Freediving / Apnea

The Sport of Breath-Hold Diving. All aspects of my journey into freediving including static apnea, dynamic apnea, constant ballast, training techniques, equipment and competition. Also includes a short freediving video. What does it feel like to be a freediver and breath holding underwater? Information about heart rate and holding breath.

Calvin swimming back up after reaching 100ft deep for the 1st time.
Read my freediving blog, including my experience at the latest Western Regional Competition.

Other Sections:

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Freediving World Records
Fear the Lung Squeeze!
Freediving Mask Volume Measurement
Sharon's Freediving Training
Freediving Training Blog
Freediving Training Progress
Freediving static apnea tables online
The Best of Freediving Tips
Freediving Tips - Techniques
Freediving Tips - All
Freediving / Apnea

I just recently discovered the amazing world of freediving. Freediving is the sport of breath-hold diving. Having spent many years SCUBA diving and performing many other water-sports, I have always had an affinity for the water. Snorkeling was always very enjoyable, but my ability to stay down with the sealife was limited. Unlike SCUBA diving, freediving allows one an experience unencumbered by equipment, noise and bubbles. It is a very rewarding experience.

In February of 2004, I started a 12-week training program with Performance Freediving (run by Kirk Krack). It has completely opened up a new world to me. Now, after having completed most of the training, I am doing my ocean dives, and I can finally appreciate how effective this course has been. Prior to this year, I had probably never swum below 20ft while holding my breath. I would have never thought that I could ever swim down over 100ft on a single breath of air. With adequate training, it is within reach and can be done safely.

An important part of the training is in invoking the mammalian dive reflex, one that every human inherited from their evolutionary ancestors. This reflex allows one to significantly lower their heart rate (bradycardia), shift their blood flow to the core (blood shunt) and even reduce lung compression effects at great depths (thoracic filling). In addition, the training emphasizes significant physical, physiological and psychological tolerance as well as physical conditioning.

While recreational freediving is very exciting, it can also be a dangerous sport if one does not have proper training. The Performance Freediving course made safety a huge consideration, and I could never imagine doing it without this background. And, of course, never freedive alone!

Living in Canada, I have had the fortunate opportunity to train with numerous accomplished freedive women and men.

Current personal bests:

(progress only shown to 02/05)

CALVIN

Activity Personal Record Date
Static Apnea (Dry)
Breath-hold on land.
6 minutes 01 seconds 04/13/2004
Static Apnea (Wet)
Breath-hold in water.

5 minutes 16 seconds
Western Regional Competition

05/07/2004
Dynamic Apnea with Fins
Horizontal underwater distance in one breath.
374 ft / 114 m DQ
336 ft / 102 m
02/26/2005
02/15/2005
Dynamic Apnea without Fins
Horizontal underwater distance in one breath without fins.
200 ft / 61 m 02/27/2005
Constant Ballast
Swimming down to a maximum depth and back in one breath.
136 ft / 41.5 m (depth) 04/24/2004

SHARON

Activity Personal Record Date
Static Apnea (Wet) 4 minutes 33 seconds 04/29/2004

Photos:

See my Freediving Photo Album! (includes pictures from the Western Regional Competition)

World Record Ranking

The current world rankings for breath hold (static), depth (constant) and distance (dynamic) for 2004.

The current world records for freediving.

What does it feel like to hold your breath / static apnea?

The following describes the type of sensations I'll get during a five and a half minute competition breath-hold / static apnea. Please note that this is in a competition or training environment and is not something I would do regularly for fun. As described below, the feelings can be quite unpleasant at times, but during competitions one must endure some degree of discomfort to approach one's safe physiological limit. The following is done in water under absolutely strict supervision by a number of trained safety spotters.

DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt breath-holds in water unless you are thoroughly trained in all of the safety issues and have a safety diver with you. A number of divers have died because of a lack of adequate training and safety support. Never ever dive without a trained buddy.

  • One Minute - Very relaxed, not even really aware of holding my breath. Eyes closed to avoid thinking about being under water. Laying face-down, flat on the water, arms and legs dangling relaxed.
  • Two Minutes - Occasional thoughts come to mind of the fact that I'm holding my breath, but these are easy to put aside for now. I start consciously trying to steer my mind away from these thoughts by running through the events of a previous day.
  • Two Minutes Thirty Seconds - An internal pressure in my body starts to well up, and I know that I will be getting contractions soon. My body tenses a bit as I try to delay the onset of diaphragmatic contractions. Ignore the sensation of wanting to swallow as I usually feel some saliva in my mouth, as otherwise I end up swallowing air into my stomach, which obviously doesn't help oxygen exchange.
  • Three Minutes - The internal pressure sensation reaches a level where it feels as though I am spending too much energy trying to delay the contractions. So I give in, allowing the contractions of the diaphragm to start. The discomfort of knowing that the contractions are about to start is similar to the feeling of knowing that you're going to be sick. The first contraction in my diaphragm causes my body to involuntarily spasm, as the body attempts to start its own respiration. The contractions are about once every ten seconds at first. A small wave of relief washes over me as I allow the first contraction to occur. I am very careful not to think about the time now, because otherwise I will end up comparing when my contractions started this time to when they usually start. There is nothing more demotivating than knowing that they started early this time. I have to consciously relax my body, especially my head and neck. Heart rate has begun to slow down.
  • Three Minutes Thirty Seconds - The start of the hardest phase for me. This is where negative thoughts will continuously push into my mind. Bad thoughts flood in: "I don't think I can do it today", "today is the day when I'm going to give up early", "why am I doing this?" or "the contractions came on early this time". The physical sensations are intensely unpleasant, and it is hard to push on knowing that you can simply bring your head up to bail out. The body sensations are extremely strong, and at times it feels as though I must be drowning. Knowing that I'll spend the next two minutes in this state can be tough -- some people start their contractions much later and only need to endure a minute of contractions. For me, I usually end up with nearly three minutes of contractions. I continuously try to fill my mind with thoughts of the days past activities, constantly focusing on details. I don't want the negative thoughts to take over.
  • Four Minutes Thirty Seconds - The turning point. By now, once I've gotten the signal that I've made it to around four and a half minutes, I start to feel happier. I know that I'm on my way to making five minutes, and the end is in sight. The contractions are every couple seconds and I am just starting to get used them. Occasional negative thoughts come in, but the feeling of knowing that five minutes is near is usually enough to put them out. Heart rate is dropping to less than 50 beats per minute (BPM). Need to open my eyes now, to make sure I'm aware of what's going on and can watch for signs that I am closer to my limit.
  • Five Minutes - Beginning to get euphoric. I've made it -- its downhill from here. The contractions occur rapidly (about every second), and they are smaller. Negative thoughts are completely gone. I can hear my pulse clearly in my head and other sounds become muffled or distant. Eyes wide open, trying to stay alert. Hands on the deck, getting ready to come up.
  • Five Minutes Thirty Seconds- Point of no return. Time begins to fly. It seems as though the callouts for the time are coming fast. I am no longer having any difficulty holding my breath. I watch for the signs that I'm nearing my limit: sounds become muffled, the beginnings of tunnel-vision and a feeling of it being easy. The hypoxic euphoria has a hold on me now and I must come up, otherwise it's easy to convince myself that I can go on further because I'm feeling good. Bringing my feet underneath me, I gradually turn my body upright and lift my head out. Six big recovery breaths, an OK signal and a smile for the judges.

Doesn't holding your breath kill brain cells?

Under construction Why this is a myth and why your brain is not without oxygen.

I participated in a study by researcher Dr. Andrew Blaber which attempted to examine the effects of breath-holds on the brain, amongst other things. An ultrasound measurement was performed on my head to evaluate the changes in blood stroke volume throughout the breath-hold. In addition to the cerebral blood flow measurement, various other readings were taken, including arterial oxygen saturation levels as well as pulse rate, blood pressure and end-tidal carbon-dioxide concentration.

