underwater when he spearfishing later in the week.

ROHAN: Chris is tasked with hunting down a fish and the episode makes it seem like it does it within a few minutes, which is really awesome, but, just between us, how long did it really take him to catch that fish?

TANYA: I'm actually kind of embarrassed to say that it really did take as long as it looks in the show. The water is so plentiful, we put him in a great spot, to the point where I wasn't quite ready off-camera, I had talked to him, we had talked about it, I was still trying to figure out what fish can we shoot here because I'm not familiar with the Australian waters and I believe that I was still sort of messing with my gun and he's like, ‘Alright, there's some fish, I’m gonna go down.,’ and I’m like, okay, and I'm getting ready to do his safety, and I’m like, oh, okay, we're doing this.

He's got a fish like right there and then. Again, you don't sort of see, but there was even - we were close to film crews, we were close to the boat. It was very quick that he did it, which was great, because he was tired. We did also do, I mean, that part was quick, but then we did a little bit more hunting, we went further afield. We got away from it all and that's when I could see him just kind of - like it gives me chills. You sort of become one with the water, and he's very super aquatic anyway. You could see that he just sort of relaxed and at one point, he put popped up and he's like, ‘Oh, this is awesome.’ There weren't any fish. There wasn't really a need to do it. We were being trailed by cameras for all the other shots that we get and everything, but yeah, the film was very accurate, very true to all the things and I thought, wow, we've given a day to this getting a fish scene, like not even a full day.

I was like, Okay, none of you people have been spearfishing, you know, in my experience, you're out there for hours, but yeah, it wasn't like that. It was pretty great. He's a good shot, it helped that he was a good shot, because you can often wait another hour trying to get them to re-school or whatever, but, yeah, it was pretty good. It was pretty awesome.

ROHAN: Chris has just started incorporating these breathing exercises into his regime, where would you like to see him go next as a student? What can he do that could help his long-term health?

TANYA: Oh, you know, when I come across people like that, who are - first of all, built like that, but also just check all the boxes as far as what his capabilities are going to be. I get super excited because I'm just like, wow, you have so much potential, but it's not everybody's desire to freedive. I think that freediving, as a sport, has an application to almost everything else you're going to do in your life because it is such a personal challenge.

If you've ever listened to any interviews or watched any films about me and my records, I always talk about an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other and it's so easy to listen to the devil tell you that you didn't eat well enough. You didn't sleep well enough. You didn’t stretch well enough, or you know, whatever, all the things, and it's real hard to tune into the angel who just says you know what, just try. Just see what you can do, you prepared pretty well, just try.

So, I think that those are really personal things that you face underwater and if you choose to face those, you know doing that you then overcome them, then you can't help but take that on land with you to whatever endeavors, so Chris clearly can do whatever he sets his mind to, be it physical or anything else. I mean he's going to be capable of whatever, maybe one day he'll remember some freediving. I mean, he's a big surfer, so that's a lot - I've worked with big wave surfers, and I work with them because it's scary when you get rolled and when you get stuck under a wave and there's so much foam, you don't know where you can actually breathe, but you're not in water anymore.

I mean, there's a lot of fear and being able to rely on your human physiological blueprint is a big part of it, and you learn about that when you're learning to freedive.

What if you could combat aging and discover the full potential of the human body? Global movie star Chris Hemsworth explores this revolutionary idea in the new National Geographic original series, “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth,” created by Darren Aronofsky and hailing from his production company Protozoa Pictures and Jane Root’s Nutopia. Entertaining, immersive and life-changing, “Limitless” rewrites the rulebook on living better for longer. Coming to Disney+ November 16.

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