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Breath up's and recovery breathing

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Oct 23, 2003
Hi everyone....

Just spent a fab weekend at the Saltfree National comp at the NDC this weekend - for a 1st comp I was pleased with my performance but it has raised lots of technique questions for me!!

1) My CW on Saturday was a dive to 30m. I was nervous but it was controllable. Did a couple of slow warm up dives to around 12m and felt good. Did my breathe up on the comp line rather nervously :), did the dive, got my tag, came to surface feeling good, took couple of breaths and samba'd (bugger :D )- very stylishly done though I might add!! On video, the samba seemed to be ages after I surfaced. Obviously I did something that wasn't right somewhere but what??? Couple of suggestions I've had so far: My recovery breathing was wrong - breathe out on surfacing, couple big breaths in and off I went - breath's should be short and quick on surfacing. The other suggestion is that my breathe up was too hard as I was still quite pink lipped on surfacing and I said I'd found the dive comfortable (it was a PB so maybe shouldn't have been as comfortable as it felt!)

Both ideas make sense, but I have no idea how to correct them! My technique is obviously wrong for CW - can anyone give me any pointers on how I should breathe up - long and slow, short and quick, dry breath holds - I do a mixture of all 3, which is very wrong I'm sure...... And recovery breathing - is it just practise or is there an art to it that I'm missing!!!

My static on Sunday was good - PB and a clean static, but when I think about it now, my breath up was the same as for CW - presumably there should be a difference?

Anyway - I'm still fairly new to the sport and I've decided that I need perserverance and knowledge to succeed. I've got the perservance but not the knowledge, so I'm willing to learn.....

Thanks for any advice....

Donna :)

first thing i would recommend is try preparing face down through a snorkel... it's much more relaxing and you don't have to support yourself in the water when you exhale. i was amazed how many people at the competition prepared vertically. first spend 2-3mins getting really chilled out - don't move a single muscle and focus on totally relaxing and breathe normally. then begin to breathe deeper... progressively deeper but not faster. aim for about 2-4 breaths and minute. exhale fully then inhale and pack a few times if you want....then go.

i don't think you can greatly influence the outcome of your dive with your recovery breathing, unless you're doing hook breathing... you shouldn't need to hook breathe if you're diving well within your limits. when i surface i do nothing more than breathe naturally without thinking about it - no 'special breathing'.

i would also try looking at your technique. Mark Harris uses bi-fins and uses them well... try to get some pointers from him next time you go diving.

good luck :)
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Thanks Alun - think I'll step back a few metres and learn some good breathing techniques and then try again!

Regarding bi-fins, I will talk to Mark but to be honest, I think I will be more suited to a mono, as I prefer that movement in the water - again, it will be something new to get used to, but I think will be better in the long run. I'll take my mono to Cyprus if I get it in time and have a play in the pool and get some advice on my technique.....

Congratulations on your 30 meters Donna!

When you came up was there something for you to hang on to or where you still treading water? Finning on the surface to keep in place might have depleted your last reserves of O2. If there is something (the bouy) to grab, then hold on to that and relax.

Thanks for that Adrian - I think because it wasn't a clean dive, I've lost sight of the fact that I actually did it!!!

In answer to your question, yes, I was holding onto a bouy upon surfacing. On the video it clearly shows I made solid contact with it, and I looked absolutely fine for what looked like ages and then over I went...very bizarre. I was fully aware of what was happening, but could do nothing to control it.....

Hi Donna,
I use hook breathing myself, works for me. If you use it then it's something you want to do most of the time to make it a habit. Otherwise when you are most likely to need it, ie low on O2 then decision making is impaired and you probably won't do it. :D

It does seem strange to new people that people can blackout or samba 5-10 seconds after they surface. You have to remember there is at least a 5 second delay between when you take that first breath of air until it goes into the blood and reaches your brain. So you are actually at your lowest on O2 the 3-4 seconds AFTER you surface. This is when you need to stay focused on your breathing. The 5 seconds is just a rough figure will vary with person and other factors. Just remember the perfomance is not over until 20 seconds after surfacing.

As for breathing up, I know with static it is possible to do really well with almost no hyperventilation, and also to do well with extreme hyperventilation. As for CW I'm not sure if the same aplies. Really depends on the person too. So what works well for you in static may not work in CW.


Firstly, I think Alun's advice is worth listening too. Whenever I use a snorkel, I can feel the relaxation, especially if you combine this with focussing on something fixed below you. In competition ( or comp training ) I tend not to, for fear of not hearing my countdown. That's just a personal thing.