One of the effects that he was interested in seeing was how the quantity of oxygen to the brain changed over time. Because of the body's mammalian responses, the blood flow through the body is diverted and concentrated in the core regions at the expense of the peripheral limbs. This, combined with a reduction in oxygen consumption, actually allows oxygen delivery to the brain to be maintained through the entire breath hold. At the end of my 5:43 breath-hold in the lab, oxygen saturation was still at healthy levels, showing that at no point in time was the brain "starved" for oxygen.

The current consensus seems to support the notion that brain damage only occurs in periods of about four minutes after blackout. This is the fundamental misunderstanding people have about freediving, and it explains why one will hear that you will die after being under water for four minutes. If you drowned and blacked-out in water, you may sustain brain damage within four minutes. But in a freediving context, one is fully conscious and the natural dive responses keep oxygen saturation levels high for long periods of time before any chance of blackout.

9 Minute Breath-holds without Breathe-up?

For an interesting article by Peter Scott on his interpretation of how these maximum holds may work, have a look at the lengthy thread here.

Safety support required in freediving

Under construction Various types:

  • Static Apnea -
  • Dynamic Apnea -
  • Constant Ballast -

Body responses to freediving

  • Bradycardia - Lowering of heart rate. In some trained divers, the heart rate can drop to five beats per minute on a deep dive.
  • Peripheral vasoconstriction. The body shunts blood away from the periphery and redistributes the blood flow to the vital organs including the heart, lungs and brain.
  • Reduction of oxygen consumption.
  • Blood shift / thoracic filling
  • . On deeper dives, the body shifts blood flow to the chest cavity between the diaphragm and the neck to avoid the collapse of the lungs under high external pressures. Eventually, blood plasma fills the lungs so that it is no longer compressible from outside pressures. Scientists originally proclaimed that a human could not survive a breath-hold dive to 50 meters as the lungs would compress to an absolute minimum volume before they would collapse under the outside pressure. The thoracic filling, along with significant trained flexibility in one's chest cavity, allows one to reach depths far in excess of what originally seemed impossible. Seals actually exhale before they start a dive, allowing these effects to be triggered much sooner.
  • Facial sensors respond to cold water.

Techniques used by freedivers to enhance their ability:

  • Facial immersion. Chemoreceptors in the face (near the nose) recognize cold water. Freedivers will try to immerse their faces in cold water before or during a static breath-hold.
  • Negative pressure dives. Training to increase flexibility in chest cavity.

Sambas and blackouts

Laryngospasm. One of the most interesting safety mechanisms that the human body contains in the context of diving is the laryngospasm. If someone were to ever blackout under water, the detection of water entering the airways causes the larynx (vocal cords) to immediately close up, preventing water from entering the lungs (and causing a drowning). This sealing of the throat is what actually allows people to blackout underwater without suffering serious side-effects. The laryngospasm usually lasts for a period of a minute or so,

Stats:

My current training progress online at Current Training Records

The following graph shows how bradycardia (slowing of the heart rate) kicks in during a dry static breath-hold. An interesting thing to note is that after the break of apnea (at 5:30), the heart rate jumps (due to the recovery breathing), but then falls back to a rate (44 BPM) lower than during the hold. My resting rate is typically 55 BPM. Prior to the breath-hold, my heart rate was about 70, but then the 8 purging breaths brought that up into the high 70s. Note that during deep ocean dives (where the full effects of the mammalian dive response can be triggered), the heart rate slows much further than on a dry land breath-hold.

 

 

Videos:

My extreme sports video with clips of freediving

A very inspirational video of Benjamin Franz that I think shows what freediving is all about (hosted by Freediver.co.uk)

 

Equipment

Equipment in freediving is much less involved than in SCUBA diving, which makes for part of its appeal. However, since it is vital that one must be very aware of their body and physiology, the equipment we do carry must be carefully selected.

 

Monofin:

Specialfins Freediving Monofin Carbon

Background:

A monofin provides much more efficiency than a standard bifin. One of the main differences being the surface area and to a lesser degree not as much non-laminar (turbulent) flow past the fin. With bifins, the water that is squeezed between the pair of fins (during a scissor kick) creates significant turbulence, inducing drag.

Although I didn't find that many difficulties using my plastic bifins down to 40m, I had understood from many other divers that the "lack of power" at the deep turning point was a concern with the bifins. Thus many deeper divers often migrate towards the monofin.

Comments:

I have just started training with my new carbon fibre monofin and I must say it has been an interesting learning experience! So far, I have only used it in the pool, but I definitely feel that this is a big improvement over my "fibreplastic" bifins. Unfortunately, I still feel that I must look like an injured dolphin, floundering around! I am going to need quite a few training sessions before I feel comfortable going for a target dive.

Bi-fins:

Cressi Sub Gara 2000 LD

Background:

Long-blade fins take time getting used to, but they allow for much better propulsion, while sacrificing maneuverability. Many freedivers' fins are carbon fibre, but until my legs are more accustomed to the extra effort, I will stick with the plastic fins.

Comments:

The Gara 2000 LDs feel very comfortable, and are not as stiff as the 2000 HFs. The drawback I see at this stage with them is that they have fairly flexible footpockets, which may contribute to the occasional foot cramps I get.

Mask:

Sporasub Samurai

Background:

Ultra-low volume mask. Unlike in SCUBA diving where one typically uses a large mask with a wide field of view, in freediving it is essential to have a low-volume mask. This is particularly important when one starts going deep. The reason for this is that one must equalize the mask at depth (60-80ft +). If one is at 100ft below (4 atmospheres of pressure), the volume required to equalize the mask, multiplied by 4 gives you the volume of air required from the lungs/mouth (at the surface). Since the air in your mouth & lungs are vital for duration and middle-ear equalization, one must conserve every bit.

Similarly, once I start to return to the surface and reach around 40ft or so, I will breathe back in the air from my mask so that I can utilize it without wasting it (otherwise it would bubble out of the mask).

Comments:

So far, I have been very pleased with the Samurai. It has a moderately low volume (middle of the line) and decent field of view. Comfort is very good, and I haven't had any problems with it so far. Another mask that is very popular is the Technisub Sphera; offering a wider field of view and lower (76mL) volume.

Inner Volume: 85.8 mL
Upward Field of View: 42 deg
Downward Field of View: 44 deg
Horizontal Field of View: 104 deg

Read an article on how to measure freediving mask volume.

Dive Computer:

Suunto D3

Background:

A dive computer is essential for freediving. Not only does it give you an accurate depth reading (along with audible warnings so that you know that you've reached your target), it can record your entire dive's profile into memory with a 1 second sample rate. This allows one to review the dive afterwards and determine appropriate corrections for technique.

Suggestions for the D3:
  • Make sure you always rinse out the computer in fresh water after use.
  • Always remember to turn the computer's FREE mode to OFF after the dive, as otherwise your batteries will run down quickly (my new batteries lasted only 1-2 months). Of course, remember to turn it back on before your dive.
  • If you have a long surface interval (> 15 mins), remember to enter FREE mode manually so that it is ready to start logging your dive profile. Otherwise, after about 15mins surface interval in FREE mode, it will revert to TIME mode, and it will apparently change back to FREE mode when you've broken 4 ft. However, in my experience and others, it takes close to 8 seconds to trigger the change and start logging!
Wetsuit:

Sporasub Elite

Background:

Keeping your body in a state for freediving involves eliminating any other physical or psychological factors that could reduce your performance. Shivering, or being worried about the cold will reduce your focus.

A 5.5mm freediving wetsuit is typically much warmer than a standard wetsuit. Waterflow through the suit is nearly eliminated, partly due to the dense closed-cell neoprene.

Gloves:

Bare 3mm Cold Water Gloves

Background:

Gloves are essential for keeping your hands warm. It is important to have a pair that will still retain enough dexterity to hold the line, change settings on your dive computer and potentially adjust your gear during a dive. Like most of the freediving equipment, waterflow must be reduced as much as possible.

Booties:

MEC Neo Paddling Socks

Background:

Booties not only insulate your foot from the cold, they also provide some degree of fit improvement for your fin footpockets. One consideration is how much the booties will compress at depth. If your fit becomes too loose, a set of Fin Keepers are recommended.

Weight Belt:

Picasso Rubber Belt

Background:

The typical goal is to weight oneself so that you are neutrally-bouyant at 10-15m. This helps provide some margin in recovery in case of SWB.

