Last weekend I was a part of advanced physiology course for freedivers. It took 2 days. In the morning we were starting off with lab part and for the rest of the day we were going through theory.
Advanced physiology – DAY 1
On day 1 we have measured strength of our bradycardia, both dry and wet. First we had to hold our breath without any hyperventilation at about 70% of inhale. Which is not an easy task, no warmup? no hyperventilation? not a full inhale? However, Marcin comforted us and said the time is not important as long as we will hold through few contractions.
We were connected with masimo pulse oximeter to our ear pad. This kind of masimo device is pretty expensive and is very accurate. Ear pad was previously spread with heating gel to increase blood circulation.
I performed dry static and my heartbeat dropped down to 32 bpm from 48 bpm during breathup and ~53 bpm at the start of breathold.
Next we have measured exactly the same thing but with face immersed in cold (15C) water. It was few of us so there was around 1,5h waiting time before next attempt. This way there was no warmup effect. My heart beat dropped to 29 bpm.
It was interesting to see differences between participants. Some of us had starting HR of 120 dropping to 40ish. Some of us had starting HR in the 70s dropping only to ~55. Including some high profile competitors. It just shows that freediving has many, many variables and even if one is week it doesn’t mean that we can’t progress…a lot!
In next test we were measuring our bradycardia while exercising. We had to ride on cycle ergometer while being connected to ECG until our hear rate reached 100 bpm and stabilize the effort, all done while breathing. Next in random moment we had to hold our breath just on top of passive (tidal) inhale. I’ve started with 93-98 bpm and my HR dropped down to 21 bpm in the end. Pretty amazing stuff. Imagine what happens in water or at depth? It was important to me because my heart didn’t show any arrhythmia or tachycardia even in the end.
ADVANCED physiology – DAY 2
Next day we have measured our BMR (body metabolic rate) and most of us freedivers have it below 100. The device had an O2 sensor and was measuring our oxygen usage while laying down and trying to relax.
My BMR was 90%, although my metabolism is on the high end at the moment. I exercise a lot, I eat as much as I can to build muscles 🙂 I’m curious of the results of it when I will focus on static and my diet + physical workout will be much lower.
For the rest of the day we were going through more of theory.
Marcin Baranowski is a PhD physiologist strictly focused on freediving and he is a freediver himself. I can say that I kind of cooperate with him for a few years now. I’m an athlete, I very often do what gut tells me to do, I just feel it. I can feel my body, because that’s what freediving is all about. Later on I have a talk with Marcin and he very often finds some medical research explaining to me, that what I do is good or it can be fine tuned/improved.
Marcin have read more than 400 studies available regarding freediving. Have you ever tried reading freedive studies? I did and this is not an easy task, especially if you are non native english speaking person. Marcin did amazing job, he picked the most interesting ones, explained them and summarized them to us, writing conclusions beneath each of them.
The presentation was about 350 slides long. This course was not about telling us what to do. It was about what studies have researched regarding freediving so we can understand everything that happens in our body.
Now, once I’m back home I will probably go through it couple of hundred of times and make decisions what can further improve for instance my dive responses. I enjoyed it a lot. Apart from better understanding of detailed physiological reactions in my body while freediving I can now better explain why I do certain things the way I do. I always say that it’s because what my gut tells me to do + it is working. Now I can also show a science behind it 🙂
Polish power of freediving ?!
In the end I can proudly say that Polish freediving is heading into good direction 🙂 Polish people created Diveye – that can revolutionize our sport and bring it to mass media, Roorka – first audible computer that is already revolutionizing my diving, we have Marcin, who is extraordinary physiologist and we have 2 current World Champions in 4 disciplines and World Record holders in 3 disciplines. Magda Solich in DNF (191 m) and me in DNF (244 m) + DYN (300 m).
Lung Squeeze TIP
One tip that I didn’t know about and I found out this weekend. I’ve never had problems with lung squeeze so I was not really researching this topic. It turns out recently there were studies conducted and scientists found correlation about certain genes. It turns out people who have 2 certain types are much more prone to squeeze. It probably explains why some people are very vulnerable to it while some others don’t. It just means that certain people have to put a lot of effort into their lungs flexibility when they condition them for deep diving and it is perfectly normal. Never get discouraged by fact that your friend has easy time. I’ve seen myself people who had problems with lung squeeze at 40m and later they were trouble free divers to 100m. They just had to work harder.
It turns out with series of lab tests on population it would be possible to pick a potentially elite freediver. If people were tested for genes regarding lung squeeze, how strong bradycardia, vasoconstriction they have, speed of their metabolism (BMR), resting heart rate, lung size and many, many more. People with all of those characteristics right could be potentially a very good freedivers from the beginning.
Never forget, that scientists say that genes are responsible for 9-11% of cancer cases and the rest is a life style. The same goes to training, having good genes for freediving is probably important but hard work and patience is even much more important.
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