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Running for freedive training

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Jesper Juul

New Member
Dec 26, 2001
Hi friends

I consider myself as a novice/beginner freediver, and I have a question that I hope you can help me with:

We have found out that running is good training for freedivers. But which "style" is the best?

Shall we train like a marathon runner (long distance and low tempo) or as a sprinter (short distance and extreme tempo). Or shall we perhaps combine the two training forms?

Currently we are running two times a week. We run 5 kilometers, and after that we do some apnea interval sprinting on a staircase. It seems that it has helped a lot to extend the training to also include this apnea sprinting intervals on the stairs.

We do it like this: 5x5 sprinting down the stairs, then return back up the stairs. We hold our breath the comple down-up cycle. We have 50% pause on the top of the stairs.

Are we doing it the right way?

Best regards
Jesper Juul Pedersen
Copenhagen Denmark
Since I am also a runner I would like to hear opinions.
I run "long" distances on combined track (uphill downhill) and plan to do shorter but harder (uphill only) tracks in the summer (apnea season's peak).
But I don't plan on any of sprinter's training...
Also interested in results


I am in the same situation as you are. A beginner freediver (second season), and running for heart/lung conditioning for diving. (past 6 months). I have not put the training to the test yet, although maybe first time in water this weekend at a Pennsylvania quarry on Sunday. Since only changing to running from bicycling after last years diving season, I am not sure what to expect. I just know that when beggining the running, I could not finish 2 miles, and now do 5.5 (9Km), and increase distance every few weeks by maybe a quarter or half mile.

Here is my routine. 4 days a week I run the same distance and style of running, at 85% of my maximum heart rate. 2 days running, 1 day rest, 2 days running, then 2 days rest. I don't plan do run the day before a dive, and am interested in your experience with doing or not doing this. I am afraid that I may not be conditioning the heart and lungs, but just the legs. My respirations are the same every month (26/minute) but the time improves. What started as a 9.25 minute mile, is now 7.5 minute miles. Keep in mind I do trail running, and the sandy trails and steeper grades are not the same time I would get on the roads. I estimate trimming off maybe half a minute if I did roads.

I hope you can give me some encouraging results that you experienced. By the way, I am 73 Kg (160) and 5'-10.5". Do you think that combo is better for endurance running or speed? Like I said, I am even newer to running than to freediving, and didn't realize how much more time training was required to spend such little time in the water.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Jim in S. Jersey
training schedule

Aloha Jim
I started aerobic training about 30 years ago and can't resist making a few comments. Most of my opinions are based on information collected between 50 and 100 years ago. It was etched in stone before I started training.

The big difference between 75% for one hour and 85% for 40 minutes is the dropout rate. Injuries and vision problems (I just can't see doing that today) favor the lower rate by about 10/1 if you look five years down the road. "Run slow, run long' is a tiny, thirty year old book by Henderson, I think.

You can get a lot more benefit if you vary your workouts. Long ago, racing bicycles, we trained more than six times a week, year round. Short, long, hard, easy and with the magic of a bike, fast and easy at the same time. Except at the peak of racing season, you road 40% of the week's mileage on one day.

The day off is interesting too. If you're in good shape, most will do better resting two days before and going short and hard the day before. Last month I went on a club ride at a heart rate of 60-100% that included getting dropped twice on the hills (for all intents and purposes, a doctor's office stress test) and 8-9 hours later it had negligeable effect on my pool performance. My dynamic was within 5% of personal best.

Remember, this is about aerobic training. That is important to diving but, there have been quite a few divers over the years that were smoking, physical wrecks with with high O2, CO2 tolerance. Great divers because they dove a lot.

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My Program - Long Description

Since running is not an option for me (it's hard on my knee's), I have devised a detailed workout program that has greatly improved my freediving fitness as I get ready for my trip to Miami next month.

Sundays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays - 20 minutes of chest stretching with lung packing. This is followed by Apnea laps in a 25 yard pool - swim at the surface for one length, then swim back underwater - this is done for 20 - 25 minutes to become adapted to the water via the mammalian dive reflex. Next I follow a program outlined by Pipin Ferraras that I have adapted for my own needs. I call it the 6-4-2-3 workout.

Sitting on the edge of a deep well (3 - 4 meters/ 10 - 12 feet deep) and with a weight belt between my legs, I ventilate for two minutes with the first minute doing 6 - 8 breath cycles and the last 55 seconds of the second minute doing 10 - 12 breath cycles. The last 5 seconds I inhale as deeply as possible and then drop over the edge and let the weight belt carry me down to the bottom of the pool. I put the weight belt over the back of my neck and relax as much as possible until the first good contraction. At this point I swim to the opposite side of the pool and back at a steady pace of about 50% effort. When I reach my starting point, I grab the weight belt and surface where I then hook breathe for a few seconds and then rest for one minute. The purpose of this skill is to control the urge to breathe and maintain complete control physically and psychologically at the same time. Repeat this skill 6 times.

Next I do a variation on the previous skill - start out as above , but with the weight belt on the bottom already, swim down to the bottom and then kick for 5 kick cycles while pushing off the bottom of the pool. Then put the weight belt over the back of the neck and relax until the first contraction - swim back and forth at a gradual increase in speed until you cannot go any more. The 5 kick cycles simulates diving down the first 10 meters/ 33 feet underwater. Do this skill 4 times.

