Are you one of those divers who comes back on board before the rest? Would you love to stay longer underwater? Do you believe you have reached your optimal level of air consumption?
Due to many factors divers experience a dramatic drop in air consumption over time and experience. Even though having a "normal" air consumption, very likely we can improve it a lot by making small changes in our diving technique.
Here are 9 tips that will dramatically improve your air consumption:
1. Visualise: Before jumping into the water, close your eyes for a minute, visualise yourself on the surface deflating the vest. Feel the sensation of your head submerging into the water. Imagine the reef, the fish, your safety stop and return to the surface. The fact of having visualised the dive will relax your brain while actually diving for real.
2. Calm down your breathing pattern: If you feel that you are breathing rapidly already at the surface before the dive, ask your partner or guide to give you a minute to relax. It is vital to begin the dive with a relaxed breath. When you start a dive breathing heavily it is very difficult to slow it down underwater.
Achieving optimal air consumption is a process that requires practice and patience. Don't be disappointed. It is part of the process, failing is how we learn.
3. Gain experience: As in the case of visualisation, the more you dive the less your brain will be stressed underwater. The consequent benefit for a relaxed mind is a well controlled respiratory rhythm.
4. Check your equipment: Small leaks or equipment in poor condition can dramatically affect your air consumption. Get it serviced regularly.
5. Stay warm: To feel cold underwater guarantees a high consumption of air. On top of that, it increases the risk of DCS.
6. Slow movements: Everything under water should be slow. Any movement underwater costs a energy. Swim slowly, do not use your arms except to communicate. Remember, if you doubt, slow down!
7. Control your breathing consciously: Count the time it takes you to inhale and exhale. Exhalation should take you longer in time than inhalation. Breath in as slowly as if you were breathing from a straw. Take a little break (do not hold your breath, it's a minimal pause, almost unnoticed), breathe out slowly enjoying each one of the tiny bubbles you create.
8. Buoyancy: It is crucial in reducing your air consumption:
- Adjust your weight: Read here about The bad habit of over-weighting' and How to do a buoyancy check'.
- Work on your trim: Try to position yourself while swimming as hydrodynamic and streamlined as possible. That way it will cost you less effort to move. Every effort underwater will cause a higher air consumption.
- Distribute your gear efficiently: Apply the same principle to your gear. When your gear is resisting the water, it will cost you more effort to move.
9. Dive only within your comfort zone: Whenever you cross your limits, you might get stressed and this will rise probably your air consumption. And always remember: to assure your own safety, never cross your personal training limits!
Achieving optimal air consumption is a process that requires practice and patience. Do not feel disappointed when you fail and waste a huge amount of air. It is normal, it is part of the process, failing is how we learn. Keep diving and you will see that with time and experience all these techniques become habits. The good news are, practising in this case means diving. Could you imagine any better way to learn?