Dive fitness

Charles Davis
24 February 2014

Diving has gotten away from the stereotype based on the early days of diving, that it is a rough and tough sport requiring extreme endurance and strength. Today it is viewed as an activity done by both men and women and even children. While diving is promoted as a leisure sport, it is still a sport. One that takes an amount of physical activity.  We start by carrying heavy tanks on our backs. We are in constant motion for the entire dive. Even breathing is a more difficult as we must overcome the additional pressure on our body as we expand our chest.

Get Fit, Dive Longer

The fitter we are the more we can enjoy our diving. Think back to your earliest dives and how fast you used your air until you learned to control your breathing. The less often we breathe the longer our air supply will last.  Being fit our breathing will be less rapid as we exert ourselves.  This could easily add another 10 to 15 minutes more to each dive. Multiply that by the number of dives you do in a year and you can see that it is a substantially additional bottom time. As in any type of physical activity, it is the sum of many items that determine our fitness level and its impact on our activity. Depending on which expert you listen to, a generally good fitness level can be done in 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week.

Fitness Basics

The fitness level should be achieved over three separate functions: Strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility. The thirty minutes does not have to be continuous, three sessions of ten minutes each can meet the goal, provide they raise your heart rate. Cardiovascular deal with the heart and lungs. Brisk walking and running are prime examples that you can do to improve your fitness in this category. Swimming would be an ideal exercise as it also builds the muscle groups you will use while diving. If swimming is not available, running or walking three times a week for 30 minutes a day will help you reach a suitable level.

 Strength training is the least popular of the three. Most people shy away from this type of training. Some are afraid to go to the gym and work out because they think everyone there will be huge body builders. Others think that if they work out they will bulk up with unsightly muscles. The reality is that you do not need to go to that extreme to improve your strength. A general overall work out that creates a better toned muscle is an admirable goal.  Strength training is generally thought of as being done in the gym. While that is certainly an ideal way to do it, it is not the only way. There are inexpensive home gyms that you can buy that can give you most of the same options as the local fitness center. Garage sales and second hand shops always have a nice selection from people who bought one then gave up. If your budget or space requirements rule out a home gym then a set of inexpensive bar bells or resistance bands can do wonders for your strength training. Even cheaper is your own body. Body weight resistance exercises are a proven method to built strength. Two or three sessions a week can help you improve your strength.

Flexibility is the one most overlooked and given the least credit in general fitness. Take it from me, as you get older flexibility is the first item you notice going away. Improving our flexibility helps insure the full range of motion that our body can give. It also helps the muscles in protecting themselves from injuries. Many people think that a few stretches before running is all they need, that might help prevent an injury but it seldom improves flexibility. Schedule a couple of flexibility sessions a week, either separate activity or as a close out of an exercise activity.

Alternate Sports

If you live in an area where it not feasible to dive year round, you may want to consider an alternative sport. If snow is a common feature in your area in the winter, consider skiing. You can often find parks nearby that can be used for cross country skiing also called Nordic skiing.  Bike trails make excellent runs. Cross country skiing is easy to learn and a basic set of skies and boots are not very expensive.

Eat Right

The other part of fitness that has to be considered is the nutrition. Getting fit by the three methods mention is great but you can undo part of your hard work with poor food choices. Look out for what you eat and drink.

The goal is to get fit and then stay fit.

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