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View Poll Results: How long can you hold your breath?
< 2 minutes 59 23.51%
2-3 minutes 74 29.48%
3-5 minutes 84 33.47%
5-7 minutes 31 12.35%
> 7 minutes 3 1.20%
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Old 06-22-2016, 07:26 PM   #46
Mullins
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

Got a link to any tests/studies on that, Lance? My understanding is that quite a few top freedivers are anaemic, particularly while training for depth. That's just anecdotal though. I haven't had a blood test so I don't know about myself. It's a bit counterintuitive but physiological responses to apnea are very different from those to 'breathing exercise' i.e. pretty much everything else. In simple terms, I think that the way your body distributes oxygen while in apnea is far, far more important than how much it stores. I can give quite a few examples on that...
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Old 06-22-2016, 07:44 PM   #47
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

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My max apnea performances drop slightly when I do cardio. The effect goes away after 2-4 weeks of freedive-specific training though and I'm back to near-normal. I ended up doing cardio simply because I was tired of being weak and unfit after years of freedive training. They are very different types of fitness and I can accommodate the two, but I need to be careful how I sequence them. It's pure speculation for you to say that I and other freedivers would improve with cardio. Some may, but plenty of people definitely don't.
Dave, I am curious, when you say 'do cardio' what exactly do you mean? Like do you mean you go and jog for 45 minutes, or do you mean some sort of cross-fit thing, or boxing circuit (ie 2 mins calisthenics work, 30 secs rest, repeated for an hour), etc? Also, are you figuring in specificity of training, ie if you are running 5 hours per week is that 5 hours of freediving that you aren't doing anymore?

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I have a high platelet count from sleep apnea. So high that my doctor told me to donate blood. It has not helped my breath hold times at all. I know my time will improve though now that I have started back to a regular exercise regimen. I have my past performance as a yardstick. I am older, less fit and 20 lbs heavier right now. Let you know if the cardio helps improve my times or not.
You might want to pay more attention to your doctor than to me but if you are donating whole blood it will definitely not help your freediving. High hematocrit will also cause an increase in blood pressure. Mine correlates directly to my training level as measured by static holds and pulse oxymeter... Whenever I am in top dive shape my blood pressure is high.
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Old 06-22-2016, 07:58 PM   #48
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

Interestingly my BP is also super high, to the point that it can be difficult getting med. certificates to compete. Checked by a cardiologist who reckons it's not pathological, just unusual. Spikes in the day and goes low at night. I have difficulty replicating my daytime apnea performances in the evenings and I know Will T. has found the same.

Cardio for me generally means 3-5km finswimming (bifins), so ~40-75 minutes; or 5km rowing erg. which is higher intensity and takes 18-19 minutes. So fairly specific when you consider my main disciplines are monofin CWT and DNF. It does take some time out of my freedive training, but my performances drop more than they would if I'd simply dropped the freedive training and not replaced it with anything. Comfort levels stay roughly the same but I get noticeably more hypoxic in the last quarter or so.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:04 PM   #49
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

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Got a link to any tests/studies on that, Lance? My understanding is that quite a few top freedivers are anaemic, particularly while training for depth. That's just anecdotal though. I haven't had a blood test so I don't know about myself. It's a bit counterintuitive but physiological responses to apnea are very different from those to 'breathing exercise' i.e. pretty much everything else. In simple terms, I think that the way your body distributes oxygen while in apnea is far, far more important than how much it stores. I can give quite a few examples on that...
Sort of ancedotal but Goran has said that his is around 50 and I was under the impression that was just regular for him. The one time a few years ago I was tested mine came in at 49.5 and I wasn't doing any real training, just spearing 1-3 times a week, nothing too crazy, just long shore dive sessions down to maybe 60'. My blood pressure then was about 20% lower than it was last summer when I was training for real and on a serious quest to raise my hematocrit (although I did not test it last summer). When I am serious I do a 4 min static with a pulse oxymeter and check what is my remaining blood O2 at the end. For me there is always a correlation between high remaining hematocrit, comfortable aspetto bottom times, and blood pressure.

