Appeared in DIVER March 2001

How divers handle fitness


MARK ELLYATT, deepest wreck dive record-holder
I think you need to be reasonably fit to do any diving. The corporate lardies who come my way as an instructor are generally good drinkers, but hopeless dippers.
  I also think its important to steer clear of smoking and drugs. Potheads tend to be emotional jellies under pressure, or turn into real drama queens.
  If you want to do some big stuff, then fitness is really important. Aerobic exercise like running is best for me, swimming next best, and weights I might do once every blue moon.
ÂÂÂÂI run reasonably often - well, now and again. I swim a lot, and I think sex is very important too, but only marathon sessions! Most important is diving fit, diving regularly; shallow or deep doesnt matter.

AMANDA AMANDA WILLIAMS, UK womens free-diving champion
Physical fitness is not the main way to improve depth and time of free dives - technique and psychology matter more - but it does help with stamina. Fitness training can help flexibility, particularly around the chest, and good control of stomach muscles, which all help in taking good breaths.
  I work out in the gym several times a week, mostly aerobic stuff and cross-training. I train in the pool at least once a week, swimming lengths under water with decreasing breaks in-between.
  For free-divers, underwater pool practice is never done alone, for safety reasons. Thats no real substitute for getting practice with depth, which is harder in the UK, and I go whenever I can to the submarine escape tank in Gosport (HMS Dolphin).
ÂÂÂÂI try to get to yoga sessions at least once a week, and practise breath-holding, particularly visualising dives and developing imagery and distraction techniques (I use poems and some repeated calming phrases) which can all be done in comfort on ones bed.
ÂÂÂÂThat can be applied to free-diving by breath-holding while walking or climbing stairs. Some of the others in the team do it while running. We learn a lot from each other, and its far easier to keep motivated training together.

JEANNETTE JEANNETTE COPELAND, runs Deep Down Diving technical diving school
It is important to be reasonably physically fit, and there is a lot to be said for just being sensible in your approach to the diving youre doing. Being fit should enable you to maintain a reasonable breathing rate, and your CO2 production and O2 consumption should remain fairly level while youre in the water.
  Me and my husband Steve dont have a strict fitness regime and we dont have some sort of military-type workout before we dive. What we have is a fairly healthy lifestyle.
ÂÂÂÂWe walk the dog, go shooting, run the dive school and also take the dive boat out nearly every weekend, even if we dont go diving. Lugging loads of gear around for ourselves and our students also keeps us fairly fit.
ÂÂÂÂThe thinner I become, the colder I get in the water, irrespective of the exposure protection. So you have to balance current thinking that those with a larger amount of body fat are more susceptible to DCS with how cold you will get. I prefer to be a bit warmer, and stick a bit more conservatism in my profile.

Fitness for diving is very important, certainly once youre doing diving that requires extended decompression (ie, more than 10 minutes). The more efficient your cardio-vascular system, the more efficiently you will off-gas during decompression. Lower fat levels make it easier to flush nitrogen from the body.
  With improved levels of fitness, air/gas consumption is reduced and you gain an increased ability to cope with stressful situations. Your endurance improves, and its easier to dive with increased amounts of kit and swim against currents.
  Strength is certainly important from the point of view of lugging all that kit around, and being stronger can obviously make it easier getting in and out of the boat.
  I try to do something every day, whether it be weights, swimming or cycling. Normally I go to the gym three times a week, swim at least once and cycle at least three times.
  Recently, Ive been concentrating on aerobic as opposed to strength exercises, but a balance of the two is important. This year I intend to try to have a bit more structure to my training, as this usually gives better results.
  If youre thinking about improving your fitness, I would recommend reading up on the subject or having a fitness assessment. Then you can plan/target your training efforts, otherwise the exercise you do might be ineffective for the results youre after, which could be very discouraging.

CHRISTINA CHRISTINA CAMPBELL, Starfish Enterprise Dive Team, Britannic 98 and Jutland 2000 expeditions
  It is important to be physically fit for the diving we do, because we tend to be in the water for a long time, and there is a considerable physical and mental strain associated with this.
  Carrying the kit requires good technique and a certain amount of mind over matter, and deep diving generally requires a lot of concentration.
  diving in cold water and enduring rough weather conditions. Diving twice a day under these circumstances is physically and mentally tough.
  I plan out my year very carefully, and do a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet starting in January. I do step aerobics three times a week, and a lot of walking at the weekends. I ski in winter, and have recently been caving. The diving season is from May until October, and then in November and December I eat and drink as much as I like!

CHRIS CHRIS HUTCHISON, Starfish Enterprise Dive Team, King Edward 97, Britannic 98, Lusitania 99, Expedition Leader Jutland 2000 and 2001
  Endurance is the most important kind of fitness for the type of diving the Starfish team does. There is lots of heavy equipment, and long days. Physical fitness makes for better gas consumption, and generally gets you out of trouble.
  During the 494 dive season I was in the Royal Marine Reserves, and so was very fit - and that made for an easy diving season.
  I work manually so I maintain a good level of fitness, and do a lot of hill-walking. I also weight-train.