The weight belt material itself is actually quite important. When one is at a depth of 100ft, your lungs have compressed to a quarter of their original volume. Similarly, the bubbles in the neoprene suit have also compressed. The net effect of this is that the belt diameter set at the surface will no longer fit snugly at depth. In fact, it will fall down your torso towards your shoulders. Having a belt made of elastic rubber will allow the belt to stretch smaller at depth.

Currently, I wear 10lbs for ocean Constant Ballast diving (with wetsuit, which sets me neutral at about 15m) and 4lbs for pool Dynamic Apnea training (without wetsuit). In the future, I may try 12lbs so that I can be neutral closer to 10m.

Ears:

Cotton Balls

Background:

One of the more limiting factors to depth progress can be equalization (ears and mask). It is important that there is some water against the outside of your ear, not just air on the inside of your wetsuit hood. Having some water will remove another potential airspace that could create a vacuum effect that could make equalization harder. However, having cold water from the outside coming in contact with your eardrum can cause other discomfort. So, putting cotton balls in the ears helps reduce these issues.

One way around the vacuum effect problem is to punch a small hole through the wetsuit hood in the region of your ear. This will allow a small degree of waterflow. I am going to try sticking with flushing the hood with water first before I cut any holes.

Emergency:

Sea Snips

Although I have no need for this so far, it is possible that fishing line or other entanglements exist in some areas of the ocean. Having a means to quickly cut the line is crucial. I think it makes perfect sense to have some safety backup in this way.

Tolerance Training (CO2, O2 Tables)

Download the graphical tables for (by Mozzi) (2274 downloads)

Original tables and background material.

 

Links of Interest

Physiology

Dive Geek's Bibliography
A large bibliography of material on breath-hold diving
ScubaMed
Collection of answers to medical questions people had about diving (SCUBA & breath-hold).
Duke University
-
http://freediving.dyndns.org/physiology.asp
-
AIDA Brasil Articles
Freediving & decompression sickness.
http://joh.med.uoeh-u.ac.jp/pdf/E43/E43_1_08.pdf
Ama diver neurological incidents.
NCBI PubMed
NCBI PubMed. Free access to millions of medical abstracts.

Forums

DeeperBlue
A very popular freediving forum with many active members.
Freediving Manual
An attempt to put together an open community-written freediving encyclopedia.
Freediver UK
Good collection of freediving videos. See "Freediver TV" link.

Books

Pulmonary Physiology
Michael Levitzky. Sixth Edition. 2003.
Respiratory Physiology: The Essentials
John B. West. 2000.
Exercise Physiology.
Scott Powers, Edward Howley. 3rd edition.
 

Personal Sites & Photo/Video Albums

Eric Fattah's Freediving
Local diver - Eric Fattah
Andrew Brownsword
Local diver - Andrew Brownsword
Tom Lightfoot
Local diver - Tom Lightfoot
Mandy-Rae Cruickshank
Local diver - Mandy-Rae Cruickshank
Tyler Zetterstrom
Local diver - Tyler Zetterstrom. Writings and photos.
Umberto Pelizzari Gallery: Dolphins
Umberto Pelizzari. Swimming with the dolphins.
Benjamin Franz
Benjamin Franz.
Tanya Streeter
Tanya Streeter
Audrey Mestre
Audrey Mestre
Freeology Profiles
Profiles of several well-known freedivers.
Deeper Blue Productions
Some great photos of the freediving masters.

Organizations

Freedive Vancouver
Freedive Vancouver
Performance Freediving
Performance Freediving Clinics (Kirk Krack). Home of an excellent freediving school.
CAFA - Canadian Association of Freediving and Apnea
CAFA : Canadian Assocations of Freediving & Apnea
Freedive Sweden
Freedive Sweden. A collection of training tips and records.
 

Equipment

Suunto Dive D3 Demo Software
Demo of the Suunto D3 model.
Suunto Dive Manager Software
Suunto Dive Manager software 1.51.
Suunto to Clie
Creating an interface for the Suunto line for the Sony Clie PDA.
Suunto interface schematics
Many different schematics for building a Suunto PC interface, instead of spending $200.
Freediver reviews of Fins
Extensive user comparison between freediving fins.
Spearsniper's Equipment overview
Overview of freediving / spearfishing equipment.
Equipment Vendors: Dive Computers
Suunto
Very popular Suunto dive computers, including the Freediver D3 and Mosquito.
Equipment Vendors: Monofins
Specialfins / Sebakfins
Excellent fiberglass & carbon fibre monos, bifins.
WaterWay Canada
Popular fiberglass & carbon fibre monos, bifins. Reasonably inexpensive.
Leaderfins
Monofins & bifins
Equipment Vendors: Miscellaneous
Spare Air
Spare Air. A tiny SCUBA system capable of 48-85L.

Training, Techniques & Articles

Gerald Schmidt's Freediving Training
An excellent summary of various freediving-related techniques.
Eric Fattah's Equalization
Eric Fattah's highly respected training article on Frenzel equalization techniques.
Freediving Norway
Sebastian's Norway freediving website. Excellent source of information and data collected from his own experiments.
About.com: Interview with Streeter
An interview with Tanya Streeter on everything about freediving.
 

 


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
2012-02-29Walter Johnson
 And even in front of witnesses ;) YouTube 6:01 Static - Walter Johnson
 Thanks for posting this & congrats on the PB!
2012-02-13Walter Johnson
 Went to Andaman Freediving Challenge in Ko Lanta, Thailand over the weekend. Participated in all competition disciplines.

FIM 20 W
CWT 20 Y (early turn)
CNF 20 W
STA 6:01 W
DYN 61 W
DNF 65 W

All were personal bests in competition, and all are numbers I can easily build on. Was nice to finally pop the 6:00 bubble in competition. I put a more detailed account on my website including my static breathe up - http://freedivingsolutions.com/index.html if anyone is interested.
 Great news on the statics! Keep at it Walter
2011-12-17Walter Johnson
 Did numerous 6+ holds and a 6:32 and 6:44 in the water in Kuala Lumpur while training there recently. Going back in January to get ready for competition. Getting used to doing holds in the water finally and tuning my warmup for water vice dry. Taking some time but I am making progress. The good news is that the water at the comp I am doing in Feb, 2012 will be a nice and toasty 32-33C, not the icewater you Canadians dive in ;)
 Fantastic progress Walter! Good luck on the upcoming comp!!
2011-06-02Walter Johnson
 Last week another great day in the water with a 6:21 PB static. Richard a PB DNF of 75 meters. My breathe up 4:00/5:00/4:00 screwed up that one)/6:21 with good SP. Great day in the water with friends and great Thai food from a great Thai cook after. Getting good consistency in my training in the water so far. Was trying to set that breathe up on a course to 4/5/6/?, basically a table. I figure it would have been good for a hold on the order of about 6:45-7:00. Hope to try again soon.
2011-05-21Walter Johnson
 Just a minor addition to my previous post:

No packing throughout the workout. Also, that sequence of holds has gotten me to greater than 7 minutes in the past doing dry holds and these holds were not significantly different in feel than when I do them dry. The big issue with doing that many holds is that you start getting cold after being stationary in the water so long. Gotta work all that out. Stay tuned.
2011-05-18Walter Johnson
 Hi to all,

Had a great day of training with Richard Wonka and Sarah Whitcher here in Phuket. Richard did a painful looking table. Sarah did DYN and DNF. I did a 6:02 static by my stopwatch (their stopwatch 6:04). For the most part felt ok. This was my personal best in the water though. Sorta proud of that. Duplicated the first 4 holds of my standard breathe up (3:30, 4:30, 5:30, 6:00) for the first time in the water.

