First things come first - I am not in the position to preach about being fit for diving as, for years, I have been far from the perfect shape and struggling with some extra kgs. However, I want to be a better, more fit dive buddy for New Year's resolution. After all, being in shape means safer diving for you and your dive buddy.
Why should we be fit for diving?
According to DAN, there is no direct link between overweight and decompression illness, but statistically, 75% of fatal diving accidents involve overweight or obese divers. A fit, well-hydrated body is more efficient at how it performs. Being unfit underwater in a stressful situation leads to exertion and, combined with increased gas density, can cause CO2 elevation during diving, which can lead to blackouts, increase the likelihood of seizures due to oxygen toxicity, and worsen the severity of nitrogen narcosis.
If you are a rescue diver, you should be fit enough to tow a conscious or unconscious diver on the surface in emergency. Apart from emergencies, any diver should be ready to assist a fellow buddy, and fit divers make a better, stronger buddy pair. It is not about being a top-performing athlete but being healthy enough, prepared for any stressful situation, and enjoying our favourite sport to the fullest. There are various ways of improving your cardiovascular fitness which benefits scuba diving. Nowadays, finding a gym, buying a bike, or running equipment is relatively easy and inexpensive.
Walking, hiking, trekking, running fitness for diving
I didn't particularly appreciate running, even in my boy scouts days - I could fitness walk, cycle or trek with heavy loads for days during endurance events, but running was not my favourite discipline. According to University College of London research, daily walking routines help reduce cardiovascular emergency risk by 31%. Trekking or fitness walking is an excellent alternative option to running. Yes, you don't burn the same amount of calories, but you still overlap the chap who stayed on a couch :-)
- walking at a pace of 3 miles per hour will burn 115 calories per mile on average
- a hiker will burn somewhere between 430 and 440 calories per hour of hiking
- a runner will burn 100 calories per mile of running
Cycling fitness - spinning for better finning
Go for a bike ride. Cycling is one of the greatest inventions of all time for someone who dislikes running. It is also a terrific sport if you find trekking or walking too slow-paced. As someone once said, slow enough to see the trees but fast enough to get you through the forest :-) When you find fitness walking needing to be quicker or more exciting - get on a bike. It may not be surprising that cycling is fantastically beneficial for your finning strength and technique. By cycling, you strengthen your cardiovascular capacity and knee and ankle joints - improving both will make you a better frog and flutter kicker. Cycling is our favourite fast paced exercise and helps us keep fit for scuba diving!
- Leisure cycling with family you can burn 245 calories on a leisurely ride
- Mountain Biking will burn - 680 calories are burned per hour during moderate cross-country singletrack riding
- Road cycling - cycling on the road at speeds upto 15MPH can burn around 400 calories per hour
- Commuting - easy-to-moderate cycling, such as commuting, burns about 300 calories an hour
Swimming - fitness in your element
Swimming is one of the greatest exercises out there. Most divers love being in the water, and swimming improves our breathing patterns, benefiting scuba diving. Water washes stress from your body, and the feeling of weightlessness makes someone with an excessive BMI feel like exercising more often. Finally, swimming will eliminate joint stress, help build all round body shape, and help you lose some excess weight if you are overweight. Swimming is our favourite exercise and crucial in keeping fit for scuba diving!
- Breaststroke - average calorie burn: around 200 calories for 30 minutes of swimming
- Crawl - for a 185-pound person: Swimming freestyle or front crawl burns 488 calories per 30-minutes of exercise
- Backstroke - average calorie burn: around 250 calories for 30 minutes of swimming
Here are a few rules I apply to my routine:
- No strenuous exercises 4h before or after any recreational dive
- Stretch or Yoga Daily
- Perform 30-60 minutes a day of exercise
Pumping iron or not?
Gym training may not appeal to everyone, as many people find strength training boring or requiring more discipline and effort. To keep the right muscles flexed and trained enough, you do not need complete gym equipment. Very often, home training with a simple mat is an easier, more accessible way. However, as you already have your gym membership, use it! If in any doubts, ask for help from your personal trainer available at your local gym - they will know which parts of the body to train for scuba diving and will come up with a suitable training plan. Nowadays, many gym memberships include a combined swimming pool and weights memberships, making things more cost-effective. Here are some of my favourite strength home exercises if you want to train at home using nothing more than a mat.
- Push-ups and Short push-ups (using your knees)
- Flutter kicks
- Scissors, vertical and horizontal
- Mule kick
- Frog pull
- Calf raises, seated and standing
Fitness tracking equipment
The key to successful fitness is creating some regime, tracking your progress, and setting an objective. It is proven that as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day with a correct diet will improve your general cardiovascular condition. What better way to achieve this than a fitness watch, mobile app, or both? I love my fitness tracking applications on my iPhone, but the ultimate fitness device comes from Garmin G1 Solar, Garmin Mk2s and Garmin Descent Mk2i. They are the number one tool that makes fitness life fun.