AIDA 1* Learning how not to breathe

My one day course was upon me, a trip to Newquay for the basics of breath holding and freediving safety. I had started to read up on it all, quite a lot of reading actually, the science of breath holding and how to improve it. We were told not to do too much practical stuff before the course though. The idea of the course is to start from scratch and teach everything in a safe and controlled way.

I must admit I did do a bit of breath holding beforehand, but why not, it has been a bit of an interest on and off since I was a teenager. Apparently lots of kids do it, so I’ve always known that if I have a few days practice I can up my breath-hold time a bit.

The course was briliant and I never realised that something so simple could involve so much science.

The things that will always stand out from this course are the following:-

  • The urge to breathe comes from a build up of carbon dioxide, not a decrease in oxygen supply.
  • The urge to breathe – those contractions of the diaphram and chest muscles that tell you that if I don’t breathe soon I will die! These are an indicator of a build-up of carbon dioxide and not necessarily a lack of oxygen.
  • Don’t hyperventilate – This doesn’t increase your oxygen supply, only decreases your carbon dioxide, which in turn means that you are shifting the goalposts, hiding the urge to breathe until it is possibly too late.
  • Chest contractions – these should be a friendly indicator that you have high carbon dioxide levels, but it doesn’t mean you have to breathe now, your oxygen reserves might still only be 2/3 or even 1/2 depleted.
  • When you surface don’t do a huge exhale. This could rid you of the very last of your oxygen supply and result in blackout, breathe out just half, then in again, and then take a few deliberate half breaths until you are back to normal.

There was a lot more advice and instruction than this; how to buddy up during static apnea practice (breath holding on water); the correct things to wear; correct weighting; equalisation of pressure; physiology of your ears and sinuses; looking out for your buddy; the signs that something has gone wrong and loads more besides so don’t take this blog as anything like a substitute for doing the course itself  – DON’T TAKE MY SECOND HAND INFO AS DEIFINITIVE AND EXHAUSTIVE – I am still a novice and just relating what I got out of the course, I’m not trying to teach it to anyone else. If you are at all interested I’d say go and do it yourself – – Tell them I recommended you and I might get a free drink bottle on my next course!

Ian who instructs the course always maintains that he can help improve a beginners breath holding quite substantially with a day of instruction. I was already a little practiced, but even I manage to up my maximum hold from just about 4 minute to 4:18, I was impressed, and looking forward to doing a bit more soon. The guy that was with me on the course, who was already an experiences spear-fisherman, upped his from about 2:40 to 3:20. He was chuffed too, having previously struggled to better his time.

So this course left me wanting more, but still not properly experienced in open water freediving, so as the day drew to a close I was already looking forward to the next course; AIDA 2*, open water, down a rope, looking at fishes, a real freediver!

UPDATE! You don’t get far into freediving before you realise that there is so much more to it than how long you can hold your breath….. see the next installment –

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