This is part of the DeeperBlue.com Freediving App Review Series – a collection of reviews of Freediving related mobile apps. Each app has been reviewed based on a standardized set of criteria you can see here. In this article we review the Breathing Challenge App.
There are an ever-increasing number of Apps available to freedivers that offer some degree of benefit to increase breath hold and Static Apnea times. Most of the Apps we have reviewed offered some variation on the common CO2 and/or O2 Tables that freedivers are familiar with. This App is NOT designed specifically for freedivers, but after 30 days of reviewing it, we have found that there is quite a bit of usefulness to freedivers.
PLEASE NOTE: these are all “dry static exercises” and should never be attempted in the pool.
The app comes in two forms – a FREE version that gives you 16 days worth of exercises and a PAID version that gives you 30 days worth of exercises. There is an option to upgrade in-app between the FREE and PAID versions.
Breathing Challenge takes a different approach; based on principles of the Buteyko method or Buteyko Breathing Technique, a therapeutic course that prescribes the use of breathing exercises as a treatment for various physical ailments such as asthma. The technique is named after Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko, who developed the method in the 1950’s. The underlying principles assume that numerous medical conditions, including asthma, are caused by chronically increased rates of respiration or rapid, deeper breathing, leading to hyperventilation. The lowered CO2 levels in the blood (hypocapnea) can subsequently lead to disturbances of the pH balance in the blood and lower tissue saturation levels of O2.
The series of 26 levels of breathing exercises is designed to be done over a 30 day period. From the beginning, the exercises will be familiar to many certified freedivers. The breathing exercise described in Levels 1-14 of this multi-level App is nearly identical to the “Ventilation Breathing” exercise taught by many freediving courses, wherein the diver takes a small, relaxed diaphragm breath…pauses for a 2 count and exhales slowly for 10 seconds…pauses for 2 more and breathes again…repeating the cycle. In Breathing Challenge, the levels become progressively more difficult, building on the previous day’s work.
Level 14 brings the user to the “Advanced” stage, where the exercises become more challenging. By Level 16, “Walking Static” is worked in to the regimen. This is a very “apnea diver” specific exercise, and there is considerable benefit to be found in this drill. Please note that safety should always be of paramount concern and the user needs to exercise caution whenever doing walking breath holds.
Eduard Reuvers, the founder of the Buteyko Breathing Academy and creator of the Breathing Challenge App, calls this “Very Little Breathing” or VLB, and it promotes becoming comfortable with a slight state of “air hunger”. The exercises are designed to be done in a relaxed, sitting position and start with an “easy breath hold”. Reuvers talks the diver through the steps, explaining some of the various “symptoms” one may experience and what to do at each step in the exercise.
Breathing Challenge starts with an easy breath hold with an integrated timer. The diver presses the large “button” to start timing and presses again as soon as they feel any difficulty. So, after completing a series of three breath holds, with VLB in between, the student can progress to the next level.
The student is advised in the on-screen directions that after 6 sessions, they can view a chart showing their progress.
Reuvers advises the user that “some sessions will go easier than others.” He recommends that the initial holds should be over 60 seconds…and advises that a lower score is indicative of various medical maladies or a poor health. Scores of 70-80 seconds indicate that the user is in “good health”. Through a pattern of breath-ups, breath holds of varying duration’s, and exhalation cycles, Breathing Challenge claims to be able to improve a person’s overall breathing ability and health.
Breathing Challenge doesn’t allow the user to “skip around”, and to progress through the levels, you have to actually do them. There are little messages that pop up if you skip a step, or if you missed a day of breathing exercise. While this made it more challenging to review, it certainly keeps the user on task. At various points in the 30 day program, the user’s resting heart-rate is requested…this is up to the user to take using a pulse oximeter, manual pulse count or an App for that purpose.
Does it work? We started reviewing Breathing Challenge before participating in a 4-day freediving course…and used it throughout the class. The two weeks before the class, and subsequent week and a half after were devoted to “maximizing” our performance in Static Apnea and depth training. So, at the beginning of the training, we were routinely holding for an average of 4:30 in Dry Static…with a PB of 5:20 in the class and at the conclusion of the review, we were easily reaching 6:00 Static Apnea breath holds.
While there are many factors that could attribute the significant gains, diet, exercise, sleep, etc. the constant was the 30 day Breathing Challenge App. We don’t recommend that this App replaces a freediver’s other training routines; CO2 and O2 Tables have their place…diaphragm stretching, kicking in the dive reflex, meditation…they all help, but we have to conclude that the Breathing Challenge App did not seem to hinder our static times, and those times improved.
So, let’s see what we found:
Price: Free or $29.99 (available as a direct download or via in-App purchase)
Functionality: It works as advertised and is a clean, clearly marked and easy to navigate App. The website for the Buteyko Breathing Academy is woefully short on details, though…it’s basically designed to enroll a person in one for their “online seminars”. Since the App seems to provide the basic information and training techniques, we recommend that the user stick to the App.
Relevance/Usefulness: A competitive freediver has probably developed a full toolkit of different techniques and training regimens. The beginner may find that, though a commitment of 30 days, the breathing training and forced focus on deliberate breathing control really improve their breath hold times. The relaxed pace and rhythmic cadence of Reuvers‘ voice induce a meditative quality to the experience. types of breathing For a new, or experienced diver, this App is a powerful addition to the training toolkit.
Graphics/Appearance: The information is laid out in a simple, intuitive manner. This is not a hard App to navigate through, and every step is talked through. The audible alerts allow the user to concentrate on breathing and not having to look at the screen the entire time.
Compatibility: Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.