Static apnea

Static apnea (STA): tips for safety and efficiency

Static apnea is a discipline that requires not only physical fitness, but also the ability to listen to your body's signals. The effectiveness of static breath hold (STA) practice depends largely on the proper approach to the training process. Using the first diaphragm contraction as a benchmark can help you accurately measure breath hold times and avoid excessive effort, especially during preparatory dives.

Dry static breath holds, i.e. practice out of water, for example lying in bed, can be done alone safely. Such training can be a safe way to improve your breath hold ability and learn to recognize the signals your body sends. It allows you to focus on breathing technique and relaxation without the added risk associated with being in an aquatic environment.

However, a completely different approach is required when practicing static breath holds in water. Even experienced practitioners and professionals should never practice static apnea in water alone. The presence of a qualified buddy who has freediving rescue skills is always required. A dive buddy not only monitors safety, but can also provide immediate assistance in case of dangerous situations like blackout. Read more about this in the article "Freediving and blackout: the danger of losing consciousness underwater".

What are contractions?

Contractions or diaphragm contractions are the body's natural physiological response to increased carbon dioxide levels in the blood. For many freedivers, this moment serves as an accurate benchmark for assessing their condition and the need to continue the breath hold.

Early contractions

If you notice premature diaphragm contractions during static breath hold practice, it may indicate that your body has not achieved an optimal relaxed state. In such cases, it makes sense to review the conditions under which you are training and analyze possible causes that contribute to the early onset of muscle contractions.

Contributing factors

External stimuli:

  • Ambient noise: Sounds from the outside, such as passers-by voices, can disrupt concentration and prevent deep relaxation.
  • Water temperature: Water that is too cold can stimulate stress reactions in the body, cause muscle tension, and accelerate the onset of contractions.

Internal factors:

  • Stress and emotional tension: Problems at work or in personal life can affect psychological state, increasing inner tension and predisposing to earlier muscle contractions.
  • Inability to relax: Some people have difficulty "letting go" of current problems and worries, which prevents them from achieving a deep relaxed state.

Overcoming strategies:

  • Creating conditions for concentration: Finding a quiet, secluded place to train or using earplugs can help minimize the impact of external noise.
  • Temperature control: Wearing an appropriate wetsuit will provide a comfortable body temperature conducive to better relaxation.
  • Stress management: Using relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises can help reduce internal stress and improve emotional state.
  • Mindfulness training: Developing mindfulness skills helps "let go" of external problems and focus on the present moment during the dive.
Understanding and taking these factors into account will allow you to optimize the process of training static breath holds, achieving deeper relaxation and improving results.

Warm-up strategy

Before starting freediving training, make a warm-up plan and discuss it with your buddy who will monitor you during the exercise. Your partner can remind you of the time until the upcoming static and the time until its completion.

Instead of focusing on time during warm-up, pay attention to your body's signals. Keeping track of time may be inadequate, as your physical and emotional state can vary day to day. For example, if you easily hold your breath for three minutes one day, the next day it may be a serious challenge. Listen for the first contraction, which is an indicator of blood carbon dioxide levels, and allow yourself to reach this level gradually, depending on your condition.

With experience, you will be able to determine the best warm-up that suits you. Some freedivers prefer three warm-ups as shown in the example below, while others start their maximal attempts without a single preparatory exercise. It is important to develop an individual approach to preparation rather than look for the "one right way".

Mental component

Breath hold is not just a physical but also a psychological challenge. To minimize brain activity and oxygen consumption, it is necessary to achieve a state of consciousness free from extraneous thoughts, which will reduce carbon dioxide production. The main goal is to relax and control your mind to avoid anxiety and unnecessary thoughts.

By focusing on relaxation and using exercises, you can give your mind something to do that allows you to detect and relieve any physical tension that builds up during breath hold. If your attention starts to wander, you need to gently return it to the task of relaxing, maintaining control.

Freedivers often compare breath holds to meditation, as it provides direct feedback about the state of the body and mind. Failure to remain calm can lead to premature termination of breath hold.

Professionals in freediving use diaphragm contractions as a cue to assess their progress. If they know they could safely hold their breath until four contractions before, then next time they can try to increase their breath hold by one or two contractions.

Tips for practicing static breath holds:

  • Listen to your body: Do not ignore early signals such as the first diaphragm contraction.
  • Gradual preparation: Start with short breath holds and gradually increase the time within your comfort zone.
  • Relaxed state: Make sure you are completely relaxed before starting the breath hold. This may include meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Safety first: Always practice static breath holds in the presence of a reliable buddy or instructor.
  • Customized approach: Your workout plan should match your current level of preparedness and sensations.

Sample workout plan:

Here is a sample static apnea (STA) workout plan you can use as a starting point:

  • Rest: Start with a sufficient rest period for complete relaxation of body and mind, lowering heart rate and preparing for breath hold.
  • STA for 1 minute: After the relaxation period, do a one minute static breath hold. This exercise will help you adapt to the sensations associated with breath hold and prepare you for longer attempts.
  • Rest for 3 minutes: The next step is three more minutes of relaxation to recover from the first attempt and prepare for the second.
  • STA to first contraction: Do a second static breath hold until the first diaphragm contraction - a benchmark freedivers use as a sign of air shortage discomfort.
  • Rest for 3 minutes: Rest again for three minutes before the next, more difficult attempt.
  • STA to first contraction + 30 seconds: This time, hold your breath until the first contraction as in the previous set, but then continue for 30 more seconds.
  • Rest for 3 minutes: After the third attempt, it is important to take a longer rest period to maximize recovery before the final, most intense attempt.
  • Max attempt: After five minutes of rest, make an attempt at your maximum possible duration. This will be your most difficult attempt and requires complete concentration and use of all the relaxation techniques you possess.

When performing these exercises, it is important never practice static apnea alone in the water!

Conclusion

Static apnea represents not just a physical exercise, but also a path to deep self-knowledge. Thoughtful practice and attention to your body's reactions to stress open up new horizons in understanding your capabilities and limitations. By following this advice and learning to listen to the signals of your body, you can safely improve your static apnea performance, pushing the boundaries of your capabilities while maintaining health and well-being. Remember that every step forward is not just an increase in breath-hold time, but also a deepening understanding of yourself, your emotions, and physical condition. It is a journey that enriches not only your freediving practice, but life as a whole.

At Apnetica Freediving we pay great attention not only to techniques for increasing static breath hold time, but also teach the importance and methods of safety procedures. In our courses you will learn in detail how to ensure safety for yourself and others during static apnea practice. We teach how to recognize signs of hypoxia and other important signals, as well as practice safety protocols and rescue to make everyone feel confident and secure while advancing their skills. Our goal is not only to teach you to achieve new personal records, but also to make your practice as safe and controlled as possible so that freediving brings true pleasure and benefit.

25.12.2023
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