Sunday, September 20, 2020

Freediving Reloaded : Taking Stock

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Time for this Senkrechtstarter to pause, reflect, update and respond to the many suggestions, pointers and reprimands I’ve received in the Deeper Blue forums and privately.

First and foremost, the account given in thus far reads like the story of a dude headed for a sad little below-the-fold headline in the local newspaper, something about a drowning in the health club pool. The guy in the articles violates the First Commandment of Freediving, even though he thinks he is being conservative, reasonable and safe.

The guy is doing 25m dynamic apnea repeats, with his "mono fin" (soon somebody will politely tell him it’s one word) alone, coming off a zero base. He even goes to the pool during hours when he knows nobody will be there, not even some poor old grandma who could at least tell our hero’s wife he went out like a man. True, he made sure to have a competent buddy when he tried his 50m dynamic with monofin, which is good thinking, but this guy is all wrong assuming he’s in the safe zone doing 25m repeats unbuddied. Call it fact, call it religion, call it what you like: you’re NEVER in the safe zone when you’re alone. Not even in the bathtub. Somebody has got to set this Kotik straight on this point. Hopefully, the little tiny smart guy in his head will wake up and do this before something happens that makes his insurance company sad.

On the bright side, the numbers are creeping up. Kotik’s training program, based on reading internet articles of unknown validity, may or may not be helping him improve: it could just be the fact of doing something as opposed to nothing. If so, he’ll top out soon at some very mediocre levels of performance and fitness for the sport.

Physiology as of May 24, 2005: (baseline in parens) hemoglobin 14.1 (8.8), RBC 4.19 (2.70), hematocrit 42.4% ( 27.something %). These are all in what is considered the ‘normal’ ranges, but as we all know, our medical friends don’t ask much of us these days. Prior to the Year of Living Langorously, Kotik’s hemoglobin bounced around in the 15-16.5 range most of the time, crit usually above 47%.

Resting heart rate is gliding down, so the hard (though rather pathetic) cardio workouts in the gym are paying off: the old boy finally managed to er, jog 2 miles, at a slight incline, without having to slow to a walk at any time. Slo o o o w w ly, to be sure (21 minutes !) but that’s a huge improvement. Resting heart rate is now as low as 59, whereas it had been in the (alarming !) 80’s, baseline.

In the water, some progress on technique. The infamous unsupervised 25m monofin dynamics were an embarrassment to the community- grinding to a dead stop between strokes. Reading Solomons, watching a video, and ratcheting up the speed have helped. Sounds odd, but going fast seems to force one to be efficient, streamlined and so forth. It also seems to be strengthening the muscles involved. The result is that when Kotik drops down to the relaxed, slower pace he would use for a PB in dynamic, everything works better. He even goes in a more-or-less straight line the entire 25m length of the pool ! He has the sense of topping out on technique, though, and needs some expert coaching. Totally lacking in confidence to go open water, constant ballast diving with a monofin.

BUT – the time is rapidly approaching when our intrepid beginner will have to stand up, salute, and finally taste some salt. Bifins, my friends, will be the gear of choice. Just plain easier for the unschooled beginner. Best guess is that this milestone will involve the abduction, bribing, or seduction of a competent buddy from among the local Usual Suspects, a quick drive down to Key Largo, and a ride on a cattle boat out to the coral reefs in 10-12 meters ( 33-40 feet) of water. The beauty is both an incentive….and a dangerous diversion. Could this guy be stupid enough, if he finds himself getting comfortable, to do things like swim-throughs in the coral passages ? Sure, happens all the time with eager young beavers. That’s why the buddy on this momentous occasion is going to be crucial. If Kotik even tends toward breaking ANY of the Commandments, well, the buddy’s going to have to set him straight: "NO SOUP FOR YOU , ONE YEAR !".

Fatness has thrown an unexpected curve ball into this beginner’s progress. Anybody heard of a thing like this ? A guy gets up off the couch, starts working out in the gym and in the pool, and out of nowhere grows a Guiness belly ? Speculation ? Maybe the novel increase in physical activity has caused appetite to outrun caloric burnoff ? Has this happened to anybody else you know of ?

It seems to have impacted buoyancy, resulting in a more head-down posture doing dynamics in the pool – otherwise he breaks the surface. Lots of energy wasted staying down. Feels draggy, too. Folks, all that stuff about water being 700 times denser than air, streamlining, tiny changes in form making big differences in energy consumption ? All true. No joke. ADVICE: Keep slim, maintain low body fat %. I kid you not.

Re:one reader’s suggestion about iron supplementing. Kotik’s medical consultants are unanimously against it, in fact, one doctor insists it is better in Kotik’s case to avoid iron. There wasn’t time to go into details, but I’ve learned two things that seem to back him up: there are types of anemia (my wife has one of these, sickle cell is another) which require patients to avoid iron like the plague, and, when I obeyed the doctor and went to buy iron-free multivitamins, I discovered that the drugstore shelves are full of them, mostly but not all in formulations branded "Silver Citizen" and things like that. Evidently, there is some consensus that middle-aged folks ought to limit iron intake. In any case, the blood numbers are rising at a happy rate without sucking nails, at least so far, so we’ll see how far we can get.

So: help ! What about the fat problem ? What about the excessive buoyancy in the pool training and the head-down attitude it causes ? And what is it that is both critical and missing from this start-up training program ? There’s a big, big hole in the wall. Help this eager beaver find and remedy it.

Heavens, I wonder if our hero can still fit into his wet suit……

Freediving Reloaded : Taking Stock 3
Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for DeeperBlue.com. He lives in Florida, USA with his family.

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