Pre-Master breathhold training : road to 3m30s.

Introduction

I often ask my students if they enjoy static apnea. Most of the time, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ This is mainly because they rarely practice it and only push to pass their requirements when taking a new course. However, You must train in Static Apnea. It’s the foundation of freediving, and it offers invaluable benefits:

  • Learn to remain calm as CO2 levels in your blood increase.
  • Understand how to let go of any physical tension.
  • Practice mental techniques
  • Craft your personalized breathing and breath-hold techniques. As a Master student, it’s crucial to discover what suits you best.

Shift your perspective and transform your approach.

It’s time to like the art of breath-holding. This doesn’t mean enduring pain — quite the opposite. I firmly believe in the “NO PAIN, ALL GAIN” approach to breath-hold training. Understand that building CO2 tolerance requires patience and commitment. Done right, it can transform your freediving experience. 

Your CO2 tolerance affects every aspect of your dive, especially relaxation, and will impact your ability to equalize. To dive deep, you must begin training it. The easiest starting point is static apnea. And to stay consistent, you need to enjoy it. Shift your perspective: STA is incredible.

The Phases of Static Apnea

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When you’re holding your breath, motionless at the surface of the pool, you’ll experience different phases. The more you practice, the more phases you’ll recognize. Let’s begin with the basics:

Phase 1: Enjoyment 

Filled with oxygen and free of CO2, you feel fantastic, almost as if you could hold your breath indefinitely. First and foremost, scan your body, relaxing entirely, as if you’re melting into the pool. During this phase, I like to craft a story in my mind, incorporating ambient sounds. The more detailed, the better.

Phase 2: Back to Reality 

As new sensations emerge, you’re reminded that you’re holding your breath in the pool. But without contractions yet, everything remains easily manageable. Scan your body to alleviate physical tension, then return to your story.

Phase 3: Light Contractions 

The CO2 levels have reached your tolerance threshold, and you begin to feel mild contractions. Scan your body, especially focusing on relaxing the neck. Remember, you still have plenty of oxygen. Continue scanning and relaxing. I usually try to incorporate these light contractions into my story.

Phase 4: Strong Contractions 

As CO2 continues to rise, so does the intensity of the contractions. Achieving mental relaxation becomes quite challenging now, very hard to. A helpful trick can be to open your eyes and distract yourself by counting the pool’s tiles. I often visualize my brain sinking to the ground. This, combined with a body scan, helps a lot with my ability to relax and keep holding my breath a little longer. At this stage, it truly becomes a test of willpower.”

The Contractions

In your brain, there are chemoreceptors responsible for monitoring Carbon Dioxide levels.  When you are holding your breath, The level Of CO2 rises in your Blood, and When it reaches a certain point, this chemoreceptor signals your breathing muscles to contract. 

Your initial task is to condition your chemoreceptors to tolerate higher CO2 levels before initiating these contractions. Next, through mental technique training, you’ll need to practice how you respond when these contractions occur.

What to do when the contractions start?

Do a Body scan and release all the physical tension you can find.

When the urge to breathe intensifies, and the initial contractions begin, train yourself to resist them for a moment. Don’t simply allow them to take over. However, don’t resist them too long; that’s not the goal. We often link contractions to the notion that our breath-hold is nearing its end. If you keep thinking this way, you will start to, consciously or unconsciously, trigger them. 

When contractions occur, scan your body, releasing any physical tension. Understand that these contractions are simply indicators of elevated CO2 levels, not the conclusion of your breath-hold. This is the crucial point where you begin training your nervous system.

Always remember contractions are an inherent part of freediving. It’s up to YOU to decide how to navigate them. See them as allies, there to remind you to breathe and ensure your safety. Your task is to reassure your nervous system that you’re secure, whether holding your breath for 2 minutes 30 seconds, 3 minutes, or even 3 minutes 30 seconds.”

The Training

You must train thrice a week ( Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). All of the pieces of training can be done dry, but I strongly recommend doing at least one in the water (if you have a trained buddy, of course, remember we never freedive alone).

How to breathe before a static breath-hold?

Breathe slowly through the nose without thinking about it for 2 minutes.