Have a think about slowing down your descent rate slightly .I know you found your competition dive to be comfortable, so you should be able to afford a few seconds extra. Reducing your descent rate will reduce your oxygen burn rate, and it may well offset the longer immersion enough to give you a lower oxygen debt.

In Cyprus last year, I witnessed some impressive fast descents, followed by LMC back at the surface.

Of course some people are just toooo slow ;)

Thanks Wal, Mark and Scuby....

It all still seems a bit cloudy though.... looks like it is very much personal preference and what works for the individual. I think I will try a snorkel breath up - i'm sure that will slow my breathing rate down a great deal as I'm focussing on my breathing rather than everyone staring at me on the comp line!!!

As for slowing my descent - again that makes sense and I guess that comes with confidence. I'm not sure how I'll slow myself mind you - as far as I'm aware I don't fin hell for leather to the plate - but maybe thats in my head! Mark it might be good if in Cyprus on some of the training days you and the guys do maybe a 25m dive with me and watch my technique and speed etc - I know I can do that cleanly :D and then go from there... not interfering with your prep though.....

Keep the advice coming though - its good to see everyone's different views. I'm determined to find a solution to it and do a clean 30m dive!!!

Donna x
We can always do a tandem at a slower rate, and see how deep you are comfortable with. Also, you can borrow my D3, and I'll print out the profiles when we get back.

You've definitely got 30 within you, and more. For ages I got stuck at 27.8. Wherever I went, I still came up with 27.8 on the guage. ( Although a few of those were at HMS Dolphin ) :)
Congrats on your dive.

I'd definitley start doing hook breaths on a regular basis. It can't hurt to do them and they could save you an LMC or BO in the future.

The greatest pressure changes happen in the last few meters as you surface and as you know your lungs expand. By doing hook breaths you'll put pressure back on your lungs and help to force oxygen through your alveoli. It also maintains your blood pressure slightly longer so that the sudden change doesn't result in low pressure.

I'm into the habbit of doing hook breaths that I do them all the time, regardless of the depth I've just gone to.

Thanks for your input Jason - so is hook breathing short quick breaths immediately on surfacing? How long for - until you feel comfortable. The other thing that puzzles me slightly is when do you exhale - just below the surface or as you surface...probably a dum question but I have a lot to learn I think! When I think about my dives at the moment, I surface, exhale and take an almighty breath in - ok if I'm well within limits, but not if I'm on the edge!!

I'll avoid a detailed physiological explanations, but the simple answer is;

Hook breathe for 5-10 seconds. Making each breath cycle less than 1 second (a heartbeat) - and not a large breath (about a third of al ungful should do the trick). The idea is to get easyish (not too much negative pressure) breaths in and force them out hard through pursed lips.

Exhaling in the the final metre is what most people do. There are reasons for doing this earlier, but most people would find it uncomfortable.

Hi Donna,

Good questions. Here's what I have learned at the two Performance Freediving clinics I took. By the way, if you ever get the chance to take a PFD clinic, do it.

You should start to exhale slowly within the last couple of meters before reaching the surface. This serves two purposes. Due to the big pressure changes you're experiencing, it helps to relieve any pressure on your lungs as the air expands, especially if you've packed before your dive. Exhaling also prepares you to take in a breath the moment you reach the surface. You want to get air in as quickly as possible and if you need to exhale at the surface you're loosing some valuable time.

So, what's a hook breath. I could show you much easier than I can explain it, but here we go... When you reach the surface you'll be ready to take a breath. Take in a quick breath (mostly into the top portion of your lungs), close your mouth and apply pressure to your lungs from your rib cage, diaphram and throat. You'll kind of look like a kid holding their breath during a temper tantrum. This pressure on the lungs helps to force air into the alveoli and also counterbalances some of the drastic changes you're experiencing in your blood pressure. Hold the breath for a second, then release your mouth seal and the air will rush out. That's it. Hope it makes sense. Try to do three hook breaths, followed by some nice deep and relaxed recovery breaths.

This is a habbit I have gotten into on all of my dives, even if they're relatively shallow.

Good luck.

Thanks Jason - I'll have to watch my kids have a temper tantrum - they have enough of them :D I would like to do a PFD clinic but as always, its a question of time, money and holiday! Maybe I'll try and combine a holiday with a clinic date.....

I'm off to Cyprus for the BIOS Open next month so I'll have a big look at my techniques on the training days and use the opportunity to watch and learn from the professionals!!! It should be a great 10 days and hopefully I will learn a lot. Everyone tells me that all the athletes are very approachable so maybe I'll approach them and ask some silly questions :D You never know, I may come home with my clean 30m dive.....

Donna :)
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