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Breathing Techniques for Recreational Freediving

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Walrus

Oz freediver
Oct 3, 2001
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Hi All,
just reading the last article by Ricardo Hernandez.
Some very good safety points there.

One thing that suprised me a little in the golden rules is "Never take more then 3 or 4 deep breaths". Now I've read lot's of breathing techniques on these forums, including extended slow deep breathing or "mild belly breathing", fast deep breathing, "purge" breathing... etc

I understand that most people are using this for training or competitions (Mostly statics), under closely supervised conditions, and not normally for Recreational freediving.

I know the danger of extended slow deep breathing - getting VERY low CO2 levels, which almost eliminates the urge to breathe completely. Symptoms include tingly hands, feet, arms, funny taste in mouth etc.

Now I've done this a few times when Static training, it took me at least 5 minutes of deep slow breathing to get these symptoms.

When freediving in the Ocean, I wouldn't do more then a minute or so of slow (medium)deep breathing, it does lower the CO2 levels, but not by that much.

I would have though deep breathing for a minute or so is fairly conservative. One thing I find important is that slow deep breathing actually lowers your heart rate, put's you in a calm relaxed state. Isn't this important for freediving ?

It's exactly the same technique used for scuba diving, although that has a bit do do with more efficient gas exchange because of less dead air space with deep breathing. A big part of the lowered air consumption it is still that it lowers your heart rate.

Would have thought slow deep breathing is better then normal breathing, ie "medium speed" shallow breathing ?


Cheers,
Walter.
 

Walrus

Oz freediver
Oct 3, 2001
693
77
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I Forgot.

I have a "freedving manual" from Freedive Australia.

Their breathing "rule" was something along the lines :-
"Never ventilate more then half the time it would take to get symptoms of hyperventalion - tingly hands feet etc, funny taste in mouth."

ie With the same breathing speed/depth, if you get the tingles at 4 minutes, only ventilate for 2. Not really exact but I think most people can guess.

Not sure where this rule came from, guessing it was from the French comp divers, since thats who Sacha Dench trained with.

Cheers,
Wal
 

gundogger

New Member
Oct 19, 2007
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just reading the last article by Ricardo Hernandez.
One thing that suprised me a little in the golden rules is "Never take more then 3 or 4 deep breaths". Now I've read lot's of breathing techniques on these forums, including extended slow deep breathing or "mild belly breathing", fast deep breathing, "purge" breathing... etc
I understand that most people are using this for training or competitions (Mostly statics), under closely supervised conditions, and not normally for Recreational freediving.
Walter.
When I was in my 20s I read,in Hans Hass's first book, (an account of diving off Curacao,DWI, in 1938/9) about a breathing technique developed by one of his companions. This chap was confined to bed having stood on a sea porcupine's quills and suffered poisoning in his foot. Having nothing to do he began breathing exercises and discovered hyperventilation. He breathed in and out as deeply and quickly as he could for one minute and then found that he could hold his breath for four minutes.I have copied this technique many times and have experienced the mild dizziness and the tingling fingers. By continuing the breathing exercise I found that those symptoms disappeared and a mild hightening of my senses occurred. I also was able to hold my breath for four minutes.
On one occasion,I used the technique to enable me to free dive to sixty feet at Kavieng, New Ireland in order to recover a dropped spear gun. Not only did I pick up the gun but was also able to load it and shoot a fish for dinner whilst down there.
I have not suffered any injuries in all my years, to my lungs, except by smoking!
 

Bill

Baron of Breathold
Oct 17, 2001
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Wal
I think you may be reading too much into the words. When I do slow deep breathing, it takes over a minute for three breaths. Last time I trained with Deron he was slower/longer than I. You're in the same ball park. The real message is 'CO2 can save your life'.
Aloha
Bill
 