Walt
2010-10-12ugg
 Also anything in the abdominal region, such as air, gas (don't eat beans if you want a good hold time), food, water, or waste would have a similar effect. What do you think? Also I have felt my breathing muscles tightening this week, my second full week of training. Holds still pretty consistent at 5:00-5:30. Next February I hope to go to Koh Lanta, Thailand to get and AIDA certified course. I think I can learn alot about stretching exercises, breathup, and relaxation techniques there, as well as getting some experience. Happy Holidays to all.
2010-10-11Richard Wonka
 Just to keep this thread of comments up to date:
There is now a Presence of Freediving in Phuket. We (http://wefreedive.org) have set up base there and are giving courses throughout South-East Asia. We're teaching Apnea Academy (level 1-3) and AIDA (*,**,***,**** and Instructor) courses.
2010-09-12Luke Young
 myself and my dad are getting into the sport of speafishing, but i cant seem to dive for more than 1:30 ive been practicing in the pool at home and i can easially do 2:00 under the water going from end to end, but as soon as i get out to the reef i canno't seem to hold it. because of this problem my 1400 railgun is useless as i cannot sit under the water for long enough to stalk a decent sized fish down, is there any way i can improve this time, ive tried all the relaxing techniques and i do breath holding exerscizes every morning.

thanks:)
i would love a reply
luke:/
2010-03-04Alejandro
 Would like to find freediver instructor in So. Cal. I live in the Inland Empire.
2009-08-10Walter Johnson
 HI,

Just returned to Bangkok from a competition in Kona, Hawaii. Great event with several national/continental records set. I did a 5:35 static in the pool. Went ok except they moved OTs and kept it a secret so my breathe up was cut short. Still it was nice to get a good solid white card. Video at Http://www.youtube.com/wjohnson100 if anyone wants to see. Also video there of the new national and continental record static of 7:39 by Bill Graham. Great fun. Met some freediving buddies in Bangkok also so I may be able to get some more in the water training. Stay tuned. Hope everything going welll for you. Hope to see you again in Vancouver. Next time brininging polar bear wetsuit to keep warm LOL. Take care.

Regards,
Walt
2009-06-03Walter Johnson
 Hi to you both,

Nice to meet you at the competition. I had a great time meeting everyone there. I also learned alot.

1. Get in the pool before the competition to make sure you have a feel for the water temperature and its effects and to evaluate which wetsuit to use (Surface temperature is not always the same as temperature even 6 inches below the water).

2. Can always get cooler in a thick wetsuit by unzipping a zipper but is impossible to get warmer in a thin wetsuit.

3. Figure out neutral weighting for all wetsuit and packing configurations and don't deviate from it. I noticed in both of my dynamic swims that even with 14 pounds of weight, I still have to fight floating too much, esp in the DYN. My head was pointed so far down that it was difficult for me to tell how far from the surface I was. I have been testing without a wetsuit in a pool here and to be neutral at one meter depth I need more than 12 pounds, and 14 if I do 10 packs. I guess there is going to be no way around carrying alot of weight for me. Sure is a drag though. I did notice that with 12-14 pounds, I am going much further after the stroke than I did in Canada, where I had basically no time between strokes.

In any case, great fun, and next time I will do better. I go to another competition at the end of July in Hawaii. Should be fun. Stay tuned. I have to come back to Canada to redeem myself too LOL.

Take care and see you next time I am in Canada.

Walt
 Thanks for sharing some great advice regarding doing a comp in a new place. Hope to see you out again, and good luck with your July comp!
2009-02-27dino
 bonsoir c dino je suis 1amateur de monopalme je fais encore de la chasse sous marine j ais 1 bon ton sous l eau j emerais bien vous contacter .je vie en espagne alicante je passe tous men temps en pissine merci
2009-02-17Walter Johnson
 Hi. I just returned from the second Andaman Freediving Challenge in Koh Lanta, Thailand. It was fun but I did a pitiful 5:05 static. I did better holds in my breathe up. I think when I started shivering in the water before my final warmup hold that spelled disaster but I didn't realize it at the time. Still my final warmup hold was 5:45 without much difficulty. I learned to get in the water as late as possible during breathe up to avoid the chill, even in warm Thailand. I learned the effect of long term exposure to warm water when the photographer came out of the water chilled to the bone.

I have plans and reservations to come to the next competitoin on May 1 in Vancouver. Will see if I learned anything valuiable in Ko Lanta. Hotel already booked and paid for. Bus routes to UBC Loop already scoped out. Should be fun.

See everyone there soon.
Walt
 That's unfortunate to hear, Walt... but I think this was one of your first organized comps, and if so, it is to be expected :) I'll try to drop by the May competition in Vancouver -- hope to see you there!
2008-12-23Walter Johnson
 Hi. Happy holidays to all. Yesterday I celebrated a new personal best of 7:18. I think that I am now capable of going well past 7:30 and am well on my way to 8:00. Yesterday's hold was smooth and under total control. Now if I can only do these holds in competition. The video is on http://www.youtube.com/wjohnson100 for you all. I try to add as much commentary as I think is pertinent. Hope it is helpful.

Walt
2008-12-16Walter Johnson
 Hi to all. Been doing great in my training. Getting to 7 minutes pretty routinely now. I put several more videos at YouTube if anyone is interested. I try to provide as much information as possible in them. Good luck to everyone in their training.

Happy Holidays,
Walt
 Great! Will look forward to seeing your continued progress! Keep posting your videos.
2008-10-26Walter Johnson
 One thing about yesterdays post. I didn't mean to imply on the video that I only did a 10 minute breathe up for that hold. In fact it is much longer than that. I start with

1. 5 min relaxation period, just tidal breathing,
2. 5 purge breaths
3. 3 minute hold, well short of any contractions
4. 3 minute rest, still tidal breathing
5. 5 purge breaths
6. 3:30 hold, well short of contractions
7. 3:30 rest, again just tidal breathing,
8. 5 purge breaths
9. 4:15 hold, still well short of contractions
10. 10 minutes of breathing in 2 seconds, holding 4 seconds, then out 2 seconds
11. 5 purge breaths
12. 5:30 hold, no contractions
13. 10 minutes, in 2, hold 4, out 2
14. 5 purge breaths, no deep exhale at the end and no packs
15. Final hold

It ends up being about a 48 minute breathe up, but no contractions in any of the holds, not even the last one.

The entire breathe up is designed to be very low energy. And to push contractions out as far as possible. It is something I have been working on since the last time I hit 7 minutes early this year. The only warmup hold that approaches being difficult is the 5:30 one, and then only because of the big jump from the previous 4:15 warmup hold.

This is the first time I have hit 7 minutes with any kind of control. I think it is partially because of the reduction in intensity of my breathe up.

Sorry for any confusion.

Walt
 Ah, that makes more sense now :)

Thanks for the followup & great progress Walter!
2008-10-26Walter Johnson
 Today did a rock solid 7:00. In the last 8 months I have been working on reducing the intensity of my breathe up. I havnen't really tried to go much past 6:30 in that time until now. I finished at 73% O2 saturation. The hold is harder work now but I am much less hypoxic at the end, so it seems to be working. I put video and commentary of the hold on YouTube: 7:00 hold. It was a great workout day. This week has been that way with 3 holds of about 6 minutes, one of about 6:30, and one at about 7:00. Hope the video is informational and not too boring. Take care.

Walt
 Walt, thanks for posting this! This is a fantastic way to share some of your techniques with others. Shortening your breathe-up like this goes somewhat against what many of us did in training, but if you are able to do it this way, it would be far better. With looking at the watch at ~ 4 mins, I found that I couldn't do this without consciously giving myself a comparison to previous holds, thereby introducing the possibility of a negative feeling (if it didn't seem to be as good as before, etc.). In my case I found I had to keep my mind off of time (except for the last minute) to reduce the non-constructive thoughts. The fact that you can continue to watch your time clearly shows that you have done well to overcome this thought process. Keep posting your videos for others to enjoy!
2008-07-18Walter Johnson
 Been training lately using a pulse oximeter. I learned that your blood stays highly oxygenated for several minutes after you start a breath hold (for me 95-99% for about 4:00). It gives instant feedback on how effective your relaxation is. One thing it revealed was that O2 saturation takes awhile to drop, so to effectively train to improve hypoxia tolerance, I think you have to do very long breath holds, empty lung holds, or something else to get O2 saturation down to a level that would be beneficial. Interesting data though. Haven't seen much about this on the internet. One other thing I have noted. O2 depletion rate doesn't change much from the first warmup hold too the last. CO2 tolerance does change alot from one hold to the next. Very interesting.

