If you want to learn how to freedive and hold your breath underwater for longer, there are specific techniques that will make it easier.
Freediving is a tricky sport and learning breath holding techniques takes a lot of specific training. Many people think that because it doesn't have any complicated equipment, it's a safer alternative to scuba diving, yet freediving has its own set of dangers and risks.
If you are serious about becoming a freediver, you should have an introductory course with a trained diver before going into the water on your own. Freedive UK offers courses for watch and every level of freediving and Aida International have an extensive list of different organisations that offer training.
At no point in your freediving experience, should you dive without an able partner. Deaths in freediving, from novices up to freediving professionals, are almost always caused through people diving beyond their skill level or without the necessary support.
The techniques below are a great reference for your journey to becoming a confident freediver and will compliment practical training in the water, but should not be used in the place of proper instruction.
Before You Get In The Water
The human body feels the need to breathe from a build up of carbon dioxide in the body, not from an actual lack of oxygen.
Most people can hold their breath for a minute without much strain, then for another minute while fighting away the urge to breathe. Freedivers train themselves to not give into that feeling and to ignore the rising carbon dioxide in their body during a dive.
Everyone has different levels of ability when it comes to holding their breath. Outward factors such as playing an instruments, regularly swimming, singing and smoking can all change the time for which a person can hold their breath.
Building up your level should be a slow and ongoing process. Before you go to dive in the UK, take some time to sit and get your body to a comfortable resting heart rate.
Begin to breathe in deep, but easily, and hold your breath at the top. Inhale over about a five second period.Wait until the lightheartedness goes away then slowly exhale.
Inhale again as soon as your body tells you the slightest feeling of “wanting" air then repeat both steps. Repeat this five times.
When first trying freediving breath control, lay in the water with a partner stood beside you.
Facing the ceiling with your face out of the water, float horizontally. Take a few deep breaths in and out, before taking a final large breath. Your partner will then roll you over to submerge your face in the water and begin to time you.
Relax and float on the surface, notice any tension in the body and "let it go," as if preparing for a meditation. Your partner will tap you at regular intervals and look to you for an agreed sign that your ok (an outstretched finger works well.)
Try and remain submerged in this position for as long as possible. When you finally have to come up to the surface, fight the urge to rush and take a long breath in.
Your partner will make eye contact with you and lead you in short, quick breaths in and out, as opposed to long deep ones. Your lips may have turned blue - don't worry, this is completely normal in freediving.
Hold the side of the pool until you regain your regular heartbeat and breathing pattern and note down your breath-hold time after each attempt. You should notice your time improving as you get more used to your body's response to the levels of carbon dioxide and begins to manage them.
The main difference in moving away from static apnea and towards dives is that you will be burning through energy and oxygen stores faster, meaning that anaerobic training is a must.
Anaerobic literally means ‘without air’, when you push your body really hard your breathing rate cant keep up and your muscles are starved of oxygen so they start to burn phosphates and glycogen instead.
In freediving training, it would be beneficial to fit in three anaerobic workouts a week.
The training should be short and high energy. Train in short intensive bursts, working until your lungs want to burst! A good workout would be to mix interval runs and then apnea walks.
Humans share special diving adaptations with marine mammals, which help the body to adapt to surviving without oxygen . The most dramatic is the "mammalian diving reflex."
This reflex is most easily demonstrated by immersing your face in cold water. A reflexive slowing of your heart rate will immediately occur. This, as well as other oxygen-sparing adaptations, helps to prolong your dives.
After prolonged anaerobic activity, your spleen releases extra blood cells and blood vessels in your skin and large muscles constrict, reserving blood for more vital organs.
Getting Back To The Surface
When it is time to return to the surface, small contractions may occur in the diaphragm and throat. While these are an effect of the body asking for air, they are not a sign of distress, Good freediving training teaches you to ignore these physical effects and not panic.
Kick slowly towards the surface, keeping yourself streamlined and focus on staying calm and relaxed.
Shallow water blackouts may happen if the freediver loses control of their mental state and begins to panic. If you feel yourself getting into a state of panic, close your eyes and occupy your thoughts with maths problems or puzzles.
Once at the surface, try to wait a moment before taking the breath. Exhale immediately and take another breath, holding this second one for a few seconds before slowly exhaling
Repeat until all dizziness fades and you can return to normally breathing and heart rate.