How you can Improve your Air Consumption. Scuba Diving Silent World Divers Puerto Vallarta
Start by being physically fit, be correctly weighted, have good buoyancy control and trim, breath move slowly, remain calm. Practicing a correct breathing technique.
Always breathe slowly and deeply and continuously when scuba diving.
The quest for better air consumption is something that often lingers long after a diver has taken control of their buoyancy and become comfortable in the water.
When we inhale, we take oxygen into our lungs which our body uses to turn the nutrients we eat into energy. The waste product of this process is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is returned to the lungs by the circulatory system, and which we dispose of by exhaling.
The breathing cycle is triggered by a build-up of CO2 and not a lack of oxygen. It is important, therefore, that we efficiently eliminate as much of the waste gas as possible. Failure to do so means that the CO2 remains within the ‘dead air’ spaces of our respiratory system.
Since the first thing that enters our lungs when we inhale is the dead air, it’s important that it contains as little CO2 as possible. If we do not exhale efficiently, then the next breath we take will have an artificially elevated CO2 content, which will trigger the subsequent breathing cycle earlier than it should be, and we feel the urge to breathe again. If this cycle is repeated continuously, we start to breathe more rapidly. It seems a bit odd, but as a result, breathing quickly makes you breathe even more quickly. Underwater, this can lead to a feeling of suffocation, which can rapidly turn into panic.
Practicing snorkeling can help improve both your airway control and finning technique.
There is no single breathing pattern that would suit all divers – we come in many different shapes and sizes. A five-second inhalation followed by a five-second exhalation – both at a continuous rate can work exceptionally well. It is a technique to improve air consumption and also other divers. Breathing slowly, deeply and smoothly is the key to improved air consumption.
When it comes to how ‘deeply’ you should breathe, the phrase leaves rather a lot of room for interpretation. You should not completely fill or empty your lungs as this can have a detrimental impact on your buoyancy control. Imagine breathing between one-third and two-thirds of your lung volume with each cycle.
It takes practice, and more diving, to properly get the hang of the technique, but there are other factors you can take into consideration when it comes to improving your air consumption. Remember that you breathe more gas the deeper you dive – at 10m you are already breathing twice the air you would at the surface, and four times as much by the time you get to 30m. Where possible, and if it is safe to do so, shallow up with your buddy early in the dive and enjoy the extra time you get below the surface.
Poor buoyancy control and overweighting will prevent the improvement of your air consumption.
When you’re out of the water, the visualization approach can be of immense benefit. Finding some time to yourself and practicing your breathing will help to instill the technique in your mind. Breathing techniques taught through yoga are equally beneficial.
Fitness, correct weighting, buoyancy control, appropriate gear and remaining calm are still important, and although none of them is the definitive answer to improving your air consumption, each plays an essential part.
An unfit person will struggle, so being in reasonably good shape is important for maintaining control of your air supply. You should be able to walk a couple of miles and mount a few flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.
Good air consumption improve with a good buoyancy control, and good buoyancy control starts with correct weighting. An overweighed diver needs to continuously add and remove air to their BCD, will often take rapid gulps of air and keep finning to keep themselves off the bottom. An underweighted diver (or one who has not properly deflated their BCD) will constantly fin downwards to stay underwater. Make a proper weight check and remain as horizontal in the water as possible, streamlining reduces the drag on your body and equipment meaning you expend less energy swimming.
Some fins are better than others at dealing with current and particular finning styles. There’s no one-style-fits-all solution but novices can’t go wrong with a bog-standard paddle fin. More often than not, however, excess energy expenditure when swimming is down to poor technique. A lot of snorkeling can help.
Regulators need to be properly maintained and serviced – if they become too difficult to breathe from then it will affect your air consumption and may prove dangerous. Venturi assist controls (sometimes marked ‘dive/predive’ or ‘+/-‘ are there to stop regulators free-flowing at the surface and will not affect the amount of air you actually breathe.
Remain calm. If you start to breathe too rapidly it can lead to panic – stop, slow down and control your breathing
Whether you lose your nerve because of poor conditions or get excited by a passing whale shark, it is important to remain calm to preserve your breath control and air consumption. Rapid breathing can quickly lead to panic so if you find yourself nervous and breathing heavily, communicate with your buddy or guide, monitor your air supply, signal that you have a problem and need to slow down while you regain control of your breathing. Head for shallow water if possible, abort the dive if necessary and make sure you debrief thoroughly back on the surface. You might realize that you had nothing to worry about in the first place.
Improving your air consumption rarely happens instantaneously and it takes some perseverance and perhaps a little discipline to get it right. Do not beat yourself up if your air consumption is not where you want it to be. There are thousands upon thousands of divers who have been labelled ‘air hogs’ and suffered in silence. Talk to your buddies, perhaps ask them to try some easier dives while you get in the practice; do not be afraid to talk to your guides and instructors if you are diving with a group of unknown people on holiday somewhere. Knowing in advance that somebody might be quicker to run through their air than others helps with dive planning and – importantly – group safety. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
The best way to master the art of diving is, after all, to go diving. You can go a long way to improving the safety of the underwater world for everybody you dive with.
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