Walt
2008-02-29fletcher
 hi im fletcher im 16 and live in a small town in New Zealand and am like the only one here in to free diving i was just wondering if any of you no if diving to 12m at my age is an allright depth? please reply anyone in to free diving =]
2008-02-26Walter Johnson
 Today achieved a new personal best of 7:10, easily passing 7:00. After I participated in the Andaman Freediving Challenge, I modified my breathe up slightly (waited till after the competition to make the changes) and it has proved to be an amazing success. Using the changes I have been working up in the last week to get comfortable with the modifications. Slowly going to 6:00 then 6:30 and then 6:40 using 2 warmup holds. Then today I did 3 warmup holds and easily went beyond 7:00. It remains to be seen whether that is repeatable or not, but I think it is. I am pushing contractions out further and further, today to 6:30. Stay tuned. Walt
 Keep it up, Walt!
2008-02-09Walter Johnson
 Just competed in the Andaman Freediving challenge, did best time in static (5:45) but DQ'd due to SP and airway violations. Disappointing but was a great learning experience. I was about 40 seconds better than the winner. Did 57 meters in DYN without weights or much breathe up and using bifins. Felt great though (bought my first monofin today). I think with a llittle preparation, training, and properly weighted, I am good for well over 100 meters.
2008-01-19Walter Johnson
 I have noticed that the time when I start to feel hypoxic symptoms has been moving over the last year from about 6:15-6:30 to 6:40-6:55. I have achieved solid holds in the 6:50 range with no discernable hypoxic symptoms. It seems that consistent training helps in that regard. I know I am doing much better because now when I do 6:00 on a hold I feel it is a waste and that I can do much better. I do get lazy sometimes. It has been exciting to see my progress over 2007. If I can make any gains in 2008, I will be doing 7:00 holds with ease by 2009. Stay tuned.

Walt
2007-12-05Walter Johnson
 Yesterday completed AIDA ** training in Koh Lanta, Thailand. It was alot of fun. Did a 5:30 hold in the pool and went down to 24.7 meters. It was great to finally get some in the water training. Much different from doing holds in my room in Phuket. I hope I can do *** training early next year. It is definitely worth it to get the training if you want to freedive. I highly recommend it.

Walt
 It's certainly exciting to finally get an opportunity to apply your breath-hold skills to some diving. Keep at it.
 
2007-12-05Dr. Magdy
 Kindly requested send me more details, please send more papers related Monofin training Adaptation in cardiopulmonary assessment after long -term monofin swimming.
Thank you for your scientific assistances.
Kind Regards,
Dr. Magdy Zeid
2007-10-30Walter Johnson
 Thanks for your encouragement.
2007-10-30Walter Johnson
 This week been working on shortening my breathe up. Is working very well. Today after a 10 minute breathe up did a 6:01 hold with contractions starting about 5:30. Immediately repeated the same breathe up and did another 6:01 hold with no contractions. Felt so good I did another identical 10 minute breathe up and then a 7:08 hold, a new personal best, and a major milestone for me, with contractions starting about 6:20. The 7:08 was very difficult but I felt great after it. This was my major goal in my first year of training.

Two things that made this possible were increasing my no-warmup hold times and also decreasing my breathe up time.

Starting the first hold of the series at 6:01 is a big lift both in confidence and also in kickstarting the dive reflex.

Still not packing for my holds.

One strange thing happening lately, my resting heart rate dropping in the last few weeks from the low 40's to the mid 30's. This is lower even than when I was running marathons more than 10 years ago. Do you know if anyone else has noticed this effect?

Tonight, celebrating LOL.

Regards,

Walt
 Excellent! To find yourself within 15 seconds of the USA & Canada Static Apnea Records in your first year of training is definitely reason to be celebrating! Hopefully your training times will translate well into a competition environment. Keep at it, Walt!!
2007-10-16Walter Johnson
 Been working hard to develop consistency in the 6:45 range. Today on my first hold of the day hit 6:45 without great difficulty (4th time 6:45 or above) with contractions starting about 6:20-6:30 I think. As my breathe up matures it gets easier. Still staying away from packs.

I think people want to know what a good breathe up is. I think that I can say for sure that it is different for different people, changes as you mature in training, and varies depending on what kind of diving you are doing. I am sure everyone is glad I laid down the final definitive word on that subject, LOL. In general for me the following principles apply though (some contradictory):

1. Good to get CO2 low and O2 high in the tissues. This is affected significantly by the breathe up rate, and, in my opinion, is not much affected by short breathe ups like during CO2 and O2 Tables.
2. Good to kickstart the dive reflex if you are doing warmup holds. Training can help reduce or eliminate the need for this though. Personally at this time I am not doing warmup holds.
3. Good to have high blood O2 saturation (Not hard since your lungs are very efficient at exchanging gases).
4. Good to have lower blood CO2 levels (Not so low that you get loopy or pass out when you start the hold).
5. As relaxed as possible during the breathe up and hold (Key words--as possible)

Some of these mitigate toward a higher breathe up rate and some toward a lower breathe up rate, so you have to figure out what works best for you. The best thing I can say is that your breathe up has to be controlled. To do that you have to practice consistently, document what you do, determine over time what works and what doesn't (some of this varies based on how you feel during the breathe up), and be flexible enough to try new things. I have found that most of my significant improvements have been accidents. Writing it down is important. It keeps you honest and makes it easy to go back in your history to rehash old methods, make your improvements cumulative, and share your methods. All of this raises your confidence level in your breathe up and your ability to make intelligent modifications during the breathe up based on how you feel that day, while at the same time reducing your inclination to perform experiments on your breathe up on the day of competition.

I did try to track heart rate once on a 6:21 hold. It started at about 110 during the first minute and tracked pretty steadily down to 39 at the end of the 6th minute. I got reliable numbers because I was writing them down as I went. That might have skewed the numbers a little bit because I had to stay in a mindset where I could pay attention to the clock and write as necessary. In any case, the dive reflex started to kick in immediately after I started the hold and progressed steadily throughout the hold. The biggest drop in heart rate was during the 6th minute. I think alot of the elevated heart rate in the beginning is due to the pressure on the heart from the expanded ribcage. I tried once doing about a 50% capacity hold (no breathe up) starting at about 48 bpm resting heart rate. My heart rate went down to 38 bpm at the end of the first minute, so I think the diving reflex kicks in almost immediately. Any significant elevation in heart rate at the beginning of a hold is probably due to that rib cage pressure and the resulting reduced stroke volume of the heart, along with whatever exertion the breathe up presents.

I have found though that tracking heart rate during any particular hold is not particulary useful. A high heart rate is not necessarily indicative of a short hold and may make you think too much. Also, the heart rate monitor is no gage of mindset and ability to relax. I do find it to be a good indication, however, of general condition and hydration before starting a workout.

Just more bonehead theories of mine.
 Thanks for sharing some excellent tips and ideas! Keeping detailed notes about what works and what doesn't is crucial to developing an understanding of how one's body reacts to different methods.
2007-09-12alex
 hello !! man i want to lear to do free diving i realy have interest of learning this revolutionary sport im from puerto rico! and i have scuba licence but this is amazing,,,,,,,, but free diving waooo ! i just can wait to have a chance to learn but unfurtunally here in my island no body can teach that sport ! i dont think so!! right now im in texas ! do you think that they have trainig facilities for that sport here! please tellme a lil bit of information about this amazing sport! i will appreciate your help


sincerly: alex rivera
2007-09-12alex
 hello !! man i want to learn to do free diving i realy have interest of learning this revolutionary sport im from puerto rico! and i have scuba licence but this is amazing, but free diving waooo ! i just can wait to have a chance to learn but unfurtunally here in my island no body can teach that sport ! i dont think so!! right now im in texas ! do you think that they have trainig facilities for that sport here! please tellme a lil bit of information about this amazing sport! i will appreciate your help

