[0:01:18] Podcast Sponsors
[0:03:52] Meeting Ted Harty
[0:08:37] What happens to the body during free diving?
[0:12:04] Mammalian Dive Reflex
[0:18:54] The Connection Between the Spleen and Breath Holding/Free Diving
[0:24:22] The Benefits of Free Diving
[0:29:58] Tips for Increasing Breath Hold Time
[0:33:39] Podcast Sponsors
[0:36:36] What an apnea table is and the difference between CO2 and O2 apnea?
[0:38:33] The Wonka Table
[0:44:32] Would you do a table while exercising?
[0:48:39] Breath Work In Between Dives
[0:53:08] Valsalva and Frenzel Breathing Technique
[0:58:19] Demonstration of The Frenzel Breathing Technique
[1:02:31] Ted’s and Wim Hof Breathwork
[1:06:47] The Bohr Effect
[1:12:42] Exercise and Regimen for Freedivers
[1:26:21] Courses Offered by Ted Harty
[1:29:13] Closing the Podcast
[1:30:23] End of Podcast
Ted: And you talk to people that freedive and they get all starry-eyed and they’re just like, “Oh, it’s just amazing. You’d be down there.” When you’re not a freediver, you’re like, “How can being underwater and drowning and suffocating be relaxing?” Well, when you do it right, you don’t feel like you’re drowning. You’re completely relaxed. You’re weightless. It’s not like anything else I’ve certainly ever done, and you talk to people that do it and they all swear by it.
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, gut hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Well, hello. I had a blast on today’s episode with my buddy, Ted Harty, where we talk about freediving and breath-holding and spearfishing and a whole lot more. Even if you absolutely detest water, there are some very interesting takeaways in this particular show.
Now, a couple of quick things. This podcast is brought to you by Kion, which is my playground for all things health and wellness. What I’ve done is created this company to scratch my own itch whenever I find a cool new ingredient or some brand new molecule that can make your life better, whether it’s recovery or performance or digestion or fat loss or muscle gain or blood sugar control, you name it. I actually create these formulations. They’re the shotgun formulations of supplements, functional foods, bars, coffees. Everything is over there. It’s all research backed. It’s all real-world tested and designed to empower you to live a very fulfilling life, pain-free, operating with a brain and body that works the way it’s supposed to. So, you get 10% off of anything at Kion. Very simple. You go to getkion.com. That’s getK-I-O-N.com and the discount code that you can use over at Kion is BGF10. So, you go to getkion.com. BGF10 saves you 10% site-wide. How do you like that?
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Hey, folks. About two years ago, I wrote an article called, “How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex.” I wrote that after I began to get involved with freediving and spearfishing, which I did when I discovered this book, this again was a couple of years ago, by an author named James Nestor. The name of the book was “Deep: Freediving, Renegade, Science, and What The Oceans Tell Us about Ourselves.” It was a great book and it got me so interested in this concept of freediving and spearfishing that I decided to hunt down one of the best people in the U.S. to actually teach me how to do this. So, I hired this guy named Ted Harty from Immersion Freediving in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to certify me in freediving so that I could then learn how to spearfish and also how to increase my breath-hold, get better at equalizing underwater, be able to dive more than 15 feet, which I could never do in my life without getting ear pain and I couldn’t figure out how to equalize the depth.
So, I hooked up with this guy named Ted Harty. He’s 6 feet tall. He’s 230 pounds. He’s like a big guy. He looks like a boxer not like a guy you’d expect to be diving an incredibly efficient oxygen capacity to depths deeper than most of us have ever gone. But he has cracked the code on this stuff. He opened up my eyes to a whole new world of freediving. I spent 96 hours of my life down in Florida getting trained by him in the classroom, in the pool, and eventually, in the ocean. Ted, what’s most interesting about him is, A, he holds the record for hypoxic underwater swimming in the pool. He can do seven full-lengths in the pool without a single breath, and he has anemia, which means his blood can’t deliver oxygen as efficiently to his muscles and brain as most of the world’s population. This means he has a relatively low blood hematocrit level, yet he still figured out how to crack the code on freediving with a condition that would leave most folks huffing and puffing for air after they climb a flight of stairs.
