– You think that freediving is only for sportive people?
– You think that freedivers are living only to break records?
– You think that freediving is a dangerous sport?
– You think that because you are a smoker, or because you are not very fit, freediving is not for you?
– You think that you will be bad at it because you can’t hold your breath more that 30 seconds?
– You think that you need to be a yoga master to be able to freedive?
– You always liked putting your head underwater but you think that you cannot or that you would be too scared to go deeper in the sea?
– Freediving movies make you dream but you are convinced that freediving at 15m deep is not for you?
Then you are going to be very surprised reading this article!
Freediving is something that is in all of us, deeply anchored. Indeed, our body has powerful mechanisms, automatically activated as soon as we put our head underwater or when we swim down deeper, helping us to hold our breath longer and protecting us.
Some people think that it’s linked to our origins, 400 million years ago, when life was developing in the unique oxygenated ocean existing on our planet. Marine vertebrates that were living there would have slowly conquered dry land as it too became suitable for living, evolving step by step, and along hundreds of millions of years would have formed all the terrestrial vertebrates, including the human race.
But we don’t even need to search that far. After 9 months spent in a liquid environment, all new-born babies know naturally how to hold their breath. They all have this swim reflex: when submerged in the water, they close their mouth, hold their breath and move their arms and legs. They are as comfortable in the water as a fish.
Whatever explanation one wants to consider, one way or another our body remembers its first element. And when we are freediving, scientists observe in us the same physiological mechanisms as the ones observed in dolphins, whales or seals!
- For example, as soon as you put your face in the water, the receptors around your lips and nose trigger your heart rate to lower, down to 50%, saving the oxygen stored in your lungs!
- Then if you continue holding your breath, the vessels in your arms and legs will constrict, and push the blood transporting the oxygen back to your core organs, where it’s really needed for the heart or the brain.
- Like seals, we have an organ called a spleen, which is basically a big red blood cells warehouse. And just like in seals, it can squeeze to half of its size to send those red blood cells into our blood flow and enrich it in oxygen.
- Finally, we are sharing an amazing mechanism with dolphins and whales. It happens when we are diving deeper and is protecting our rib cage and lungs from the increasing pressure. As they are compressed, blood is going to be shifted from the rest of the body to cushion the lungs, and protect us from getting hurt by an overpressure – as liquids are not affected by pressure!
As natural as they are when we are born, living as terrestrial mammals we tend to forget our submarine abilities. Some people even get convinced that they are not meant for freediving, or that they couldn’t hold their breath for more than few seconds.
This feeling is also amplified by the fact that the image of freediving is often reduced to competition, as people saw it in the movie “Big Blue” – performance oriented, super sportive people committed to this extreme activity – so, not for us, not for everybody. But freediving is a very simple and easy hobby that anyone can practice and enjoy at their own pace. More than anything, it’s all about feeling good in the water, for example diving on a coral reef with no more than a mask, enjoying the underwater scenery and marine life… Competition, or spear fishing are possible activities that can possibly come later depending on your interests.
As a conclusion, we can say that if you are interested in freediving, you can rely on the certainty of two things. The first is that smoker or not, fit or not, young or older, you have and we all have biologically and physiologically natural abilities for freediving. Under the unique condition of knowing how to swim, we can all freedive to at least 10 meters deep, and hold our breath for a couple of minutes. You might not be the best and most performing freediver, but who cares if the goal is to enjoy it?
The second is that with a little bit of explanation and practice, as done in a freediving course with a professional, all of us can reconnect with our aquatic origins! An instructor will also teach you the techniques and safety rules to freedive safely.
If you still have a doubt, or if this article helped you turn around all your misconceptions, and makes you want to give it a go, join us for a beginner class AIDA 2*: after the first day, it will all make perfect sense to you!