sincerly: alex rivera
 I'm not sure of any freediving clinics in Texas, but hopefully someone can post here if they know of one. Good luck!
2007-08-18Walter Johnson
 Hi, still haven't pushed contractions much past 6:00, but I am achieving more consistent 6 minute holds without contractions. My breathe up is about 8-10 breaths per minute for 40 minutes. with no packing stretches, packs or purge breaths. The profile of my holds has changed drastically. As an example, this morning, the first 5 minutes of the hold were just marking time. From 5-6 minutes I start to feel the beginnings of the impulse to breathe but it is manageable. Today I quit at 6:00 with an easy SP and no hint of hypoxia or shakiness. I have not been anywhere near a euphoric state during these holds but one thing I have noticed is that I feel very very good after the holds are finished. Best description I can give is that it is like an endorphin high. And it lasts for a long time, an hour or more. Not sure where it is coming from but I am not complaining. Usually I have to run 7-10 miles to get that feeling LOL. Anyway, stay tuned and I will keep you informed. Currently I am planning to get AIDA training in October here in Thailand. I hope to be in the first competition of next year in Vancouver.
2007-08-09Pete
 Great site! Thanks for posting key information from deeperblue and your own experiences. Very interesting.
2007-08-04Walter Johnson
 I will let you know if what I am doing helps me improve on my personal best. That means I will have to go to about 7:00 minutes. I think on a good day it is within reach. As far as I know there are only two Americans who have broken the 7:00 barrier in competition, so that will be a major milestone for me if I can do it, especially if I can do it on a consistent basis. Anyway, I plan to do some max attempts soon to test the usefulness of what I am doing. Today I went to 6:08 and 6:09 on two holds without contractions. I am only about 45 seconds from my personal best. If I can push contractions out past 6:30 without hypoxic symptoms, I think that will be optimum. I am trying to push contraction not because they are uncomfortable but because they are an energy waste. For me contractions are not uncomfortable, more akin to trying to lift a heavy weight.

Walt
2007-08-02Walter Johnson
 Lately been lazy and doing shorter holds but focusing on relaxation and delaying contractions as long as possible. Today did a 6:00 hold with no contractions. Not sure of the ultimate benefit of this yet, but I know that this made a 6:00 hold easy. Not sure yet but I am thinking that this will also push hypoxic symptoms out too. I hope past the 7:00 point. I know that if today was any measure, I can do it. Stay tuned.

Walt
 I am sure that a large majority would love to know how to extend the time period before diaphragm contractions -- six minutes is fantastic. Is there anything you have been consciously doing different to delay the onset?
2007-07-08Walter Johnson
 Watched the news with interest from the World Championships. Yesterday after reading the static results. I breathed up and did a 6:17 hold, first of the day and today again a 6:05 without packs. The 6:17 would have been just 4 seconds out of the finals in Slovenia I think. Since May 27 I have been able to hit 6:00 or better every training day except one day when I was sick and didn't push it. 24 times at 6:00 and above, 9 times at 6:30 and above, with a best of 6:52. If I can continue to improve, I hope to be ready to compete later this year or early next year. I have decided to go to get AIDA training in September in Koh Lanta, Thailand. I think I need that. I am sure there are many things especially in the relaxation area that I can improve on. Also, I need the experience of doing holds in the water to see how that affects me. With just a little improvement I think I can be competitive at least in US competitions. My current goal is to achieve the same consistency at 7:00 that I have now at 6:00. I will be in the US at least for the months of December and January, but if CAFA plans a competition in early 2008, I will try to hang around for it. I look forward to seeing Canada again. Take care.

Walt
2007-06-16Walter Johnson
 Today I watched a German TV show with Tom Sietas as a guest. During the show he did a breathe up (obviously abbreviated) and a demonstration hold. Because he did all of this in a glass tank, what he did was more easily seen than in previous videos I have seen of him. Some things of note:

  1. He did about a 12 minute breathe up prior to the hold with no warm up holds that I could see.
  2. Did at least one packing stretch that I could see, maybe more (the camera was not on him the whole breathe up).
  3. Periodically immersed his face in the water.
  4. I could not gage his breathing rate but it didn't appear rushed.
  5. Did about 60 packs, then started the hold (in a previous video of one of his world record performances I saw about 20-25 seconds of what I assume was packing, his face not visible).
  6. Hold was about 6:24.
Some questions I have:

  1. Is packing more comfortable in a wet static than a dry one?
  2. Do you have any feel for how much that amount of packing might help (I estimate he packed about 2 liters, not yet possible for me of course. I can do about 35 big packs which for me is about 1-1.25 liters I think, but too uncomfortable to even think of for a dry static)?
  3. How much does being in water help the dive reflex? So far I have not been able to take my statics into the pool and so far I don't use facial immersion in my breathe up.

Found a good website with downloadable videos of WR performances for those who want to see good technique.

Thanks,

Walt
 If I remember correctly, Mandy-Rae mentioned to me that it was better to rely on packing for the final breath before the static as it doesn't consume as much energy / increase heart rate as much as the huge inspiration would have caused otherwise. When wearing a wetsuit and partially submerged, the additional ambient pressure will make it harder to get as large a breath as you may get during dry statics. Again, the packing may help make up for this.

As for the facial immersion, in my training it was strongly recommended to include it in one's warmup as the chemoreceptors near your nose help trigger the dive reflex when exposed to cold water. If you are already able to get in this state fast, then it may not provide a whole lot of extra benefit. But most of us did make an effort to keep it as a part of our routine. Typically, all this would involve was 5 minutes face-down with our mask partially-flooded with water, breathing through a snorkel.
2007-06-11Rawender Guron
 Please someone give me some guidance. I want to hold breath underwater (in swimming pool) for upto 4 minutes. Right now, I can only hold my breath for 3 minutes on land. I have a few questions:

1. I can't stay underwater because water keeps me pushing up to surface. I understand that I need to wear some weight belt. How much weight I need to put to stay underwater in swimming pool and what kind of belt is recommended?
2. How do I train to increase my breath hold time? I am very thinly built and not athletic at all and am 45 years old.

Any guidnace will be higly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
 First off, you absolutely must have a trained safety spotter with you. Without one, this could be extremely dangerous.

That said, most people tend to be buoyant (float) after taking in a big breath. Trying to swim distance underwater is best done with some small weights (weight belt and possibly even little neck weights). Without a weight belt, your kicking style will probably be compensating for your positive buoyancy and you'll be much less efficient.

Most freedivers use a stretchy rubber weight belt (e.g. popular one made by Picasso), but this is more important for deeper diving than pool diving. If I remember correctly, I only required around 2-4lbs of weight to keep me neutral. A good test for this is to put on a small amount of weight, dive part-way down the edge of the pool wall, and then kick off straight, allowing yourself to float back up. If you start to float, add more weight; sink, use less.

As for increasing your breath hold time -- a big part of the training comes from the mental / willpower aspect. Using static apnea training tables can really help you get past this barrier in your first stages of training. After that, you can start experimenting (as Walt has been) to see what works for your body. Best of all, a training course will quickly get you up to speed, of course. Good luck!
2007-06-09Walter Johnson
 A note on positive reinforcement in regard to warmup holds. I think you are right based on my experience. I think also it depends on how an individual trains. Confidence is rooted in experience. If one person's experience tells him that he can do well with warmup holds, then when he goes to try a no warmup max, he will probably have no confidence. That will induce stress and his hold will probably end early relative to his pb. Had he done warmup holds, his max attempt would have had the confidence of experience. On the other hand, if another person trains with no warmup holds and then tries a no warmup max then she will have the confidence of experience. All that additional stress the other person had is gone, and she does her max just like she trains. One reason never to change how you do something in the middle of a competition based on some hot tip you just got from someone.