He was selected as the team captain for the U.S. freediving team at the Freediving World Championships. He’s also a scuba instructor. His wealth of knowledge is absolutely staggering when it comes to everything to do with breath-holding and freediving. Now, I interviewed him on the podcast a couple of years ago and we delved into everything from using static apnea tables to how cold and cold water could actually inhibit your ability to be able to hold your breath. We talked about his whole back story.
And today, we’re going to be diving into a lot more in terms of like the biology and the physiology of freediving, how to take bigger breaths, how to equalize properly. But if you want to hear Ted’s whole back story, because we’re going to spend more time on the freediving component than the back story component, then just go listen to my first podcast with Ted. What I’m going to do is I’m going to link to that first podcast with Ted and I’m also going to link to everything that we talk about on today’s show if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/freedivingpodcast. That’s benreenfieldfitness.com/freedivingpodcast.
Ted, welcome to the show, man.
Ted: I’m excited to be on the show and excited to chat with you, guys.
Ben: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I feel like I talked to you on a frequent basis because it seems like every time I’ve got the tiniest question about spearfishing gear or freediving or anything else, you’re just an email away. So, we tend to chat back and forth quite a bit, but I figured it was high time I actually got you back on the show because I’m going to be spearfishing next month down in Kona. And I know a lot of people are interested in this emerging knowledge of how good some of this stuff is for you. By the way, if you’re listening in and you just have no clue why the hell you’d want to get in the water and dive more than 15 feet and maybe grab a speargun and go hunt after tasty fish, we’re going to fill you in on the show.
Actually, Ted, I think that’d be a perfect jumping off point here or a perfect topic to dive into, pun intended, as we get going. What is it that happens to the body during freediving? Why is it that this is something that Olympic athletes are doing and people are now using to enhance their vagus nerve function? What’s the deal with the biological benefits of this?
Ted: Well, freediving is–I don’t need to tell you. It’s exploding right now. It’s getting super, super popular, so more and more people are getting into freediving. We see almost all of the scuba agencies now are jumping on the freediving bandwagon because–I mean, freediving is awesome. So, it does a lot of interesting things, like yoga is super popular. And if you go to almost any yoga class, one of the first things they’re going to do is they’re going to alter how you breathe. And guess what, we as freedivers do. We alter how we breathe. In fact, very similar to the breathing that we might do as a freediver is what you might do in yoga. So, one of the first things my students notice is when I start teaching them the breathing we use for free diving, they go to the breathing pattern for three minutes and everyone’s like, “Wow, I feel great. I feel totally relaxed,” because it works.
So, freediving is a way to access all of that stuff in the water, in the ocean, you get a chance to see the marine life, and unlike scuba, you get to be actually a part of it because you’re not this loud, mechanical thing that’s swimming through the water. You’re actually freediving, holding your breath, and it’s a lot of fun. It is something you’ve never tried. Now, it’s easier than never to get involved in the sport.
Ben: Yeah, that’s actually one of the things I like the most is I’ll fish from a boat or I’ll fish from the shore with a fly-fishing rod or a reel and you’re kind of blind fishing. You’re throwing your hook in there. You may or may not get a legal fish or a non-catch and release fish that you could actually go home and cook up. And then you put on your wet suit and you put on your mask and you dive into the water with an actual speargun, and all of a sudden, you’re down there in the coral, you have this amazing feeling of relaxation, all the worries of the world just slip away and you’re exercising, you’re cold, you’re holding your breath.