As far as anemia I think a lot of guys don't really eat right when they are training hard; I typically supplement with iron based on my training load and I know Goran does, too. Again, ancedotally last summer competing in Hawaii some very very strong divers were having BO's; they had recently become vegetarians. Eric Fattah had a lot to say about that when he was training. EPO/hematocrit response to hypoxia is also influenced by genetic factors; you can google for these but for instance the Tibetans have a common mutation that actually keeps their hematocrit LOW which benefits them aerobically at altitude, while the tribes in the Andes have an opposite one that appears to allow them to function fine with extremely high hematocrits. Studies on athletes (usually elite cyclists) also show a lot of variance in hypoxic response and the length of time altitude induced adapations lingered once they went back to sea level, some started losing red blood cells almost immediately while in others it persisted for many days.

edit: also when my hematocrit was tested at 49.5, my blood pressure was at low end of what in America is considered 'high', I forget what the number is. I have been freediving regularly (at least weekly) for some years now but prior to that my BP was typically normal to higher end of normal. I don't get too much grief from the doctors about it because I have not belly fat and low resting HR, and I explain that I have a high hematocrit from diving.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:25 PM   #50
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

I cycle for my cardio as my body took a beating in the military. When running full out speed you definitely burn down your oxygen levels. I am not an aspiring world class free diver. I just do it because I like it, and it is a fun break from the logistics of scuba. I was a free dive fanatic years ago, and pushed myself hard. I hit the surface almost blacked out too many times to count. I'm more conservative now, and still enjoy the chase.
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Old 06-22-2016, 09:00 PM   #51
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

I do very little steady state dry cardio like you guys are describing, besides warm-up and warm down, everything for me is interval based, usually around 3min on, 30 secs off, fairly high intensity during the work time--lot of plyometric stuff, as well as some traditional weights. I am used to that type of training from Thai boxing and in the pool these days I do apnea only sets but I still structure workouts on time interval like a sprint/middle distance swimmer (which I did for a long time growing up).

I feel like my spearing performance improves when I do that type of stuff, but I am also training for repetitive, deep spearing dives and overall ocean strength. Last summer when I trained seriously for real freediving I took most of the dry non-apnea training out and did something close to how I used to taper for end of season back when I was a swimmer, but with apnea. That did much more for my dive performance than any amount of non-apnea exercise, although I cannot discount specificity of training. Generally I like some plyometric cardio and weights since it keeps me strong enough to deal with rough conditions and boats and anchors and crap, pure swim and apnea doesn't work for everything else I need to do.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:40 AM   #52
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

I've though long about posting in this thread, because there are a lot of strong and differing opinions. However, for the sake of safety, I'm going to offer up my case study of 1: Myself. I've learned a lot about oxygen delivery, first as an athtlete, and later as a physician. I think my case study is nice, because it represents extreme body types and training very clearly. I ran track and CC for a Division 1 university, and in this capacity, oxygen delivery and efficiency were everything. Our high mileage training weeks soared well over 100 miles/week and rarely dropped below 70 miles/week in-season. I was running sub-4:05 minute miles on a weekly basis in season, and ran a personal best 64 minute half marathon. While these times aren't world class, they are solidly good. I was too big to be a great runner but noticed in college a knack for holding my breath for a long time. Without "training", I noticed I could hold my breath for close to 8 minutes (and in hindsight to the pain it causes me now, I wasn't trying very hard). I was just a casual surfer and spearo at the time, so it didn't really mean anything more to me than a neat party trick. Running was everything.
Fast forward in time to medical school and I decided I was tired of being small, so I was going to put on some mass. I went from 6'3" 140 to a lean 215 over the next couple of years with weights and "high intensity training". I started getting more into diving and found that my ability to hold my breath had been devastated. 4 minutes felt like it was going to kill me! ...terrible timing!
In hindsight, the reason for this is obvious: Freediving is the purest specimen of an aerobic sport that I can think of. Even more than running, freediving is about efficient blood shunting and delivery. Oxygen conservation is everything. There is no place, that I can think of, for anaerobic muscle activity in freediving, which is why high intensity training was of no benefit. It's also my own personal theory that static tables and such may go some way in helping you discover your own potential - or make apnea "easier" by slowly blunting your urge to breathe, but this can do little-to-nothing in actually improving oxygen delivery or conservation. My case study of 1 shows this is why I had a great static with a massive aerobic engine without ever "training", but a terrible static after I got more into diving and actually started to do more serious breath holds.
Moreover, as I moved out of this muscle mass phase and back into a recreational jogger regimen over the years, I noticed my static start to improve again. As I shed mass and rebuilt my aerobic engine (albeit older and only a shell of its former self), I saw my statics tick up with minimal "training". My last strong static effort was about a year ago, and I was able to barely cross over 7 minutes. It sucked. I had a headache the whole day. The only training I did/do is just a moderately paced 40-50 miles per week. Few weights. Too old for high intensity. The aerobic engine is all that matters.

