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Exercises,  Training & Competition

How to hold your breath longer – Part 1: Knowledge

I have noticed that people are curious about freediving and that there is a particular interest in breathing and breath hold. Very often the I get the question of how long I can hold my breath. Let’s start with revealing that my personal best in STA (static apnea = breathhold in water) currently is 07:05 minutes.

Basic exercises

Most likely, there are as many strategies as there are apneists to improve the breath hold. In this series I will share some exercises along with techniques for breathing, relaxation and stretching to improve the time of the breath hold. The excercises are basic and should suit almost every one. And no, you will not need a pool to do the exercises. A bed, couch or a floor will do perfect!

Before we start!

Before you keep on reading this article I want you to start by doing a breath hold, as long as you can. Count the time and write it down to see how much you, with the help of this series, will improve your breath hold.

BreathHold Monaco
Nicole Edensbo doing a STA (Static Apnea). Photo by: Jakob Sandberg
Knowledge

First of all, we need to know a little bit of what actually regulates our breathing. Some people might think that it is the lack of oxygen (O2) that creates the urge to breath. That is actually not the case. It is the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that creates the urge hence regulates our breathing. The regulation of breathing can simply be described as follows.

Regulation of breathing

When the CO2 levels becomes high enough in the blood, signals are sent that cause the diaphragm to contract, which creates an underpressure in the lungs and air is drawn in through our mouth and nose. Simply, we take a breath. The air that we breathe in consists, among other gases, of O2 that our body need to function. The O2 is absorbed by the blood that simultaneously releases CO2 that is ventilated out when the diaphragm relaxes, and we exhale. When the cells in the body work, they consume the O2 and one of the residues of the process is the CO2. The CO2 is transported with the blood and out from our body through the lungs. There the circle is closed, and it repeats over and over again.

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Schematic diagram of the respiratory system as a part of the series “How to hold your breath longer”.

Have you ever tried holding your breath so that you have felt the contractions? Most likely, you can last at least twice as long. As long as you lie on a flat surface, without the risk of falling and you are healthy, it should not be dangerous to hold your breath for a longer time.

EXERCISE

Part 1: Knowledge
  1. Choose a place where you can lie comfortably and undisturbed
  2. Settle down and relax
  3. Take a few deep breaths
  4. Take in as much air as you can in the last inhalation before your breath hold and then hold
  5. Start a timer and notice when you get your first contraction
  6. Hold as long as you can
  7. Breathe!
  8. Stop the timer
  9. Write down the time for the first contraction and the total time of breath hold
  • Repeat this four times
  • Make sure you recover at least twice as long as you hold your breath

GOOD LUCK!

Benefits from exercise

For many people the contractions comes later the second and third time they do the breath holds in this exercise. For some that means a more comfortable and longer breath hold. If you do this exercise a couple of times a week you’ll get to know yourself and learn how to handle the contractions and the uncomfortable feeling better. Your body will also slowly get used to lower oxygen levels. This means it is the first step to increase the time of your breath hold capacity.

Nicole Edensbo 1
“The CO2 is transported with the blood and out from our body through the lungs.”

Be kind to your self, be kind to others.

Nicole Edensbo, 2020-04-15
Gothenburg, Sweden

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