So, you’re tapping into all the benefits that we’re going to talk about when it comes to the mammalian dive reflex, which I’m going to ask you about and the spleen compression that happens when you dive deep. But even if you don’t get a fish, you feel amazing at the end of a couple of hours of spearfishing just because you’re looking at beautiful coral and seeing amazing nature and scenery and swimming with the fish that swim up to you because you’re not in your foreign-looking scuba diving gear.
And then when you do see a fish, let’s say you see a big group or that you want to go after, it’s not like you’re on the edge of the shore like blindly throwing the hook in hoping that that fish is the one that bites. You just go and hunt that fish, which is amazing. You hunt it, you get it, you bring it to the surface or you put it on your stringer and then go home and have a fish cooked.
Yeah. For me, it’s just way, way better than regular fishing. But let’s get into the physiology here. Can you talk to me specifically–let’s start off with the mammalian dive reflex? What is that and why would we want to activate that?
Ted: The mammalian dive reflex is it’s genetically coded in every human being on the planet. Dolphins, seals and whales are mammals. We, as human beings, are mammals. So, dolphins, seals and whales are full-time residents of the water. We are part-time residents of the water. So, dolphins, seals and whales, one of the reasons they can dive so incredibly deep and do all these things that they can do is because they have something called the mammalian dive reflex, and it’s absolutely something that we have, too. One of the things that I or other instructors will do in a freediving class is the reason that we can get anyone to hold their breath for two to three minutes is I know how to reach into the body, press the button, turn the knobs, adjust the dials to your actual freediving physiology and make that dive reflex come out.
Now, everyone has the dive reflex but it’s considered like–it’s graded, right? My dive reflex is much stronger than yours because I dive all the time, yet you compare me to a world record freediver, their dive reflex is going to be much stronger than mine. Now, the reflex itself is composed of several components. And so, I’ll go through those. One of them is bradycardia, which is just a fancy name for rapid onset of the lowering of the heart rate. You’ll see the heart rate drop upwards of 50% as soon as the body has a contraction. The contraction is happening. You’re holding your breath for a certain amount of time, your body is going to say, “Hey, maybe you should take a breath,” and it’s going to trigger contractions.
Contractions feel like, if you’ve never had one, it’s like a hiccup. If you hold your breath long enough, you’ll have one. It’s actually the body trying to draw that–make you take a breath, but we as freedivers are going to say, “No, not quite yet.” Now, that contraction is going to be obviously trying to make you take a breath. So, one of the things that the body does is now that it realizes that you’re not going to breathe, it’s going to say, “Hey, let’s lower the demand of oxygen.” So, it actually drops that heart rate up to 50 beats to try to beat more oxygen, conserve the oxygen. That’s a very helpful part of the dive reflex.
There are several other components. One of the things that happen is the blood vessels in the fingers and the toes will constrict, and the idea is this trying to push all the blood to our core where we need it; heart, lung and brains. That’s also why we get the pee reflex. Freedivers and scuba divers are probably familiar with the fact that as soon as they get in the water, they feel like they have to pee. Now, it’s even stronger among freedivers.
Ben: So, that’s what’s going on.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, it happens even when you’re just cold in general. What’s happening is your peripheral organs or your peripheral extremities are constricting, and when that happens, it actually–does it cause like a vasodilation of the vessels leading into the areas responsible for urination or how exactly is that working?
Ted: Well, it’s pushing all of the fluid from the blood vessels that are shrinking are coming into the core. And then at that point, they’re going, “Hey, there’s too much fluid in here. We got to get rid of that.” And that’s going to trigger that urge to pee.
Ted: And it’s definitely stronger with freedivers than the scuba divers. You still get it both ways but the breath-holding has access–does it as well. So, for me, if I do a deep dive, like let’s say I’m teaching a class and I’m doing 100 plus foot dive, almost every time I come up, I’ll have urge to go to the bathroom. It was just tiny but it’s like almost every time.
Ted: That depth exacerbates it more.