How each individual trains is a very personal thing. As you know, I am not particularly shy about posting what works for me, but some things work well for me that would not work for others, and vice versa. I have seen dogmatic statments in some places that this or that breathe up, or amount of packing or not packing, or relaxation method, or number of purge breaths or warmup holds is the best and will get you to your max potential. I bet if you got an honest answer from the top 10 apneists about how they train and do a max static, you would get 10 widely different answers. In fact though, there is not much written on how to go past 7, 8, and even 9 minutes, there being so few people with experience at those levels. I think the top 10 should get together and write a book. That is the only way I think to get a look at enough different methods to be of some use. Believe me, if I ever get to 7:00, 8:00, or 9:00, you will for sure know how I did it. That is one reason I post alot. If you could see my training log, it is replete with detailed descriptions of what I have tried that doesn't work, or doesn't work anymore. Some things worked well to get me to 4:00 but fail me miserably at 5:00. Hyperventillation is one of those things--I can hyperventiallate for 20 seconds then hold my breath for 4:00 with no other relaxation or preparation. There are examples of that in my early training, but that won't work going to 6:00. So adaptation of methods to the level I am at has been essential, which is why you see a gradual change in my training and breathe up.

But back to the subject of confidence, I think you can get the same or even greater level of confidence without doing warmup holds as with them if you have done your training well, because you can have more experience at max holds than someone who uses some number of warmups, so there are very few surprises on any given day. You know the breathe up that works, if you feel blah or bad in the middle of a breathe up, you have probably felt that way before at some point, so you know what works to fix it. If you feel a certain way at the beginning of a hold, you know what to expect, so you are not worrying in the hold. It is almost like driving a car and knowing the way. If you know how to go to the corner store from your home, there is little stress in the trip. On the other hand, if you are taking an unfamiliar route to go somewhere, stress goes up. Same in apnea, if you know the route and have been there many times, there is little stress in the journey. If you start having bad thoughts during the hold, it is easier to banish them, saying, been here, done this, no problem.

4 cents today.

Walt
 Excellent thoughts, Walt -- I completely agree. Finding your routine is key, and so much of this is psychological and what you convince yourself works or doesn't work. In my experience, I never gave no-warmups a serious try, because the warmup method seemed to be working for me. That said, a couple of the static apnea record holders did share with me their thoughts on the no-warmup approach having much more favorable physiological effects -- if you can get past the mental barriers.

Keep experimenting, as I think your diligence will put you in a perfect position to identify some very useful techniques and approaches which may stretch your limits well beyond what you may have expected. I think the key is being detailed with your training records and being willing to try different ideas.

This was exemplified well by some of the top constant ballast freedivers who began experimenting with exhale diving (empty-lung dives). While this would seem so counter-intuitive and against commonly instructed techniques, they were confident of the physiological benefits and were in fact able to acheive incredible depths in this manner.
2007-06-09Walter Johnson
 I just looked back in my training log at the time since I started focusing on not doing warmup holds (started April 18). Since I started I have taken only 5 days off from training (don't worry too much, two of those days were this week). I have gone from 4:00 hold without warmup holds to yesterday a 6:43 without warmups. The point I wish to make today is that if I had been doing tables during that period, I would have done approximately 348 total holds had I trained the same number of days (not likely because doing tables every day would burn me out pretty quickly), instead of the approximately 60 holds I did during that period. Of that total, 25 were 5:00 - 5:59, 12 were 6:00 - 6:29 (mostly in the last two weeks), and 2 were over 6:30 (in the last week).

One of the main reasons, I think, for my improvement lately is that in a very short time I have gotten alot of experience doing max holds. Doing tables it would have taken probably 6 months to do if possible at all.

Whether or not I end up doing warmup holds in my routine for competition is still up in the air, but strictly from a training perspective, ditching the warmup holds has been very effective and I think very efficient.

Thats my 2 cents for today.

Walt
 I am envious of your ability to do these holds without the warmups. Some of the benefit in the warmups may be in the psychological preparedness factor -- you can get a couple easier holds out of the way and thereby develop some positive reinforcement before a max. But starting with the max static is definitely preferable, if you can get your body to adapt to this style.
2007-06-07Walter Johnson
 Trying to figure out how to make the lanyard, waist and wrist straps for CW, CNF, and FIM. The AIDA rules are pretty vague. There is not any freediving presence in Phuket, lots of scuba diving shops though. Thought I might be able to make something out of what they have in those shops. Can use any advice you can give.

Thanks,

Walt
 One of the local competitors here, Luc Gosselin (7:22 static), started fabricating them for us. If you're making a lanyard yourself, you have to be careful as you cannot risk the chance of it getting caught up -- Luc refined his ones to make sure that they were safe. If you don't manage to get one before you arrive in Vancouver, you can have mine.
2007-06-04Walter Johnson
 Have not tried dynamic or constant weight yet, although even before training I could do 50-60 meters dynamic without fins. Not sure how training will translate into distance. I know I can hold my breath about 2.5-3 times as long as before I started training. As far as depth goes, I have been to about 10 meters before I started training but that was in no way a limit even then as where I was diving the depth was only about 10 meters. I think that I could probably do close to 100 meters now without fins and 20-30 meters constant weight to start. I have no idea how far I could go dynamic with fins. I have fins and I noticed that they take alot of power, but I think I could go at least 100 meters. Of course competition is much different from training. And I have no training partner, so I don't train in the pool, other than normal swimming. A 6:47 in the pool without a training partner would be foolish and dangerous. If I go Vancouver, it might be the first time I do a long hold in the pool. I will probably make my decision to go or not when they open the September competition for registration. Not sure when they will do that.

Walt
2007-06-03Walter Johnson
 WOW today a new personal best of 6:47.

Did my normal breathe up and first hold 4:30. Didn't feel right so stopped early. Did another 10 minutes of breathe up, no packs no purge breaths, then held for 6:47. Very strange though, didn't feel right anytime during the breathe ups only felt right during the second hold. I tried a new way to pass the time, singing in my head, but not complete verses, just little bits and pieces of songs, lost all track of time. Seemed to work ok. This last week 6:00 or better 8 days in a row. Seems like my training seems to be working. I joined CAFA two days ago. I hope I can compete in Vancouver later this year. Looks like it would be a blast.

Walt
 Walter, that's awesome! Keep it up. I imagine that it has been hard to find a training partner in your area, but have you tried applying your statics to the other disciplines such as dynamic apnea or constant weight? (the usual competition trio) If you make it to Vancouver, let me know and I'll be sure to come visit. Cal.
2007-05-27Walter Johnson
 This week been working to improve consistency above 5:00. Last 4 days 5:30, 5:36, 6:01, 6:03, all without warmup holds. I also deleted the packs from my breathe up, so now I am doing 10 minute breathe up, in 2 seconds out 8 seconds, last breath exhale fully, then inhale and hold. Since I deleted the packs, the holds have been much more comfortable with contractions starting about a minute later (4:30-5:00) than with packs (3:30-4:00). Hold doesn't become difficult until after 5:30. Think I will take a holiday tomorrow. Next step is to solidify my base at 6:00.
2007-05-03Walter Johnson
 About two weeks ago, started working on polishing my breathe up and first hold so I educated myself as much as possible, reading everything I could find on Tom Sietas training methods (max holds no warmups). There isn't much written on that subject, by the way. My original goal was to increase my first holds and leverage that using the Training Tables to improve my personal best. To that end I have been doing maximum effort holds (except on lazy days) without any warmup holds. The best I had done before this was 3:30 on a really good day. Since I started I have improved to 6:02 yesterday on my first hold of the day. At this point I have no question that I will pass my personal best very soon (6:30 at the end of a Table B). My original plan to use these big holds to leverage a training table has been put on hold until I reach a plateau of some sort. Already I can see advantages to this kind of training apart from the obvious not having to do warmup holds.

1. You don't carry excess baggage of waste products and bad ions from your warmup holds into your max efforts.

2. Much less work overall so less likelihood of burnout.

3. Your teach your body to adapt to do what you want to do in the first place, instantaneous dive reflex initiation at the beginning of a hold and long holds. I can say from personal experience that I had no more difficulty yesterday doing 6:02 than I did the first day I started this two weeks ago and did 4:00. The body adapts to the demands you place on it. If you teach it that it has plenty of time (2,3, or more warmup holds) to relax and start the dive reflex then it will take time. If you teach it that it needs to do it quicker, then it is able learn that as well.

4. You get more practice at your max holds so you gain confidence that "Yes I can achieve this anyday."

5. Less saturation of muscles and other tissues with CO2 from warmup holds, therefore, more oxygen in those tissues. The muscles and other tissues can store about half of what can be stored in the lungs so better it is oxygen from a relaxed breathe up than CO2 from warmup holds.

