How To Improve Your Air Consumption
One question my students regularly ask me is how to improve their air consumption. When scuba diving the two factors limiting our dive duration are our no decompression limits and our air consumption. The diving conditions are so fantastic out here on Koh Tao that time literally flies underwater and we want to be able to stay down as long as we can. I’ve come up with some helpful tips for people trying to improve their air consumption.
It may seem like a simple concept but the more relaxed we are underwater the more regular our breathing pattern will be. In order to become more relaxed in the water, you need to do more diving. On your first few training dives you are focusing so much on all the new experiences. People tend to ignore their breathing pattern on their first few dives. The more comfortable you are in the water the better your air consumption will be.
Keep your breathing pattern regular
When people first start diving they can get a bit overwhelmed with the fact that they can now hear and see their breathing pattern. The most common thing people will do is they will breathe fast and shallow. This extends your dead air space and triggers you to continue breathing quickly. A tip I give my students is to count your breathing rate. When I dive I breathe in for 3-4 seconds and breathe out for 5-6 seconds. Many people will breathe in quite deeply and then exhale quickly. Maximize your exhale and your air consumption will improve. Count your breathing rate for the first few minutes of your dive and then it will become muscle memory and it will come naturally to you.
Having good buoyancy control is very important while diving. A common mistake divers make is under filling their BDC. At depth your BCD will need more air to keep you neutrally buoyant. By under filling your BCD you’re making yourself negatively buoyancy. This leads to you having to constantly work harder to stay neutral. This results in you breathing a lot harder. One of my favorite dives to teach is the perfect buoyancy dive on the PADI Advanced Open Water Course. During this dive we learn how to achieve neutral buoyancy and how vital a role your lungs play in your buoyancy during a dive. We do loads of different buoyancy exercises and I find that my divers’ air consumption improves and usually they can drop a weight or two off their belt by the end of the dive.
Carrying the proper weight for your dive is also very important for a diver. Too much weight and you will be adding a lot of air to your BCD during your dive in order to stay neutral. Too little and your struggling to stop floating upwards by the end of a dive. It also affects your body position in the water. Divers who are over weighted tend to sink from their hips downwards so will find themselves swimming vertically along in the water instead of horizontally. The perfect diving position is what is known as the trim position. This means they are not streamlined in the water and have to work harder to move through the water. Remember the amount of weight will change depending on where you are diving and what type of wetsuit you are wearing. It’s always a bit of a balancing act during your first dive in a new area however your Dive Master or Instructor should be able to help you.
Move slowly through the water
Just like on land the quicker we move underwater the quicker we will breathe. You’ll have noticed during your PADI Open Water Course that your instructor moved nice and slowly through the water. Use nice strong kicks from your hips rather than kicking from your knees. Remember we don’t use our hands to swim while diving. Concentrate on getting neutrally buoyant and then moving nice and slowly through the water. The slower you go the more you are likely to see. You’ll have time to spot the stingray chilling out under the ledge or the shrimp hiding in the cracks.
Here is an interesting article that explains how to estimate your air consumption.
The most important tip I have is just to continue diving and have fun. Relax. Some people who do yoga have amazing air consumption straight away others have to work at it. Remember just because you have good air consumption doesn’t mean you are the best diver out there. Comfort and experience in the water is just as important. The more you dive the greater improvement you’ll see in your overall experience level and most importantly you will have some amazing experiences.