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Part 2: Figuring Things Out

The first week of me doing daily breath holding exercises is over. This is the second part of my ongoing series, including all the things I did and learned each day.

It all started on Tuesday when I published the first part of my story. I did my first two sets of CO2 tables, which look like this:

Breathe 120 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 105 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 90 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 75 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 60 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 45 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 30 seconds — hold 50 seconds

Breathe 15 seconds — hold 50 seconds

This should help my body withstand the need to breathe when CO2 builds up. I’ve also realized that the contractions I get in my diaphragm are… well, unpleasant to say the least. It makes my whole body shiver and twitch, but I think I’ll learn to live with those. Since I’ve started doing these exercises, I already see improvement, since the contractions are starting later and I can withstand them a little longer.

This day I also did a timed max breath-hold which got me to 1 minute 40 seconds.

Wednesday was interesting: I did one CO2 table with the same values as stated above and later went into the water because I had my girlfriend observe me and I really wanted to see what difference being in the water makes regarding CO2 tables:

I did some breathing exercises to get relaxed and reduce my heart rate and went for it: 40 seconds hold time was my goal for the CO2 table and I hardly even managed to get 30 seconds before I had to get up again. This was with just my face in the water, not a full dive.

After that, I started reading in Freedive forums about the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which helps divers achieve better times underwater. For me it was the opposite, but I learned that the body (and face) has to get accustomed to the temperature of the water, which means I should have gone snorkeling for a few minutes before starting my exercises.

In the evening I did another dry CO2 table and easily got my hold times in again. This was my last max breath hold until Sunday.

On Thursday morning I did a different kind of exercise:

Proper breathe-up, hold for 40 seconds, slow exhale, slow inhale, hold for another 40 seconds. Repeat for eight rounds. That was quite challenging since I couldn’t recover after each hold. Again, the goal is to get my body used to higher levels of CO2.

In the afternoon I went into the water again to try some more stationary breath holds. I didn’t want to do another CO2 table so I just went snorkeling for a good ten minutes. I managed to get my heart rate down and even though the water was quite cold I was relaxed.

I tried to do two max breath holds to get a feel for doing those in the water again. My girlfriend measured the time and tapped me on my shoulders every 20 seconds to which I gave her a sign that I’m fine. On my first try, I got 1 minute, on my second try 1 minute 30 seconds. Not too bad I guess.

Friday was more of a relaxed day: I did one CO2 table with a hold time of one minute which went fine. The diaphragm contractions only started after 5–6 rounds. I’m not sure if the table was challenging enough since it felt quite easy.

During the day I went into the water for some swimming and diving. No timers, no pressure, just staying underwater for as long as I felt comfortable.

On Saturday I was doing two CO2 tables and I’ve been swimming for hours which felt really good and there’s not much else you can do when it’s 35 degrees outside.

I’ve been to a party on Saturday night and even though I did not drink much, I wasn’t really feeling it on Sunday. To start the day off, I did another CO2 table with a hold time of one minute. Later this day I attempted a dry max breath hold because I really wanted to see if there’s some sort of improvement to be seen already:

I was in bed for about 15 minutes breathing normally. Then I did three seconds breathe in, six seconds breathe out for about two minutes. I took a deep breath in, did a slow full exhale and went for a full breathe in, meaning first breathe through the belly, then fill the upper part of the lung.

I was trying so hard not to look at the timer and keep my eyes shut, after about one minute I peeked at my phone and closed my eyes again. At 1:30 I was thinking: “Yeah, I’ll beat my PB today”. At 1:40 the contractions hit me and it got challenging. At 2:09 I stopped the timer and gave up. New PB, over two minutes (which was actually my goal for next week). I’m so happy and at the same time excited what else will be possible within the next three weeks.

The plan for today actually was to do another max breath hold later on, but after beating my PB before lunch I decided to stop for today and give my body some rest.

My goals for next week:

  • Explore possibilities to make CO2 tables more challenging
  • Stop looking at the timer all the time, I’m not supposed to do that
  • Try Apnea walking (more on this later)
  • New PB? 2:30? 3:00? I’m not sure yet

That’s it for today, another update will be out as soon as there’s progress to report.