6. In a competition situation you might end up doing one or two holds a day of competition instead of 4-8. Much easier and it has got to be intimidating to the other competitors.

Just a note on breathe up. I played with different things but lately I have been doing stretches, then a 10 minute breathe up at 5-6 breaths per minute (breathe in 2 seconds (nose), out 8 seconds (mouth)-- deep breaths but relaxing not straining), no purge breaths, last exhale full exhale, inhale fully, about 10 packs (more or less depending on comfort level), then hold. This is the breathe up that got me to 6:02 yesterday. It gets the body effectively oxygenated without excessively depleting CO2 and messing up blood chemistry -- none of that light headedness at the beginning of a hold. It maintains relaxation (except for the pacs), and starts the hold at a lower heart rate than if you do purge breaths or hyperventillation. And this breathe up is very easy, relaxing, doable, and easily repeatable. Hard to botch this breathe up unless I forget how to breathe. Still I will continue to play with breathing rates (probably slower) to get the optimum.

As far as how it feels during a hold. At first it felt pretty bad most of the way through but every day it has gotten better as my body has adapted, especially once I hit 5:00 the first time.

Any way these are my lunatic ideas and theories. Even I would not have believed them two weeks ago.

Walt
 Great job, Walt... Interestingly, your technique is very similar to what Eric Fattah was doing for a number of his competition statics. He would often describe to me the benefits of eliminating the warmups, particularly the improvements to blood chemistry. It certainly doesn't make it any easier, but over time your body will probably get into the optimum state much faster, meaning that you don't need to coerce your body over a sequence of practice holds.
2007-04-20Walter Johnson
 Watched a couple of Tom Sietas videos of his world record breath holds, one last couple of minutes of the 9:00 minute one and all of the 8:57 one I think. Some things of note:

1. Didn't see Sietas hyperventilate prior to starting hold. Just a couple of deep breaths in the last minute prior to his hold.

2. Couldn't see because his head was down just prior to the holds but he probably starts packing about 10-15 seconds before start of hold (and packs alot), because he was leaking air alot during his holds.

3. About 25-30 secnds before the end of his holds he started exhaling in small bursts.

4. He puts on a great show at the end making it look so easy. Of course we all know that a 9 minute breath hold is not easy.
 Great observations, Walt. If only those holds were so easy :)
2007-04-20frikki
 Hi im only 15 but I love your site your training put 2 minutes to my static apnea time in only a week. my mom doesn't like my passion for apnea so I want to know if it could be harmful for someone of my age to do it
2007-04-14Walter Johnson
 Was going to do a Freeform Table today but after I started I noticed that when the tablle calculated the times it was adding one less than the actual number of minutes in the hold when calculating the end time of the hold.

On a more positive note just last Friday I went to 6:00 minutes on the final hold of Table B. I felt under complete control with no dizziness at all. I still have not arrived at that euphoric state I hear about at the end of a hold. In fact your descrpition of how you feel during a long hold is the only one I have seen online. Would love to know what the guys doing 9:00 minute statics are thinking and feeling the last two ore three minutes of those WR holds.

Sad news this week about Loic's death. Reminds us all of how close we are to death and that even when great care is taken, there are still big risks in the sport. My heart goes out to his friends and family.
 Sounds like you've got the holds handled really well, with lots of potential. Some of my best dry statics (6:00) were actually done during the last hold of the training table (which makes for a lot of warmup statics), so this doesn't surprise me.

As for the euphoric state, it is just another sign of hypoxia. Everyone reacts to hypoxia in different ways. In my case it made the hold easier at the end, but with the drawback that it was also easier to overdo it. Others may not feel this way at all. Several other freedivers who I trained with noticed a similar experience, so I don't think it is too uncommon.

It is tragic to hear about Loic Leferme's death (April 11, 2007, attempting 171m). Given how dependent No Limits freediving is on equipment working perfectly, the risk is certainly always there. I do hope that improvements in technology will help avoid these tragedies going forward.
2007-04-11Walter Johnson
 Two subjects today. First, for those new to the training, I highly recommend keeping your own detailed training log. There are a few reasons for this--one, you can easily see your progress, two, you can document what works well for you in the way of preparation, breathup, breathing technique, and three, you can use all that information to improve your consistency and confidence in your methods.

Second on the subject of motivation--today I woke up did a Table B set to go to 5 minutes on the last hold. I went all the way to a difficult 4 minutes before punting on the following hold. Very low motivation, not sure why. About an hour later I decided to try again, this time woking on my mental attitude and thought processes. Programmed the Table to 5:30 on the last hold. The last minute of that last hold was all about me Deciding that I was going to go all the way to 5:30 and I did it without any complications. First time since before Christmas that I went above 5 minutes. I was so happy that I made 5:30 that it didn't occur to me to try to go farther. Too bad.

Anyway, motivation and desire are keys and combine that with the knowledge that you gain from your own training, you can confidently take your body to extremes that most people find unbelievable.
2007-04-09Walter Johnson
 Been on long vacation, back in Thailand.

Just a note on the previous posts regarding hyperventillation. I have not tried this with a heart rate monitor but I would be willing to bet that hyperventilating will cause you to start your holds with a much higher initial heart rate and I know that can reduce your hold time.

As far as discomfort goes, the more you think about the hold itself while you are holding, the more stress you induce I think. One thing I have done is sing to myself while I am holding, especially after the end of the third minute. I have a song which takes me about a minute to sing in my head. Of course I have to imagine singing it well :) Anyway that is enough of a distraction to keep my mind off the hold for a minute or two.

Another theory I have is that there is a significant amount of dead air in your lung passages, trachea, nose, and mouth that never gets used during a hold unless you actively take steps to use it. For me when I start to feel the need for contractions (about 4-5 minutes) I begin to use that air by breathing to my mouth, inflating and deflating it. I have found that it satisfies my need to breath, elminate the feeling of needing to breath for a few seconds, does not waste too much energy, and is not uncomfortable. This technique is what I used to go to 6:30. At about the 5:30 point I started. It gave me about 30 more relatively easy seconds and 30 very hard ones, all without lightheadedness.

For me I can do this all without hyperventillating. Personally I would highly recommend against hyperventillation. There are enough dangers in freediving without pushing our luck, especially for the untrained among us. And NEVER in a pool without appropriate safty personnel.
 Excellent suggestions, Walter! Thanks for sharing.

On the note of singing a tune in your mind to keep yourself distracted, I also used to do this, but I was advised by my trainers that it may not be a good idea. The reason being that you then have a reference point to compare how you are doing against time (e.g. at this point in the song I usually feel good, but not this time). Any potential for negative feedback should be avoided. Generally, you want to avoid anything that will give you an objective reference point in time, as that makes this feedback easier to create. This is the same reason that it is probably best to completely avoid the temptation to look at your watch!

With that in mind, a strategy that I found extremely useful was to walk my mind through all of the things that I did in the previous day. This way you always have a different reference point, and there is usually no shortage of details that you can wander through!

Some of the top competitive freedivers are able to simply clear their mind completely, but I was never able to do this. One reason why this strategy may work better is that apparently your oxygen consumption increases when you are actively using your mind to walk through these thoughts. I had a hard time believing that how this affects oxygen consumption, but if it does indeed cause your heart rate to increase slightly, then there may be some grounds to it.
2007-03-27Sam
 Hey, im doing a science fair project to see if hyperventilating really helps you stay under longer. Is shallow water blackout really that dangerous? Can you give me any tips that could help me do this experiment safer. Anything will be a great help. Thx
 Hyperventilating or purging can make it easier to hold your breath longer, but this also increases your risk of blacking out (as you no longer get the same signals to breathe). Shallow water blackouts are definitely dangerous (you can die if you don't have a training partner with you), but they generally are only associated with coming up from depth (where the partial pressure of oxygen was greater in your body).

If you are wanting to do some experiments, these must all be done on land -- which will make them quite safe (a blackout won't cause you to drown). Best to do the tests when you are lying down (e.g. on a comfortable flat surface) and relaxed.

 


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