After how to improve my buoyancy, the second most commonly asked question by novice divers to instructors and Divemasters, is how come you are so good on air? and What do I need to do to improve my air consumption? Luckily there are quite a few things you can do to improve your air consumption, but like everything else in diving there are no quick fixes or shortcuts, everything takes time and practice to develop and improve. The first thing to do when trying to improve your air consumption is to manage your expectations.
The first thing to establish is to have realistic expectations on how efficient you can become on air. Every person has a natural optimal ability based predominately on size, muscle mass, and lung size. The bigger you are the more air you will breathe, since you have more tissue and muscle that need to be kept supplied with Oxygen; a large muscular person will never be as good on air as a petite individual with the same level of experience. Most petite female scuba instructors are the best on air, since they are blessed with experience, practice as well as genetic potential. So if you are a large man comparing yourself to a petite female instructor, you should forget about it, and look for someone your own size to be able to visualize achievable goals.
Contrarily to what most people think, the urge to breathe is not controlled by a lack of Oxygen, instead it is controlled by an elevated level of Carbon Dioxide. The lower the level of Carbon Dioxide in your body, the weaker the urge to breathe. This is the reason why, before most breath-hold exercises individuals will hyperventilate for a few seconds, since this allows them to flush out as much CO2 from their body as possible, which will prolong their breath-hold.
Since CO2 is the main culprit in making us want to breathe, the question is how to reduce or control the level of CO2 in our body, so that we can have a controlled breathing rate. CO2 is a by-product of activity, the more you use your muscles the more CO2 you will produce. So, the first step in controlling your CO2 levels is to reduce unnecessary activity as much as possible, to reduce the production of CO2. And the first step to reducing your activity is to master your buoyancy.
Perfecting your buoyancy will go a long way towards improving your air consumption, not only will it reduce the amount of air your waste constantly making small tweaks, it will also let you relax and move less, which reduces CO2 levels in your body. In addition, you will be free to focus on mastering your breathing technique, which is the second step to improving your air consumption.
Read our full article about: How to achieve Perfect Buoyancy?
By far the biggest factor in improving your air consumption is your breathing technique. The average human breathes about 20 times per minute while on land at a state of rest, but by utilizing proper breathing techniques you can significantly reduce your breathing cycles while diving. They key is to slow everything down while diving, breathe in slowly, purposely, and in a controlled manner. And make sure to breathe deeply and fill your lungs. When it is time to exhale do not just push the air out of your lungs, but again breathe out in a slow, controlled manner. The slower you can inhale and exhale the more you will improve your air consumption.
While slowing your breathing down will take time and practice to master, you need to remember that the process is just slowing down your breathing, you are not holding your breath at any time during your breathing cycle. As you learned on your open water course, the golden rule of diving is “Never hold your breath”, so don’t do it in the hope it will improve your air consumption. With practice, you can reduce your breathing cycles per minute to half or less than on land.
The final step to improve your air consumption is to master your propulsion technique. Propelling yourself is the single biggest consumer of energy on a dive since you use your biggest muscle groups. By mastering the various propulsion techniques, you will be able to perform them more efficiently and reducing the amount of activity your body is performing. This will reduce your CO2 levels, which in turn will make it easier to control your breathing.
Read our full article about: Fin Kicks and Propulsion Techniques
Staying fit and healthy can play a big part in your air consumption.
Read our full article about: How to Getting Fit for Diving?