In the first two episodes of ‘Limitless,’ Chris Hemsworth tackles physical challenges that put his muscles to the test: he tiptoes along a platform jutting off the roof of a skyscraper, swims in icy waters, and tackles a 100-foot rope climb thousands of feet above the ground.
In the “Fasting” episode Hemsworth’s challenge is less death-defying but just as tough. In the actor’s quest for longevity, Dr. Peter Attia challenges him to go four days without eating. At all. And when the fasting is over, he has to hunt and catch his meal by spearfishing off the Great Barrier Reef.
To help him successfully lock down his prey, Hemsworth enlists the help of professional freediver Tanya Streeter, who coaches him on how to control his mind while increasing his breath-holding capacity underwater. “You make a decision whether you’re going to let your mind be your weapon or your weakness,” says Streeter.
Here’s what we know about Streeter, her freediving career, and her work to protect our oceans.
She’s a World Champion Freediver
Growing up on Grand Cayman island, the ocean was Streeter’s playground. “As a child, it was a place of escape and protection,” she explained to TedX. “It became the place where I proved myself to myself by traveling to the absolute edge of myself,” she added.
In 2002, she held the overall “no limits” free diving record for both the men’s and women’s categories with a deep dive of 525 feet. She completed the dive in a single breath, which took a total of 3 minutes and 25 seconds.
“To redefine your limits is to first accept that there are limits. They’re just not what you think they are,” she says. Her dive still stands as the women’s world record for No Limits Apnea.
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She Can Hold Her Breath for Six and a Half Minutes
A big part of Hemsworth’s training was holding his breath, which Streeter explains is all about oxygenation. “The only fuel you can consistently put in your body at all times is oxygen, and so to deny your body oxygen is huge,” she says on Limitless.
During a free dive, you need the air volume in your lungs to be as high as possible to equalize against the pressure of the ocean as you descend. To maximize the volume of oxygen in the lungs, freedivers use a technique called packing, which means they take a deep breath, but then suck in extra air and pack it into their lungs. “It’s risky, but necessary,” she explains to Ted X. “I need to hold my breath for as long as possible, so I can hold my breath for the three and a half to four minutes that the dive is going to take me.”
At her peak, Streeter could hold her breath for a whopping six and a half minutes.
learning from Limitless
She Believes In the Power of the Meditation
For Streeter, the physical side of freediving isn’t even half the battle. “It’s more mental than it is physical—100 percent,” she says on Limitless. “Your brain is going to stop you every time, and that’s part of our survival instinct.” It’s when you push past that limit that you have access to what Streeter refers to as the missing 30 percent of your potential.
When facing fear, she combines breath and focus to slow the brain. “It’s absolutely imperative to look at what it is you’re doing in a realistic manner, to calm yourself, and essentially prepare your body, mind, and spirit for whatever your endeavor is,” she instructs Hemsworth.
She Used to Be Afraid of Sharks
Freediving isn’t the only fear Streeter is set on facing. That’s why she signed on for Shark Therapy, a show on BBC Two where she confronts her shark phobia head-on.
In the show, Streeter dives with reef sharks, manta rays, and leopard sharks to get over her fear. For the final test, she travels to a shark hot spot in the middle of the Indian Ocean to dive with whale sharks.
“The amazing thing is, my irrational fear has been replaced by a complete and utter fascination,” she says on Shark Therapy. “Now that I have dived with these extraordinary creatures, I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.”
More about Limitless
She Wants You to Be Mindful of Plastics
After a rich history in the ocean, Streeter is on a mission to protect it. That’s why she partnered with the Plastic Oceans Foundation to raise awareness about single-use plastic pollution. “Finally, I feel like I’m paying the sea back,” she says.
In the film, A Plastic Ocean, Streeter shed light on the real and shocking impact of ‘disposable’ plastics. “I didn’t know that in the last 10 years, we’ve made more plastic than we did in the century before that,” she shared on TedX. “Half of those plastic products are considered disposable. But think about it, how can a disposable product be made out of a material that’s indestructible? Where does it go?”
Streeter’s not suggesting that we live without plastics, but to be more mindful about how we use and dispose of them.