What are the deeper breaths before the big breath?

Inhale using your mouth for 4 seconds, and exhale using your mouth for 4 seconds. This is 1 deeper breath. Repeat as many times it is indicated in training. 

When to train?

The best time is in the morning on an empty stomach. But if you can only train during the day or in the evening, go for it. Training is better than not training.

When to move to the next training?

When you can complete a full table without failure.

If you can’t complete the exercise or if it feels too tough, repeat the same table two days later. Keep at it until you can successfully complete it. The goal is to enhance your CO2 tolerance, not to achieve the 3min30s mark at the expense of your nervous system. Patience and consistency are the keys to success.

Instructor and student practicing a breath-hold during VD Freediving Master course

Training 1 (Monday)

BreathingBefore the big breathBreath-holdRecovery
Round 12 minutes5 deeper breaths2min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 22 minutes5 deeper breaths2min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 32 minutes5 deeper breaths2min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 42 minutes5 deeper breaths2min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 52 minutes5 deeper breaths2min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 62 minutes5 deeper breaths2min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 72 minutes5 deeper breaths2min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 82 minutes5 deeper breaths2min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths

Training 2 (Wednesday)

BreathingBefore the big breathBreath-holdRecovery
Round 12 minutes5 deeper breaths2min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 22 minutes5 deeper breaths2min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 32 minutes5 deeper breaths2min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 42 minutes5 deeper breaths2min40s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 52 minutes5 deeper breaths2min40s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 62 minutes5 deeper breaths2min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 72 minutes5 deeper breaths2min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 82 minutes5 deeper breaths2min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths

Training 3 (Friday)

BreathingBefore the big breathBreath-holdRecovery
Round 12 minutes4 deeper breaths2min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 22 minutes4 deeper breaths2min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 32 minutes4 deeper breaths2min40s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 42 minutes4 deeper breaths2min50s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 52 minutes4 deeper breaths2min50s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 62 minutes4 deeper breaths2min40s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 72 minutes4 deeper breaths2min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 82 minutes4 deeper breaths2min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths

Training 4 (Monday)

BreathingBefore the big breathBreath-holdRecovery
Round 12 minutes4 deeper breaths2min40s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 22 minutes4 deeper breaths2min50s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 32 minutes4 deeper breaths3min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 42 minutes4 deeper breaths3min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 52 minutes4 deeper breaths3min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 62 minutes4 deeper breaths3min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 72 minutes4 deeper breaths2min50s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 82 minutes4 deeper breaths2min40s3 to 5 recovery breaths

Training 5 (Wednesday)

BreathingBefore the big breathBreath-holdRecovery
Round 12 minutes3 deeper breaths2min50s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 22 minutes3 deeper breaths3min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 32 minutes3 deeper breaths3min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 42 minutes3 deeper breaths3min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 52 minutes3 deeper breaths3min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 62 minutes3 deeper breaths3min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 72 minutes3 deeper breaths3min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 82 minutes3 deeper breaths2min50s3 to 5 recovery breaths

Training 6 (Friday)

BreathingBefore the big breathBreath-holdRecovery
Round 12 minutes3 deeper breaths3min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 22 minutes3 deeper breaths3min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 32 minutes3 deeper breaths3min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 42 minutes3 deeper breaths3min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 52 minutes3 deeper breaths3min30s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 62 minutes3 deeper breaths3min20s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 72 minutes3 deeper breaths3min10s3 to 5 recovery breaths
Round 82 minutes3 deeper breaths3min00s3 to 5 recovery breaths

Conclusion

The secret is consistency. Give time to your body and mind to adapt to a long breath-hold. You will succeed. There is absolutely no doubt about that. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you.

All the best for your training

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Anthony is an AIDA and Molchanovs instructor trainer, he is also a Molchanovs Wave 4 competition Instructor and the co-founder of VD Freediving Taiwan

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If you’re curious about the allure of freediving and why I passionately advocate for more people to immerse themselves in this transformative experience, I invite you to delve into my personal insights in this article. Discover the profound reasons “Why I Freedive” and why I believe you should too. Jetez un œil (take a peek) at this enriching piece here: Why I Freedive.