Ben: Me too. Me too. Now, I’ve talked a lot in the show before about the vagus nerve and the importance of vagal nerve tone to have a healthy nervous system response, healthy feedback to the heart, healthy balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. A lot of people track heart rate variability. Now, high heart rate variability is a good sign you’re recovered, that your nervous system is ready to train or ready for stress. And in many people who have poor vagal nerve function, one of the main reasons their HRV is low is because of that poor vagal nerve function.
Now, from what I understand, when we activate them a million-dive reflex, we somehow trigger that vagus nerve to become more tone because that’s what’s produced now bradycardia, that lowering of the heart rate that you talked about. Now, when it comes to things like heart rate variability or the vagus nerve, have you looked into that or tracked that at all yourself?
Ted: That’s really something that I don’t–I mean, I know all that you’re saying is true but it’s not something that I have a lot of area of expertise on. Certainly, freedivers, we talk about that. I know those things happen when we’re holding our breath, but it’s not something I’ve done a lot of research into.
Ben: Yeah. It’d be fascinating to see a study of freedivers and heart rate variability because I’d guess theirs is profoundly higher than the general population. I mean, people who do like Wim Hof breathing, which I want to ask you about here in a bit.
Ben: Breath-holding get that, but I think once you add in that cold-water exposure, getting the face under which you don’t get in like a cryotherapy chamber, you’ve got to get into the water, you see that improvement in vagal nerve tone that I think is very impressive.
Ted: It would be interesting to see if I could get some of my competitor freediver friends during our competition where they’re going to be going through this a lot, as more and more of them have the ability to track–it’s a lot easier to track that now than it used to be.
Ted: That would be something interesting. I would reach out to those guys and see what happens.
Ted: So, if I can do that, I will let you interpret the results [00:18:24] ______.
Ben: Yeah, it would be very interesting. We just get them an Oura Ring, which is the ring that will–well, you know what? The Oura Ring tracks it during sleep. It wouldn’t track it during the actual dive. We could see what’s happening during a night of sleep afterwards. The other way to do it would be the WHOOP wristband would do it. That’s one that could track it in real time. They could put on this wristband during their dives and I’m pretty sure that’s water resistant to 100 meters or so. So, that’s about as deep as most of the folks are going to be.
Now, what about the spleen? There was a research study, it’s a relatively new research study but it looked at what happens when just dry land, not even in the water, you hold your breath. In this study, they did five maximal apneas, like five maximal breath-holds without being in the water. And what they noted in these folks was an improvement in terms of red blood cell production and blood flow in and out of the spleen. So, what’s the connection between the spleen and breath-holding and the spleen and diving?
Ted: Yes. That is another part of that mammalian dive reflex. So, you’ve got bradycardia, you’ve got the blood shunting, and then the spleen contraction. I had first heard of that probably maybe 15 years ago. They had done some–they had a performance freediving, had done some studies and saw that. The first thing they did was they put Tanya Streeter in a hyperbaric chamber which simulates going to depth. They measured, I believe it was a 20% decrease in volume of the spleen, and they also measured increase in other hematocrit. So, the spleen is a reservoir for red blood cells, it’s like the hospital so when that thing compresses, it’s shooting more red blood cells in the system, increasing your oxygen carrying capacity.
So, then the researcher said, “Oh, it’s not because of breath-holding. It was just because of the pressure of being in the hyperbaric chamber that did it.” Then later, they did an experiment with Mandy Cruickshank where she literally just laid down on the table and held her breath. And just holding her breath on dry land compresses the spleen. So, the idea is this is another reflex that’s designed to increase our ability to hold our breath because, in essence, this is legal blood doping, is what it is. This is increasing that hematocrit levels so that now the body can be better, can transport and store more oxygen.
