Freediving, like all sports, requires training to improve. Most freedivers are not easy to achieve, but fortunately there are a few freedivers that can be used to train their physical and mental comfort without needing water. This article discusses the training held in breath holding to improve the tolerance of carbon dioxide and hypoxia, but keep in mind that there are also techniques to improve muscle aging, cardiovascular disease and psychological training.
1. Improve Your Carbon Dioxide Tolerance by Training with a CO2 Table
The accumulation of carbon dioxide triggers the urge to breathe. To extend the dive, freedivers need to train their body to have a higher tolerance for carbon dioxide. Simple exercises can be done from the comfort of the home, which will lead to a rapid improvement in breathing time. Design exercises are most beneficial to you and you first need to know your best time in static apnea.
The Static Years has become an exercise using time-series static breath hold designed to enhance your personal carbon dioxide tolerance. Retainers can work through these exercises at home, or sit in a comfortable position lying soft on something to reduce the chance of descending in a black or samba. The design of the table ensures that the diver does not approach the oxygen limit, but it does not give the diver enough time to eliminate carbon dioxide between the breaths. The CO2 table works by gradually reducing the rest time between respiration, gradually increasing the CO2 in the lungs of the diver.
Holding a table of respirable CO 2 is dependent on the maximum static respiration time of the individual diver. The following three guides will help divers create carbon dioxide tables that will get the most benefit.
- The breath hold times on carbon dioxide tables should never exceed half of the diver’s maximum breath hold time.
- Practice using a maximum of 10 cycles in a single practice session.
- It should take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete a carbon dioxide table practice session.
• Example: Carbon dioxide table for a diver with a personal best time of 3:30 min:
rest – 2:00 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 1:45 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 1:30 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 1:15 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 1:00 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 0:50 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 0:45 min; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 0:40 min; hold – 1:45 min
When creating your personal tables, adjust your resting times so that the sequence feels challenging, but achievable. You should feel contractions coming earlier on each progressive breath hold, and be able to accept the sensation without fighting the contraction. With enough training, contractions will become part of your dive –not a problem.
2. Improve Your Resistance to Low Oxygen by Training With Oxygen Tables
Oxygen tables improve your resistance to low oxygen, and train your body to tolerate the low oxygen levels that can create samba or black out. When training with oxygen tables, it is essential to practice while sitting or laying down to avoid the risk of falling. Remember, there is no specific risk to black out on land (although it is very dangerous in the water) as you will start to breathe automatically right after losing consciousness. However, there is absolutely no benefit in pushing yourself to a black out when training.
The following static oxygen table is designed to prepare your body to tolerate low levels of oxygen by prolonging the time of breath holds between fixed resting periods. When designing your personal oxygen tables:
- The duration of the last breath hold in your oxygen tables should not exceed 80% of your personal best breath hold time.
- The table should consist of no more then 8 cycles.
Example: Oxygen table for a diver with a personal best breath hold time of 3:30 min:
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 1:15 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 1:30 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 1:45 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 2:00 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 2:15 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 2:30 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 2:45 min
rest – 2:00 min ; hold – 3:00 min
As opposed to the carbon dioxide tables, the resting times on the oxygen tables remain constant, and are long enough for the diver’s body to eliminate the carbon dioxide that has accumulated in his body during his previous breath hold.
3. Practice the Apnea Walk
The apnea walk is a good training tool because freediving is an anaerobic sport, meaning that freedivers metabolize more oxygen than they accumulate. Walking without breathing will simulate the effort of swimming underwater and improve a freediver’s resistance to carbon dioxide, as well as help him to build up a tolerance to lactic acid (which causes a burning sensation in the legs due to a lack of oxygenation).
The recommended manner or practicing the apnea walk is to walk on something soft while moving slowly to avoid burning through your oxygen too fast. Don’t push your limits, treat this exercise similarly to the carbon dioxide tables and avoid getting close to a black out (falling can hurt). This technique is not intended to train for low oxygen tolerance; do not combine the oxygen table and walking.
There are various exercises that incorporate apnea walking. Here are a few examples:
• Time/ Carbon Dioxide Table
This training exercise is very similar to static training using the carbon dioxide table: the diver chooses a walking time and a resting time. The idea is to reduce the resting time between each walk to slowly build up carbon dioxide in the diver’s body in order to improve his tolerance. I usually like to choose an easy walk but I will reduce the resting time as much as possible. Eight cycles seems to be the most efficient, but listen to your body and adapt the table to what fits you best.
rest – 1:30 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 1:15 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 1:00 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 0:50 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 0:40 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 0:35 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 0:30 min ; walk – 1:00 min
rest – 0:30 min ; walk – 1:00 min
• Distance/ Carbon Dioxide Table
This training exercise is based on a similar concept to the apnea walk, but uses a walking distance rather than time, and can have a very positive influence on your lactic acid tolerance. The resting intervals are done while walking at set distance. Choose a location where it is easy to calculate distances, and set an easy pace to be able to rest between breath hold.
rest – 50 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 40 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 30 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 25 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 25 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 20 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 20 m ; walk – 25 m
rest – 15 m ; walk – 25 m
• Simulate a Constant Weight Freedive Using Stairs
Apnea walking is also a good technique to simulate a constant weight dive. To simulate a constant weight free diving, it is best to use stairs. For safety reasons, it is mandatory to practice this exercise under the supervision of a buddy. Remember, don’t go for a performance record using stairs, as it is possible to be badly hurt in the event of a black out.
Example (adapt the times to your abilities):
- Breath up sitting or laying down to simulate the comfort of the breathe up at the surface when freediving.
- Take a last breath (do not exaggerate, you need to be comfortable) and stand up. Standing up will simulate the duck dive from a constant weight dive.
- Climb stairs for 15 seconds, it will simulate the swimming down part of a constant weight freedive.
- Hold for 15 seconds to simulate the freefall part of the dive. I usually keep my eyes close to visualize the freefall.
- Climb stairs for 30 seconds to simulate the ascent from the freedive.
- Sit again and breathe to simulate the arrival at the buoy at the end of the freedive.
4. Make Breath Holding a Habit
All of the previous examples require a watch and a little bit of preparation, but remember that you can hold your breath to practice freediving in many situations. Be creative and try to do your everyday actions while holding your breath. Why not . . .
- Hold your breath while reading or using your computer
- Hold your breath when text messaging (it will make you waste less time on the phone)
- Watch all those short videos on Youtube that your friends share without breathing
- Hold your breath when you listen to your favorite songs
- Hold your breath every time you are into a polluted place (easy to find in our days)
- Make an easy carbon dioxide table and practice in the shower
The more you practice holding your breath, the more progress you will see in your breath. Exercising breathing in daily life is a good way to adjust to the feeling of almost no breathing until it becomes natural. The only negative effect is that people may give you something interesting to look at.
The Take Home Message About Dry Freediving Practice
The secret of any good freediver is training, but there is no reason to over train. Keep safety in mind and remember that training will go better on some days than on others. Sometimes it is better to take a few days off and be more efficient later. Freediving is not only about breath holds. It is important to train other aspects of your mind and body as well. Proper freediving training incorporates not only breath hold practice, but physical training, relaxation, and compensation.