trux

~~~~~
Dec 9, 2005
6,522
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On one occasion,I used the technique to enable me to free dive to sixty feet at Kavieng, New Ireland in order to recover a dropped spear gun. Not only did I pick up the gun but was also able to load it and shoot a fish for dinner whilst down there.
Sure, hyperventilation works. It even works so well that so many beginners fall in the same trap as you, because it is much easier to dive without the warning urge to breath than training properly and enduring it. Unfortunately, hundreds of spearos, snorkelers and freedivers die each year just because of it. Hyperventilation is definite no-no for any freediver. You need to avoid it like a pest. It no only reduces the safety margin by suppressing the warning signals, in fact it also delays the mammalian diving response, hence increases the oxygen consumption. So, although it falsely looks like you can miraculously dive longer with it, the exact opposite is true. If you learn properly your body signals, learn enduring the urge to breath, you will be able to dive much longer and safer without any hyperventilation at all, since the diving reflex will assure more efficient oxygen consumption.

Beginners should definitely forget about trying to control their breathing - by trying to control it consciously, you only mess it up. The body knows the best what it needs, so let doing its job. Instead of it focus on relaxation and avoid unnecessary moving. The body will take care of the exactly necessary oxygen intake automatically and in the best way it can.

EDIT: and BTW, you do not want low heart rate on the surface - you want it when diving. Oppositely, after surfacing you need the heart working fast to evacuate CO2, toxins and metabolism byproducts, and to recharge muscles and tissue fast.
 
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wet

Freediver82 - water borne
May 27, 2005
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Sure, hyperventilation works. It even works so well that so many beginners fall in the same trap as you, because it is much easier to dive without the warning urge to breath than training properly and enduring it. Unfortunately, hundreds of spearos, snorkelers and freedivers die each year just because of it. Hyperventilation is definite no-no for any freediver. You need to avoid it like a pest. It no only reduces the safety margin by suppressing the warning signals, in fact it also delays the mammalian diving response, hence increases the oxygen consumption. So, although it falsely looks like you can miraculously dive longer with it, the exact opposite is true. If you learn properly your body signals, learn enduring the urge to breath, you will be able to dive much longer and safer without any hyperventilation at all, since the diving reflex will assure more efficient oxygen consumption.

Beginners should definitely forget about trying to control their breathing - by trying to control it consciously, you only mess it up. The body knows the best what it needs, so let doing its job. Instead of it focus on relaxation and avoid unnecessary moving. The body will take care of the exactly necessary oxygen intake automatically and in the best way it can.

EDIT: and BTW, you do not want low heart rate on the surface - you want it when diving. Oppositely, after surfacing you need the heart working fast to evacuate * CO2, toxins and metabolism byproducts, and to recharge muscles and tissue fast.

perhaps better to say "evacuate excess CO2", otherwise people might again try to remove all CO2 (by hyperventilating). At surface normal aerobic breathing will remove excess CO2.
 

trux

~~~~~
Dec 9, 2005
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perhaps better to say "evacuate excess CO2", otherwise people might again try to remove all CO2 (by hyperventilating). At surface normal aerobic breathing will remove excess CO2.
Yes, I explained that above, but in this sentence I rather wrote about the heart rate, not breathing. Higher heart rate won't lead to removing all CO2. Higher heart rate after surfacing is the natural body reaction after the end of the diving response and has definitely positive effect. Evacuating CO2 and other metabolism products from body tissues is part of it. Sure, as you correctly point out, hyperventilation would lower the CO2 levels not only in lungs, but in the blood and tissue too, but I hope that was already sufficiently explained. Though, you are certainly right, David, to emphasize it again.

So as for the heart rate - trying to artificially decrease your heart rate on the surface (for example through breathing techniques as suggested above) may be counterproductive - after surfacing as well as immediately before the new immersion high heart rate may be quite desired. Though again trying to rise it artificially for example by physical effort would be counterproductive, because it would increase the O2 consumption as well. Moderate level of stress may work well for this purpose, as well as for the fast and deep diving response.
 

kmo

Fish killer
Oct 31, 2005
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After a fair while on this forum, I have to say that this is the first time that I have ever heard or read that the best breathe-up technique for recreational freediving is no breathe-up technique at all.
 

island_sands

Erection Supervisor ;)
Supporter
Jan 19, 2001
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After a fair while on this forum, I have to say that this is the first time that I have ever heard or read that the best breathe-up technique for recreational freediving is no breathe-up technique at all.

i was taught to relax and breathe calmly, almost naturally. in for 2, hold for 2, and out for double the time. just the second last breath is quite big, and then exhale everything and then take the final biggie. works for me. :)
 

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
3,294
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I always do saturation breathing during recreational dives. 1-4 deep breaths, then inhale and hold for 10 seconds, and repeat.

When diving with packing, the breathing reflex would be present for much of the dive. However during FRC diving I never get any breathing reflex. This makes it much more enjoyable.
 

kmo

Fish killer
Oct 31, 2005
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Beginners should definitely forget about trying to control their breathing - by trying to control it consciously, you only mess it up.

What I might have missed is Beginners

Sorry if I misunderstood you trux.
 

gundogger

New Member
Oct 19, 2007
2
0
0
Beginners should definitely forget about trying to control their breathing - by trying to control it consciously, you only mess it up. The body knows the best what it needs, so let doing its job. Instead of it focus on relaxation and avoid unnecessary moving. The body will take care of the exactly necessary oxygen intake automatically and in the best way it can.

Well, that may be so if you free dive to set personal records but I only dived, usually, in order to get my dinner. I have shot grouper in Turkey at 50 feet or so in 1956 when compressed air was not easily obtained and one needed to be active underwater for quite some time. No chance for me to relax and as for losing the breathing reflex, in never happened to me.

Whilst on this subject has anybody here had a feeling of vertigo underwater? I had to make an inspection dive under my ship in Kavieng where the bottom is/was coral sand, very white. The water was so clear that I couldn't see it! I had a sensation that I might fall.Probably because I was wearing a weight belt to neutralize my bouyancy. I was able to hang there motionless and though the bottom was a good 40 feet below me I could see it very clearly and was able to watch bottom feeding fish many of them small sharks.I knew I was in water because of the pressure on my hand when I pushed against it! A very odd sensation. One expect to see some silt drifting by but on this day the water was crystal clear.
 