Next, after resting for five minutes, is a type of intervals - swim to the bottom and back to the surface 10 times. When you surface, you can only take one inhalation before diving down again. This must be done as quickly as possible. After the first set is done, rest for 3 - 5 minutes and repeat with a second set. Total of two sets done.

Lastly, Do three negative pressure dives - the first one is done with a comfortable exhale and laying on the bottom of the pool for as long as possible. Surface - and rest for 1 minute. Then do a 2 minute ventilation as listed above. Dive two is done with a forced exhalation with only a mouth full of air to allow for any equalization of the ears. Repeat until you need to surface. Repeat rest and ventilation procedure. Last dive is done with a very forced exhalation, again with only a mouth full of air for equalization and lay on the bottom until you need to surface.

This workout typically takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

My Monday - Wednesday - Friday workout: 10 - 15 minutes of pack stretching, followed by leg stretching. I then workout on a elliptical exercise machine called a Reebok Body Trec. I workout for 30 minutes on level 4 - 5 on the interval setting. While doing this workout, I do 20 second apnea every 2 minutes on the hard sections and do 25 second apnea every other 2 minutes, so the cycle is 20 sec, 2minutes, 20 sec, 2 minutes, 25 seconds, 2 minutes...

After this is completed, I then concentrate on upper body lifting, utilizing the super slow lifting technique to fully maximize my upper body workout.

This usually takes about 2 hours to complete.

I take Saturday's off to fully recover.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

Please remember that you should always train with a partner if at all possible. Otherwise, never force the pool sessions unless you have a qualified person who can watch over you as you do the underwater workouts.

If you have any questions about this, please contact me via PM or via Instant messaging.
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  • Like
Reactions: subaquaticus
you're making my workout look like dessert after a thanksgiving dinner!

You got some determination!


I have made my mind made up that failure is not an option for me any more. I am preparing myself to take the IAFD Freedive Instructors course and I want to be as ready as I can be...

Thanks for the encouragement! :)
Valuable Info.


Now that's the kind of practical info that helps! You just can't beat experience. I do however, need clarification on your reference to eye problems due to exercizing at 85% over 75%. What sort of injuries are you talking about, and how soon do they occur with this sort of training pace? And I have to agree about the day(s) of rest. My best improvements in time and energy level came the first day after a 2 day rest. I must incorporate a varying pace in my training regime. I have only been keeping the one pace. Thanks for the great information. I hope I can "tap your knowledge" in the future on the subject.


Thank you also for the long post. More bang for the buck. Unfortunately I have no access to a pool for workouts (other than our backyard pool). I sometimes drive 6 or 7 miles from my house to a 40' deep quarry here in S. Jersey to train dynamic. I tied off a nylon braided line underwater (out in the middle) over 200' long, with markings every 10'. This helps me gauge the dynamic progress.

Your workouts are very time consuming. I'm lucky to get an hour to go on a run. With 2 daughters and a wife, not to mention 2.5 acres to mow, time is a precious commodity. Although a few years down the road that is going to improve. I hope someday to put more into the training, but I don't ever to expect to perform your routine. I think I will take you up on the offer in the future to e-mail you on varying aspects of your workouts.

Thank you for the insight on what it really takes to train for this hobby.


The vision reference was a crude attempt at humor. You heard it before "Boss, I'm having trouble with my vision" what he means is "The weather is so nice, I can't see going to work today".

Injuries are subject to the square law. If you train twice as hard, you get 4 times the number of injuries (blisters, shin splints, saddle sores, etc.). If you're injured, you can't train as much. Think long term.

All these suggestions are very nice. I am especially eager to try cliff's workout! I'll have to adjust some of the distance and time things though, as I have no-where near the skill he has. But back to the topic of running. The one thing that we have forgotten to mention is interval training. This works especially well when running. You run until you get up to your maximum target heart rate, run for a few minutes to maintain that heart rate, then walk until your heart rate goes down to your minimum target heart rate. Then run again. You can repeat this process over and over, and it gives an EXCELLENT cardio workout. In fact, I just did 2.7 miles of this on a treadmill. I am also a fencer (a man of eccentric sports, you see), so I modify the interval-training model so that I run a mile (gets my heart rate up to 190 or so), walk .1 miles (heart rate goes back down to 120 or 130), run a mile, walk .1 miles, and then run .5 miles. The reason I keep my running segments so long is so I can stregnthen and tone my legs, for maximum speed and agility while i fence. So, in one 20 minute workout, I get the best for both sports. But if you wanted a purely cardio workout, I would recommend running for much shorter distances before you walk, just enough to get up to your target heart rate and keep it there for a few minutes. So instead of having 2 or 3 breaks like me, you might have 5 or 6. You may have even more, or less, depending on your cardiovascular fitness level. What makes this workout so great is that it's possible to get the same level of workout as if you did a long run, even if you don't have the leg stregnth/endurance to do so.
Why this workout works so well, I do not know. But I heard about it all the time when I ran cross-country, and I've alse heard it mentioned here a few times. And from personal experience I know it works.
Re: My Program - Long Description

Cliff Etzel said:
20 minutes of chest stretching with lung packing. This is followed by Apnea laps in a 25 yard pool - swim at the surface for one length, then swim back underwater - this is done for 20 - 25 minutes to become adapted to the water via the mammalian dive reflex.
very interesting workout ; I do approximately the same...
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