One of the things I’ve always laughed about is when I talk about this in the program, in the intermediate course, I get into the spleen and the contractions and all this sort of stuff, is I always envisioned, “One of these days, you’re going to turn on the Olympics and you’re going to see this sprinter and he’s going to have a little Immersion logo on his uniform and he’s going to be doing his warm-up just like everyone else except he’s going to be holding his breath.” Why? Because he’s trying to trigger that splenic contraction. He’s then going to win the gold medal. And then when they drug test him, they’re going to be, “Yeah, your hematocrit level is way too high,” and they’re going to test all his blood and there’s going to be nothing in it and then they’re going to be like, “We don’t know what happened.” Because it’s legal blood doping.
Ted: Now, what we don’t know, and I would be interested to find out maybe listeners or you or whatever, is we know that in elite athletes, just the aspect of holding your breath is going to induce a splenic contraction. I can guarantee you if one of your listeners holds your breath; their spleen isn’t going to contract because the body is going to be going, “What in the heck are you doing? You need to breathe.” Whereas in an elite athlete, they’re doing this all the time, so one of the things that happen is the more that you freedive, your body starts to work for you. It starts to do all these things to help you do better.
One of the reasons I can do what I do is because my dive reflex is strong, whereas if I’ve got a brand-new student, their body is going, “Why aren’t you breathing anymore?” That’s what I mean by it’s a [00:22:31] ______. The more that you do it, the stronger that dive reflex becomes and it allows you to perform better as a freediver.
Ben: Yeah, but before I bought that book by James Nestor called “Deep” that I was talking about earlier, what it got me interested in the first place was, I believe it was an article James wrote. It was like New York Times or Wall Street Journal or one of these accessible websites that you can read news articles on. He wrote about how Olympic athletes were actually getting into freediving as a way to enhance performance, particularly, because of the red blood cell production or the “blood doping” or the “legal blood doping” that you were just alluding to. And just so you, the listener, understand what’s going on here–there’s a long time. My background is in exercise physiology, and physiologists long believe that the spleen was like this redundant organ that shared the liver’s function of destroying old red blood cells in the liver, and it actually has this secondary function because huge volumes of blood circulate through it so it acts as like this reservoir of blood. And when you compress it, you get this big release of red blood cells.
I mean, there are other things that they could do that, like we know that getting into the sauna after a workout when you’re already hot, that doesn’t compress the spleen but it does increase your red blood cell production and your erythropoietin production. You could, and I do this sometimes, I’ll do breathe holds in the sauna to double up on that effect and get my spleen to jump into the game, too. But it still doesn’t really match what you get once you introduce the compression that occurs when you’re actually in the water and diving the depth.
Would you say there are any other benefits besides the spleen, the mammalian dive reflex, the vagus nerve, and just the freaking enjoyment that comes out of being in the water?
Ted: I mean, it’s just overall wellbeing. You talk to people that freedive and they get all starry-eyed and they’re just like, “Oh, it’s just amazing. You’d be down there.” It’s just completely–when you’re not a freediver, you’re like, “How can being underwater and drowning and suffocating be relaxing?” Well, when you do it right, you don’t feel like you’re drowning. You’re completely relaxed, you’re weightless. It’s not like anything else I’ve certainly ever done and you talk to people that do it and they all swear by it.
Ben: Yeah. I guess the only other thing to consider here would be for people who like to exercise to lose weight or to burn calories, when you combine the cold with the rigors of diving down and coming back up and diving down and coming back up, and then if you’re spearfishing, you combine that with the resistance training aspect of having to pull the big elastic band on that roller. Basically, what you’re doing is exercise in a giant liquid cryotherapy chamber. Have you ever seen any studies or anything looks like how many calories you would burn per hour doing something like freediving?
Ted: I heard or saw some study but that was like seven, eight years ago and it seemed very anecdotal, but I think it was categorized in spearfishing but it was in this report that I saw, it was one of the highest ones. But I will tell you, it is exhausting. Of all the workouts that I do when I teach a class, I come home and I’m exhausted.
Ben: Oh, man.
Ted: Three hours diving up and down that line exactly because you not only have the work, I’m doing all the dives, your body is trying to generate your body heat to keep that up.