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trux

~~~~~
Dec 9, 2005
6,522
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Well, that may be so if you free dive to set personal records but I only dived, usually, in order to get my dinner. I have shot grouper in Turkey at 50 feet or so in 1956 when compressed air was not easily obtained and one needed to be active underwater for quite some time. No chance for me to relax and as for losing the breathing reflex, in never happened to me.
That's exactly the opposite case. When you are trying to set a personal record, you usually have buddies and other security measures in place (unless you are a complete fool) and hence can take some risk of blacking out. At spearing, or any diving alone, hyperventilation simply greatly increases the risk of a blackout which is then usually fatal. And hundreds of dead spearos (including some of the best ones) prove it every year.

When I spoke about relaxation, I do not necessarily mean minutes long yoga-like meditations. I mean calming out from inside and forgetting about breath control - when you calm from inside (which you most likely do anyway between the dives, if you are an experienced diver), then the body mechanism starts to ventilate in the optimal way without the need to think about it. That's why I am telling beginners should better forgot about any breath-up and rather concentrate on the piece of mind and relaxation which will care of the breath up automatically, better, and safer.

Experienced divers do it in this way without even being aware of it. The problem is with beginners who either hyperventilate out of fear, or because they think they get more oxygen into the body, or because they know their dive is more comfortable after a hyperventilation. Unfortunately, what they usually do not realize or do not know is that with the hyperventilation they in fact increase their oxygen consumption, while greatly reducing the safety margin and exposing them so to a very serious risk of a fatal blackout.

And you are also not right about the diving reflex - it is well known, studied, and well proven that the diving response (bradycardia, vasoconstriction, blood shift, spleen contraction, etc) are depending on several factors and controlled by different receptors (Pa-O2, Pa-CO2, pH, pressure, temperature, light,...), but one of the most important factors is definitely the CO2. So what happens when you artificially reduce the CO2 level? Naturally, you delay the proper diving response. Of course, it comes anyway (thanks to the other signals), but it won't be as strong and as early as it would be with normal level of CO2.

Additionally, hyperventilation will initially also increase your heart rate and contract the carotids (that's the body reaction on low CO2), so in extreme case you can black out immediately at the beginning of the dive. In any way, the blood supply of the brain is lower than normal after hyperventilation and may lead to incorrect reactions.

Hence, believe me, although it feels easier to dive after hyperventilating, it is much much much better and safer to avoid it.
 
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cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Vertigo, unrelated to ear drum failure, is one you don't hear much about, but it happened to me, only once. Diving a Florida Spring, super clear water and deep. I was about 10 feet down and got an instant, very strong sense of vertigo, had no idea which way was up even though I could see it clearly. Only lasted a few seconds, but was EXTREMELY uncomfortable. The only extenuating circumstance I could think of was lack of a hood, but I'd been in for quite a while, so it shouldn't have had any effect.

Connor
 

naiad

Apnea Carp
Supporter
Oct 11, 2003
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Different sources of information give very different advice about 'breathe-ups'. There are all sorts of ideas out there, slow deep breathing, fast deep breathing, 'sub-neutral' breathing, 'purge breaths', yoga techniques, slowing heart rate, no breathe-up. I think that is the source of all this confusion. It took me ages to sort through it all and find something that works for me.
 
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samdive

Mermaid, Musician and Marketer
Nov 12, 2002
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My advice to beginners is to start off your freediving career by spending 2 minutes before each dive doing deep, slow belly breathing and nothing more fancy than that. That is certainly enough for people to find their first "limits" and then you can add in some more advanced techniques/training if or when you need to.

I wouldn't advise anyone to experiment with hyperventilation other than in very controlled situations with a coach who knows that they're doing (and most coaches won't let you anyway!). I've had a few blackouts in my time and I think every single one can be traced back to hyperventilation - unintentional or intentional - it isn't a good idea!
 

monkeyhatfork

leaf game novice
May 31, 2007
628
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(FRC) functional residual capacity, do a search on this site there are several threads dedicated to FRC diving
 

apneaboy

Wellard
Jul 1, 2005
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'Vertigo, unrelated to ear drum failure, is one you don't hear much about, but it happened to me, only once. Diving a Florida Spring, super clear water and deep. I was about 10 feet down and got an instant, very strong sense of vertigo, had no idea which way was up even though I could see it clearly. Only lasted a few seconds, but was EXTREMELY uncomfortable. The only extenuating circumstance I could think of was lack of a hood, but I'd been in for quite a while, so it shouldn't have had any effect.

Connor'

It could have possibly been hyperbaric vertigo. If one ear equalises at slightly different rates to the other you can get the vertigo feeling. Weird sensation. It can happen at the beginning of a session or even near the end once your ears 'get a bit tired' or maybe a bit of stuff (mucus, blood etc) is floating around inside causes a blockage that wasn't there before.

Its doesn't have to be a rupture as such.
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Thanks apneaboy,

I never had a name for it, but that sounds about right.

Connor
 
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