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Every Freediver Should Know The Risks About Hyperventilation

If you've taken a Freediving course, you've learned that hyperventilation is dangerous and should be avoided before holding your breath. But you've probably seen some elite sporting freedivers do hyperventilation-like breathing prior to the longest Static Apnea (breath-hold). But does this mean that hyperventilation is innocent breathing?

Let's look at the theory first and then examine whether hyperventilation is necessary.

Your breathing rate and amount are mainly regulated by how much CO2 you produce at that moment. Usually, your breathing rate and amount match your current metabolic activity level. But if you begin to consciously increase your breathing rate and/or amount, you may be hyperventilating.

What are the disadvantages of hyperventilation?

A high heart rate, more oxygen consumption by the heart and other tissues, narrows the arteries supplying blood to the brain, less blood-oxygen goes, and in extreme cases can cause black-out even before the diver leaves the surface, low oxygen release and the risk of blackout in shallow water, which is the most serious one.

If hyperventilation is so dangerous, why do we see it in Static Apnea competitions?

The answer is simple - Free Divers with a competition goal may be prepared to accept the risk of Black Out (to attempt to hold their breath longer) in order to have the urge to breathe much later. In addition, Static Apnea competitions are competitions held in shallow water / pool and on the surface. The preparation time and tolerance levels of the athlete preparing for the competition are at different levels than the average free diver. The techniques used by the competitors are generally unique to them and often those ones can be tolerated most of the time by the body, mood and metabolism of that person.

So don't be misled by the misconception that some techniques you see in competitions or on channels like YouTube may work the same way for recreational freedivers.

For this reason, you should definitely avoid hyperventilation and do not put yourself at unnecessary risk.

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