Ted: It’s very challenging.
Ben: Dude, I just found the study. It is 11–I’m sorry, 1,120 calories per hour that you burn freediving. I mean, to put that into context, playing basketball is 400 calories an hour, dancing is 200 calories an hour, the steeplechase is 700 calories, hunting which I love to do like bowhunting, that’s 175 calories per hour. Even boxing in the ring during a boxing match is 840 calories per hour. So, freediving is like basically–I’m looking at this list, the only thing close to it is people who are racing like running races and are doing their 5Ks and somewhere in the range 14 to 16 minutes like that matches freediving. That’s nuts.
Ted: Yeah, freediving.
Ben: That’s crazy.
Ted: Yeah. I wonder if you know. So, I understand that, 1, being in the water, your body generates a lot of energy to try to keep the temperature normal. That does a lot of work. But I guess what I don’t understand, if you have any insight on, is how does the breath-holding part of it–I mean, it certainly seemed reasonable but it makes it more difficult, but I’m not sure how that translates into a calorie burn.
Ben: I don’t think the breath-hold would translate into a calorie burn aside from a shift in metabolic efficiency like when oxygen is not present–and this is actually in relation to the ketogenic diet component of this which is very interesting. When oxygen is not present, you can tend to shift towards a little bit more glycolysis while you’re in the water. And when you do that, you can increase what’s called the glycogen sparing effect, meaning that once you’re done with the dive, your body actually becomes very efficient at sparing carbohydrates, particularly via what’s called beta-oxidation or burning of fats, and also the production of ketones to allow you–ketones are the primary source of fuel for the diaphragm, for the liver, for the heart, and for the brain.
One could argue that those are used just as much as the muscles during freediving. And so not only would you increase your fat burning capacity once you’re done with the diving, but also this would go to say–and there’s anecdotal evidence from guys like Dominic D’agostino who is able to double his breath-hold time from–he did it from two to four minutes. He didn’t do any training. All he did was shift himself into ketosis.
I don’t know if you remember, but when I went down to Immersion Freediving and took your course, I took those ketone supplements. I experiment for my breath-hold with and without ketone supplements, and I had like a 40 to 50 seconds increase in breath-hold time, not even like shifting to a high-fat diet or changing my diet dramatically but just by using ketones. And so not only are you enhancing your body’s own ability to use ketones but one could argue, and again I’ve seen long-term studies on this, that if you were to supplement with ketones or be on a ketogenic diet, you could actually increase your breath-hold via that method as well.
Ted: Yeah. That’s interesting. I’m curious if any other elite divers are playing around with that.
Ben: I’m sure we’ll get some divers listening in. So, if you do diving and listening and you’ve experimented with ketosis, leave a comment over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/freedivingpodcast.
In the absence of ketones though, what are some other ways that we can take bigger breaths or hold our breaths for a longer period of time? What are your ninja secrets for getting a longer breath hold time?
Ted: It is a couple of things. First off, one way is just take down–if you want to increase your breath-hold, whether you’re a freediver, spearfisherman, and [00:30:23] ______ or whatever you do underwater, you take down more fuel. So, simply taking a bigger breath. Now the average person, if they take a breath, it’s all from the chest. You probably remember from the class, we’re doing this thing where you do diaphragm, then chest, then shoulders, then neck, right? Your lungs are basically trapped inside of a cage, the rib cage. And everyone says, “Oh, my lungs aren’t that big.” Well, it’s not really your lungs that determine how big a breath you take; it’s the flexibility of that rib cage. So, when I teach my students to take a breath, I teach in a very specific manner and it’s designed to increase the size of that cage. So, if I could somehow mechanically grab your rib cage and pull it apart so it was doubled in size, your lungs could fill that up. It’s not the lungs that are limiting you, it’s the cage.
