Hypoxic overtraining in freediving

Hypoxic overtraining in freediving: recognition and prevention

Freediving is not just a sport; it is the art of controlling one's body and mind underwater. However, as with any high-performance discipline, there is a risk of injuries and the development of conditions caused by extreme conditions, including hypoxia. We will discuss one of these potentially dangerous conditions for athletes in this article.

What is hypoxic overtraining?

Hypoxic overtraining is a condition that arises from excessive hypoxia (lack of oxygen) when the body's adaptive mechanisms can no longer cope with the increased demands. In freediving, this can occur with frequent and intense dives without sufficient recovery.

Physiological basis

For example, when a freediver begins breath-hold training, their body adapts to higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO²) and lower levels of oxygen (O²). For more detailed information on creating training tables, read the article "CO² and O² training: Your path to improving breath-holding." Over time, this leads to an increase not only in tolerance to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the body but also in hypoxic tolerance, allowing the freediver to stay underwater longer. However, it's crucial to understand that each training session is a stress for the body, requiring recovery, and if a freediver continues to push further into a state of hypoxia, they need more resources and time to recover. If the recovery time is sufficient, the body goes into a state of supercompensation, and each subsequent breath-hold training session will yield new and improved results. But if the recovery time is inadequate, the results will clearly worsen, and sooner or later, this will lead to overtraining after an initial state of fatigue.

Symptoms and consequences

Hypoxic overtraining often comes with a decrease in athletic performance and a general deterioration of health. In the short term, this can lead to a loss of consciousness underwater—a blackout. In the long term, it can lead to a weakened immune system (a very clear and important symptom) and other health problems, as the body remains in a state of constant under-recovery.

How to avoid overtraining?

Nutrition and rest

It may sound trivial, but it is vitally important: proper nutrition and quality sleep are fundamental elements of body recovery. For more details on nutrition for freedivers, we have written in the article "Nutrition for freedivers: secrets of recovery". The right balance of micronutrients and an adequate calorie intake will help maintain energy balance, and deep sleep will allow the nervous system to recover.

Gradual increase in workloads

It is important to control the level of hypoxic stress. One should resist the temptation to increase the intensity of workouts too quickly. Gradual progression allows the body to adapt and recover more effectively. It is important to have not just a buddy and a safety freediver nearby, but also an experienced freediving coach who can help design a sensible training program.

Monitoring сondition

Freedivers must pay close attention to monitoring their physical condition, including personal sensations and key physiological indicators, to ensure the safety and effectiveness of dives. The level of hypoxic stress that can be sustained without harming health is strictly individual and cannot be generalized. Therefore, it is crucial to clearly define one's personal threshold and, when exceeding it, ensure adequate recovery, which depends on the intensity and duration of underwater activity. This is key to maintaining optimal performance and preventing undesirable conditions associated with oxygen deficiency. This requires freedivers to pay increased attention to their rest and recovery regimen to prevent such dangerous conditions.

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