In freediving air intake, consumption and efficiency are key factors in reaching longer breath holds in both dynamic as static performances. Although you might think that the more air intake you do will equal a longer breath hold, this is only partly true. There are a lot of other variables in play which make it a specialism to master as a freediver. Consider the difference between a dynamic and a static freedive on the level of aerobe or an-aerobe. Or even simpler, consider the difference in a dynamic pool freedive and a dynamic depth performance. In this article the focus is on the air intake.
One of the variables that make a difference – in any type of freediving – is the air intake and how comfortable you are with the ammount of air in your lungs. I am not even discussing the difference in lung volume different freedivers have. I’ll dissect the air intake into three topics:
1. Always use a buddy!
Especially important if you try to hold your breath in the water! Better yet; follow a freediving course that will teach you and a friend how to look out for each other during dynamic freediving attempts. Dynamic freediving is particularly differnt to static breath holds as it’s harder to spot when your body goes into preserve mode. Do not try to improve too much when you reach a distance, go gradually and be at peace with the somewhat slower progression.
Of course it is important to pay attention to your breath up before you start, but also pay attention to visualize the way you’re supposed to depart. Visualize and repeat, whilst breathing up for your performance. This is a way of creating the mind-muscle-connection to control the outcome of your departure more. Visualizing aids in staying alert and aware on how to do a good start.
There are different ways to depart and they all have their pro’s and con’s, so just choose one you can perform in an efficient way and stick with it. As you’ve been visualizing the departure, you will not have so much trouble getting the chosen departure procedure right. Be keen on the execution and it’ll improve and be more auto-piloted as you progress in your training.
4. Consistent amplitude/stroke rhythm
This could have easily been called the relaxation part, which is achieved through a stroke rhythm you feel comfortable with. This differs very much from freediver to freediver. Be sure to find out what your best rhythm and speed is. This will give you a consistent amplitude while you’re performing your dynamic freedive.
5. Aligning Another very important subject is aligning, which is also dependent of your body composure, plus the type of freediver you are. Go out to the pool with a set of (borrowed) weights and have a buddy spot you’re kick-off from the wall. Try and glide as far as you can and see if you either ascend or descend. Once you’ve got that first stage covered it’s time to fine tune for the rest of the alignment, by actually doing your dynamic performance and see if your legs keep descending or ascending, this might indicate the location of the weight chosen in the first step is a bit off. It’s not easy finding the right alignment, but once you do it will be a good help. Use a camera to record your alignment and see for yourself what you should alter to get it right. Check out more extensive information about step 5 and 6 in this post.
In the previous step you’ve seen how hard it is to find the proper alignment. When you get this wrong it will effect the balance and stability of your performance. Try and make an equal stroke with your legs, have a buddy spot underwater when you’re swimming away from him. This way he can spot if you make a scissor like movement with your legs, which in turn can lead to an unbalanced movement. Again use a camera to record your balance and see for yourself what you should alter to get it right. Check out more extensive information about step 5 and 6 in this post.
Your air efficiency will increase as your technique improves. You should optimize the technique versus the comfortable. As being strained too much to get your technique right will not improve the efficiency. Learn to pay attention to your technique overtime and the strain will decrease and technique and efficiency will improve. Using the proper technique and looking into it on underwater camera footage will help you gain the additional efficiency that you need to tweak your distance even further.
Turning can be done in different ways, choosing the one you can perform perfectly will help you gain distance. Also visualize that you’re about to turn and repeat the steps, before you hit the wall. Make the turn and get back into your consistent kicking technique in a controlled manner. Technique for the turn proves very important, if you leave little room for failure the efficiency will be optimal. So stick with the turn you think is best (and is also allowed by the rules) and maximize your performance by mastering it.
9. Re-surfacing Planning the way you resurface by training it every training, helps you when you’re in a competition. The movement will be automatically like you have it on auto-pilot and the room for error has just gone down again. This leaves you with the concentration you need for your recuperation. The technique for resurfacing can differ to your own liking and might differ from pool to pool as the sides of pool tend to vary a lot. If there is a side where you can rest your arm on, then plan to get your elbow over the edge as you resurface and remember to not touch the wall as you’re about to resurface.
Knowing how to recuperate will teach you how to control longer dive times. Making a habit out of the recovery and repeating it with every freedive you do, will hard-code it into your system. If you’re having a performance with some extra factors to pay attention to, you’ll notice that the recuperation will start to go on auto-pilot, which in place let’s you focus more on the extra factors. In this case there are different methods to a good and steady recovery, find a technique that suits your needs and stick with it.