Now the real point in all this: I have never been able to hold my breath to blackout; call me weak, whatever you want to say, I just can't seem to do it. I'm "jealous" of my friends who seem to be able to hold their breath to blackout with relative ease. BUT, I have blacked out - or at least grayed out. The result for me could have been - should have been - death. Just because you can hold your breath for 4 or 7 or 14 minutes does not in any way make you immune from death by SWB. If anything, it may make you more vulnerable. Every day, every dive, every breath is different. For reasons I can't understand, even as a young physician, people blackout below what should be a safe, personal threshold. Great divers die every year. It is hard, maybe impossible, to explain why in many of these cases.
Moreover, static times DO NOT translate into depth. Sure, it helps. But, the physiological changes your body goes through at depth far surpass the simple ability to lay in bed and hold your breath. I, for one, am a bad diver by SB standards. I can't (or maybe just won't) dive "deep" at this point. Again, call me scared or weak or whatever, but I have a blast hunting and diving at reasonable depths with my family and I enjoy much more everyone making it home safe.

No matter how long you can hold your breath, never go without a buddy who you trust to bring you back. This is what our sport really boils down to.
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:52 AM   #53
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

Lots of great info in this thread. Thanks Dr. P, Lance, and everyone else. Let's keep it going!
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Old 12-02-2016, 03:39 AM   #54
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

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Freediving is the purest specimen of an aerobic sport that I can think of. Even more than running, freediving is about efficient blood shunting and delivery. Oxygen conservation is everything. There is no place, that I can think of, for anaerobic muscle activity in freediving
It's pretty much the exact opposite of this (except for the oxygen conservation part). I could explain I guess but this really isn't a contentious thing in freediving. Essentially it's deeply anaerobic - the more anaerobic the better if you're looking for good performance. You certainly don't want good oxygen delivery to locomotive muscles. You don't need to have even mediocre aerobic fitness to be a top freediver - it's ok for base training to maintain strength or whatever but it's really not a factor when it comes down to actual performance. The anaerobic element is less of a factor in static, but you still want the strongest bloodshift you can get, to reduce oxygen supply to your muscles. You can still be world-class / world record level in that discipline without any kind of aerobic fitness.

Of course if you want to do multiple repeat dives in comfort, like for spearfishing, then those can be aerobic, but the performance ceiling of that approach is far, far lower so you're almost talking about a different sport. Deep spearfishing is part way between the two.

One thing you might be able to help with - I've never been able to find reference to aerobic training resulting in increased metabolic efficiency. By efficiency I mean work output per unit of O2 consumed. The word is used a lot, but without that meaning. I'd expect aerobic training to have some effect in this regard, even if it doesn't predominate in freediving (other, much bigger factors) but haven't seen anything.

Last edited by Mullins; 12-02-2016 at 04:04 AM.
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Old 12-02-2016, 06:00 AM   #55
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

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It's pretty much the exact opposite of this (except for the oxygen conservation part). I could explain I guess but this really isn't a contentious thing in freediving. Essentially it's deeply anaerobic - the more anaerobic the better if you're looking for good performance. You certainly don't want good oxygen delivery to locomotive muscles. You don't need to have even mediocre aerobic fitness to be a top freediver - it's ok for base training to maintain strength or whatever but it's really not a factor when it comes down to actual performance. The anaerobic element is less of a factor in static, but you still want the strongest bloodshift you can get, to reduce oxygen supply to your muscles. You can still be world-class / world record level in that discipline without any kind of aerobic fitness.

Of course if you want to do multiple repeat dives in comfort, like for spearfishing, then those can be aerobic, but the performance ceiling of that approach is far, far lower so you're almost talking about a different sport. Deep spearfishing is part way between the two.

One thing you might be able to help with - I've never been able to find reference to aerobic training resulting in increased metabolic efficiency. By efficiency I mean work output per unit of O2 consumed. The word is used a lot, but without that meaning. I'd expect aerobic training to have some effect in this regard, even if it doesn't predominate in freediving (other, much bigger factors) but haven't seen anything.
I know it seems ironic, since you are holding your breath and all, but what you are describing in a purely aerobic process. Bloood has to be shunted to vital organs and away from those not being used or not crucial for life. I guess the easiest way to understand why it is aerobic (i.e. Requiring oxygen) is SWB - when you run out of oxygen, you die. When people talk about "anaerobic" it is a reference to what is happening at the cellular level in the muscles. ...think 100m sprinter. There are no more opposite ends of the spectrum than freediving and 100m sprinter.