Check out this small video from a performance in the Coupe des Dauphins for a good example how you can use the side of the pool to rest your arms and do a steady recovery:
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…or actually how we think we should choose a mono-fin. As Jorg and I were training last week, we tested a few different kinds of mono-fins. We wanted to see the difference between the fins in areas like;
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Freediving material is all about the right equipment for the best experience. As for freediving masks, there is a wide variety of masks available. What do you want to look out for and how did we come to our choice of freediving mask.
I think that if you narrow it down, a freediver will choose a mask and go by this mask for a long time. A good example of this is that I met Jorg in the end of 2003 and cressi superocchio was his choice, today he’s still using that same type of freediving mask (he actually bought this mask in 1998 and is using it as his primary mask since 11 years, the same one!). Although you might have different masks for different applications, your experience is improved by choosing a freediving mask of your liking. In the process of making a choice, every freediver has different reasons to choose a mask over another. Our choices were based on and influenced by the parameters; comfort, volume, material & durability. Ultimately these parameters also lead to a good freediving experience, which is the base for our choice.
The need for a freediving suit is highly recommended where ever you go , for sure when you’re freediving the dutch waters. But what kind of freediving suit do you want, as there are so many different out there. For me goes without saying that a suit can make a freedive or totally ruin it…
When I first got into freediving me and my buddy got a scuba diving suit from about 7mm thick, the one with a zipper pushing up against my chin. The hood, arm and ankle seams were far from tight, so water came in immediately as we entered the water. Even though our motivation to check out the underwater world was high, the experience was far from relaxed or comfortable. But back then we didn’t know any better…
Now, a few years in with more experience with different suits, I like to share my findings. The whole deal with a proper suit is that it’s totally dependable on the freediver who wears it. Every freediver has other boundaries when it comes to cold and warm, but by explaining my own findings when choosing a suit might make your search a bit easier…
You can vary the thickness of your suit ranging from 1mm to 10mm suits. The determinant factor is the types of water temperature you want to use the suit for. So ask yourself: “Am I going to use it in a sea, a lake or a swimming pool?”. Also keep in mind that the temperature of these can also vary throughout the season or location, which make it hard to go by only one freediving suit to do the job. When you’re selecting your first ever suit, choose it for the situation you’ll be in for 90% of the time. In my case I started out with a 5mm suit for both pool and lakes here in the Netherlands, but nowadays I prefer a 2,5mm for the pool competitions and a 6,5mm for the outdoor sessions. This change has to do with how comfortable I feel in those situations. Going to the seas in Egypt, Dominican Republic or other remote locations, I’d go by either 2,5mm for warmer waters and 5mm when I’m early in the season.
Different sets of surface types are available for freediving suits, ranging from lining, smooth skin to open cell structure surfaces. The choice here also depends on what you’re going to use the suit for, or in which conditions or surroundings you’re using the suit. The first freediving suit I ever had, was an Elios with smooth skin on the outside and the inside featured open cell structure. In between I bought another similar type of suit, but this one was 2,5mm thick and from a slightly better neoprene. The last one I bought is a 6,5 mm, but now with lining on the inside and smooth skin on the outside.
Inside: Lining or Open cell?
At first I wasn’t very keen on the whole lining principle, but now since I tested one and eventually own a freediving suit with lining on the inside, I can say it’s just as comfortable as an open cell structure, but with less of a hassle to get into. Because an open cell structure will “suck” itself onto your skin with only a thin layer of water in between, you’ll have to keep in mind that by changing into this suit, you’ll need to have a bottle with soap water to prepare your suit before you put it on. Never the less an open cell structure on the inside is also very comfortable.
Outside: Smooth skin or Lining?
I’m the type of freediver that likes the outside to be smooth skin, this sololy to the fact that a smooth skin surface will dry fast when you’re at or above the water surface. On the other hand lining on the outside will better protect your suit from tearing when putting it on or swimming in rocky underwater areas.
Tailor made or standard size
Until now I’ve been a lucky guy, where I’d be able to send my body measurement over to the suit maker and they’d suggest one of their standard sized suits to go with. Only my 2,5mm suit I have is a tailor made suit, which fits very nice.
The only reason why I should consider going with a tailor made suit is the fact, that a tighter fit will improve the ability of the suit to keep the water from coming in and keep the water from flowing through your suit, thus keeping you warm for a longer period of time. A standard sized one will be cheaper than a tailor made suit. So if a standard size is within your options, then my suggestion would be to try one from a fellow freediver with the same body measurements, to see if you’re able to go with the standard sized one. Otherwise the tailor made is the best alternative.
Comfort & Warmth
The most important thing you want to achieve by selecting your suit, is a balance between comfort and warmth. Although a thick suit may make you feel like a Michelin-man, if you really need the thickness in terms of not getting cold, this is a concession you might have to make. Believe me when I say that a very comfortable suit, like my 2,5mm, just didn’t do the trick for me in terms of staying warm whilst freediving outdoors at Panheel. This makes a freedive not only uncomfortable, but even dangerous. It’s all about the best experience and finding a balance between the different parameters is a very personal choice.
By selecting the proper combination from the points described above, you should be able to find a suit that is a balance between comfort and warmth. Furthermore it must be functional and practical as well, because you’re going to be freediving with it for about a year or two. Making the selections is a process where you’ll have to decide for yourself what you like and where you want to use your suit. These are all personal decissions, so I hope this article will aid you into selecting the right freediving suit for you.
PS. I haven’t discussed the different types of material, because this differs so much, I’d be writing a whole new page. Plus the different manufacterers feature enough information about the materials on their websites.
Last night I was out for training in the Tongelreep and Kostas was also training with me. Along the way of explaining the prerequisites for a DNF freedive to Kostas, I hit the topic of checking out balance and alignment under water. I had been analyzing the balance of YugYug in earlier training sessions and Jorg had been spotting mine a long time ago. It reminded me that if you want to have a good alignment for your DNF freedive you’ll have to test certain things before you can find your perfect alignment.
Balance and alignment all originate from the buoyancy you have whilst freediving at a certain depth, with a certain are intake. To find your balance and alignment underwater the altitude and air intake are the parameters you can play with.
The buoyancy is a very important part, if you don’t want to become a jig-saw DNF swimmer that is. A jig-saw DNF originates by the fact your buoyancy is positive or negative, which will make you ascend or descend. A normal respond to this is to help yourself is by swimming down or up when you make the arm-stroke. But again you’ll ascend or descend and this will lead to the jig-saw movement when you look at it from the side.
To counter-act this behavior you must play around with the altitude and air intake, to find a point where you’re neutral or slightly buoyant. A great exercise for this is to push-off from the wall and see how far you can float, whilst doing so you can check if you ascend, descend or remain neutral. Before even making any neck-weights, you want to see if you can vary any of the parameters to help you find the buoyancy you need.
If you’re in the position where you normally would swim at 1,5m depth, but the pool itself is 3m deep. Try and drop down to 3 meters deep and prepare for a push off from the wall at that depth. Once you made the push-off, just let yourself glide until you are completely stopped. If varying the depth isn’t helping you to stay at 3 meters deep, you’ll have to change the air intake.
This relates to how much air you take in before starting your DNF freedive. As a lower air intake will result in less buoyany, try and do a DNF freedive at 3m’s deep with a neutral air intake. If you still float up, try with a smaller ammount of air intake, but most definately you’ll find that a neutral air intake should already be pretty close to finding your neutral buoyancy.
Varying with both of these parameters will result in a perfect way to find out, how a good balanced DNF should feel like. When you know how it should feel, the freedive itself will feel totally different. You no longer have to swim down or up, so now you can fine-tune your DNF freedive by paying attention to other aspects i.e. streamlining. In the end variation with the altitude and air intake will help you in making the neck-weight, waist-weight, etc. to suit your needs. Every freediver has a different body composure, thus a different setup is required as well.
Most importantly to all of the information described is a good spotter, with preferably an underwater camera to aid in your goal of finding a good balance and alignment.
Good luck on finding your balance and alignment and if you have some other tips or remarks, be sure to comment about them.
Today I’ve been to a boat store to pick up the accessories for my lanyard and mounting them into a proper lanyard. Earlier this week I had to order a few of the components as he didn’t have them in stock. So I ordered a carabiner which could clip around a cable of at least 15mm and a quick release hook with a workload of 200 kg and a maximum load of 400kg. Both components are stainless steel and have a length of 70mm and respectively 35mm.
Combining them into a lanyard was the next step in the “making of…”, so by the rules I figured that a cable length of approximately 500mm would do the trick. So we took a plasticized wire rope and fixed a cable-guide (for a minimal bending radius) and mounted the carabiner and the quick release to the 500mm wire rope. The wire rope is clamped and shortened, leaving no loose ends to scar me or tear my suit.
The quick release is attached to a ankle/wrist band with quite a large D-ring, but it suits the design in proportions. This band is also used for fitness exercises for the legs and covers the working load as well. As an extra safety measure, as seen in other lanyard designs, I added the quick release and attached a rope with a ball to that (of course I still have to shorten it).