There is myriad evidence regarding VO2 max and aerobic fitness.

You can certainly be world class and be in poor aerobic shape. Some people have a gift. But if you build a strong aerobic engine, you will be even better.
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Old 12-02-2016, 06:16 AM   #56
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

A deep freediver is very much like a 100m sprinter. It's a slow motion sprint. Muscles are working anaerobically. Lactate production, severe acidosis, to the point of failure. Actually more like a 200-400m runner I guess because 100m is a higher proportion anaerobic alactic.

What does vo2 max have to do with anything? We never operate anywhere near it. I was asking a pretty specific question. VO2 max is a measurement of consumption, not efficiency.
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Old 12-02-2016, 06:27 AM   #57
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

I know the brain cannot respire anaerobically. That's kind of the point. Your muscles can, and since you have a limited O2 reservoir you want to deprive your muscles of O2 as much as possible, keeping the oxygenated blood in that heart/lungs/brain circuit. This is why we avoid warm-ups for deep dives for example. Feels horrible because of all the lactic but you stay conscious longer.

Being aerobically fit means being highly vascularised, having big cardiac output etc. Those aren't helpful things if you're trying to reduce oxygenation of your muscles under workload.
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Old 12-02-2016, 06:46 AM   #58
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

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A deep freediver is very much like a 100m sprinter. Muscles are working anaerobically. Lactate production, severe acidosis, to the point of failure.

What does vo2 max have to do with anything? We never operate anywhere near it. I was asking a pretty specific question.
This is not true. At the cellular level, the muscles of a 100m sprinter do not have time to process oxygen, even though it may be available. A 50m swimmer does not breathe, because that oxygen would do his muscles no good. On a 2 or 3 minute dive, your muscles have time to consume all the oxygen they want. The trick is limiting that oxygen consumption. The only way to possibly engage in anaerobic muscle activity that I can think of (at the cellular level!) would be to get some super stiff fins and sprint to the bottom of your dives as hard as you could go. I doubt that any instructors would advise this, however. Even when you feel "anaerobic" or more accurately feel like you're running out of oxygen, there is still plenty of oxygen available in your blood to fuel aerobic metabolism at the cellular level in your muscles. A simple pulse oximeter can visually prove this. The limiting factor is not the partial pressure of oxygen that is required to fuel your muscles, but the partial pressure of oxygen required to fuel your brain. Certainly you will produce lactate, even marathon runners do, or they could run forever. ...these are just the facts, I don't really have time to explain the differences in oxygen metabolism, but the knowledge is readily available.

Interestingly from a medical perspective, I can recall a couple of cases of high level endurance athletes involved in accidents that became hypoxic far beyond the accepted limit of survival without brain damage. In these cases, the athletes made a full recovery. Their survival was attributed to their extreme aerobic fitness and their body's ability to conserve oxygen and blood flow to the brain and heart far beyond the "normal".

I did not post to try and prove a right or wrong. What works for each individual person is great. My only real point was that no matter how fit anyone thinks they are, things can, and do, still go wrong. Dive safe.

Last edited by Dr.P; 12-02-2016 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 12-02-2016, 06:57 AM   #59
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

That's complete rubbish I'm afraid. Suggest you read up on freediving physiology?
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Old 12-02-2016, 08:21 AM   #60
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Re: How long can you hold your breath?

Dr. P, I think you are ignoring the effect of vasoconstriction, which we know is particularly strong for deep dives, and for DYN swimmers, although genetic factors seem to come into play outside of extreme pressure. Muscles definitely do not get to consume all the O2 they want during depth and DYN.

I cannot test muscle O2 consumption at depth, but for instance I can pedal a bike dry for a few minutes while holding my breath and barely feel it in my legs until vasoconstriction kicks in (can be seen and objectively measured in the pulse graphic/EKG thingy of my oximeter). But to touch and go to 45M in CA while spearing will result in a pretty good lactic burn in my legs, although provided I haven't been doing stupid stuff prior to that dive I am going to be clear headed at the surface and presumably not hypoxic. One of these days I will bring a pulse oxymeter out and test my blood O2 post dive.

Where it gets interesting is if, like say I take a full lung of EAN36 at the surface prior to that same 45M dive.... Dive actually feels pretty much the same. I am definitely not hypoxic in my core at any part of the dive. BUT, same lactic burn on the way up, and actually much the same feeling during the first few breaths which leads me to believe that blood pressure returning to normal is a bigger part of the post dive feeling than I had realized.

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