With all things mounted together the distance between the center of the 15mm cable and the center of my wrist will be approximately 700mm, which seems like a good length. The total weight of the lanyard is just under 300 grams, so I reckon I’ve thought of all the points described in the regulations. I hope the lanyard gets considered valid to AIDA regulations and does it’s job when the emergency poses.
Especially important if you try to hold your breath in the water! Better yet; follow a freediving course that will teach you and a friend how to look out for each other during breath hold attempts. But at the minimum let your buddy check you every 15 seconds or so by tapping on your shoulder. You can then give him an okay sign, and if your buddy sees an okay sign then it’s time for some rescue techniques. Even when you’re doing a breath hold on land, it’s wise to have a buddy. Best position is sitting on a nice sofa, so that if you pass out you don’t fall on the ground. Lying on the bed is not wise, as it’s possible, if you’re in bad luck to swallow your tongue. So, never ever try it alone and if possible educate yourself by following a course. That being said…
If you want to hold your breath for a long time it’s best to relax your body and mind before trying. So first of all take your time for this and don’t try it between lunch and coffee. Just sit down on your knees in the water or sitting down relaxed on the sofa. Take your time just sitting there, calming your body and mind. And after a few minutes it’s time to…
Do 2 minutes of breathing with a 5 second interval breathing in, and a 5 second interval breathing out. Just do it slowly and find a nice rhythm. Make sure that after inhale you will fully…
Remember, exhaling is so much more important than inhaling. Just push in your belly to push out every bit of air out of your lungs, so when you inhale you have the maximum amount of fresh air in your lungs. Remember, used air has to get out, fresh air has to go in. After those 2 minutes of breathing just take a nice full…
The trick, especially for beginners, is not to fully inhale so that you have blown cheeks and are ready to pop. It’s important that you only breath in for 80-85 percent of your maximum. This way you can still be relaxed during the breath hold itself. Just try it! Breath in as much as you can and feel how tense you are. Breath in only for 80 percent of your maximum and you can still relax. After your last inhale you only have to…
6. Hold Your Breath
That’s the easy part, just hold it. Close your mouth and if your in the water let yourself float. After this just…
Probably one of the most important things. You have to relax your body as much as possible. This way your heartbeat will go down as well, also one of the reasons why you shouldn’t inhale to your maximum. If your in the water, just float on top of the water, and don’t use any weights to put yourself on the bottom. Floating at the surface with your face down is an excellent way of relaxing. If you’re in the water on the sofa, just try to relax your complete body. Start with your toes and work you way upwards. Try to relax everything, from legs to your fingers. One of the most common problems is the inability to relax your neck and shoulders. And last but not least, try to relax your mouth and your tongue, so that you don’t have a forced breath hold. Keep a continues feel to your body if you’re relaxed and remember to…
You’re lying or sitting there while holding your breath. If you want to make sure that it is a short time then start counting in your head or looking at your stopwatch! Don’t do such a thing, you main goal is to forget time! Remember that when you’re doing something pleasant times go by very fast, and if you’re doing something awful time goes by so slowly… So don’t look at your watch, it’s time to have nice thoughts going on in your head and try not to think about the fact that you’re holding your breath. Guys, just don’t think about all those great bed stories, because then the blood goes to the wrong place and your heartbeat goes up. Try to think of something calming. Nice vacation, a good experience, some music, etc. Be creative with this. And when you can’t relax or concentrate yourself anymore it’s time to…
At one point while your hold your breath, relaxation is over and you can’t think about anything else then the fact that you have to breath and why oh why you’re doing this. Then it’s time to distract yourself. Use a small physical movement to distract. So don’t start swimming around, or walking around, just slowly move your fingers together and make small figures with them, touch each finger with the opposite finger, just play around. This way time passes by like crazy and makes you forget about the horrible pains your enduring. It’s fun to hold your breath, or so they say. And when you can’t hold your breath anymore, just hold a little longer and then…
Before you start cheering about your new record, first you need to recover. You’ve hold your breath for a long time, so first things first; get all the used air out of your system by blowing out a little bit of air (20%) and then quickly fill it again to maximum. This makes sure that you give oxygen to the most critical parts again fast! After that you can exhale completely and for at least three times make a complete deep breathing cycle. Then you look at your watch and you can cheer about your time!
Remember, there a literally hundreds of methods to increase your time, but the most important part is that you’re safe! So always obey rule number 1 and never train alone. If you got some additional questions you can leave them in the comments.