One, learning to take a bigger breath just by using the diaphragm, chest, shoulders will make a huge difference. Typically, about 20% to 30% is what my students will do. It’s hard to demonstrate that over the podcast but I do have a free course specifically on how to take 20% to 30% bigger breath. So, absolutely on that. One thing is, you want to hold your breath longer? Take a bigger breath.
Ben: By the way, for taking a bigger breath, is that that strategy that you talk about where–and I know you have a whole course on this that I’ll link to on the podcast show notes but in a nutshell, the quick 20-second overview, you’re basically starting by breathing in from your diaphragm and then you continue that breath going up to your chest, and then you continue that breath up into the shoulders, and then you look up towards the sky, and just like you’re sipping through a straw to suck the rest of the breath in. Is that the technique you’re referring to?
Ted: Yeah, yeah. Diaphragm, chest, shoulders. Doing that just big, big, big breath. That definitely makes a huge difference. I have students who have been freediving, who’s been spearfishing for 20, 30 years and they always look bug-eyed afterwards, “That’s the biggest breath I’ve ever taken.” Like, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. And you can do it while you’re–I mean, you taught me how to do this while you’re essentially prone in the water, looking down, floating in your wetsuit, all you do is you–and you have a snorkel in. By the way, for those of you who don’t know, you do wear a snorkel when you freedive so you’re able to breathe as you’re looking down into the water at the fish or the line you’re going to travel down if you’re freediving. You can actually do that whole scenario if you think about it while you’re prone in the water and at the very end of the breath, you’re on your stomach but you just shove your head forward and suck, suck, suck some more, right?
Ted: Yeah. That’s how it works. I always tell people, competitive freediving is–spearfishing and recreational freediving are not the same as competitive freediving. People tend to want to blow off competitive freedivers as this weird little subset and my point is like, “Look, competitive freedivers, we know how to dive really deep, we know how to stay down a really long time.” You should be very interested in how we do that. And competitive freedivers, they have very specific training methodologies they go through that allow them to do that. So, it definitely makes sense. It doesn’t mean you want to be a better freediver but if you want to improve your performance as a freediver, you should do all the things competitive freedivers do because it works.
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What about the use of apnea, like static apnea tables? I’m going to link to some CO2 and O2 apnea tables in the show notes, but a lot of people don’t know what those are. Can you explain what an apnea table is and what the difference would be between CO2 and O2 apnea?
Ted: Yeah. I’ll explain what the tables are and I’m going to explain what, in my opinion, is the most time effective and efficient way to do this. Now, so a table is–you hang out with freedivers, they talk about doing tables. Table simply means you’re doing a series of breath-holds. Oftentimes, it’s eight breath-holds in a row. A table basically has two variables. It tells you how long you get to breathe up for, and then it tells you how long you breathe for.
Let’s look at a CO2 table. Well, the reason we do tables as freediving, we have to basically deal with two issues. We have to learn to tolerate low levels of oxygen because as we hold our breath, our oxygen level drops. When we consume that oxygen, CO2 is one of the waste products that’s created. When we exhale, we’re exhaling out that carbon dioxide. So, as our oxygen level drops, CO2 level is rising. We have to tolerate high levels of CO2 and low levels of oxygen.
So, a carbon dioxide table might say something like this. You breathe up for two minutes and then you hold your breath for two minutes. And then the next one, you breathe up for a minute and 45 and you hold your breath for two minutes, then you breathe up for a minute and 30, hold for two. A minute and 15, hold for two. A minute, hold for two. You’re getting less and less time and at the end, you could only breathe up for 15 seconds, hold your breath for two minutes, repeat it again. Fifteen seconds, breath up, hold for two. What’s happening is you’re only holding your breath for two minutes every time, but because you’re getting less and less time to breathe up, your carbon dioxide level is getting–your breath-hold starts with more CO2. So, therefore, at the end of the breath-hold, you’re going to have even more CO2.
That is your typical CO2 table. That was the way I was taught to do it, that’s the way I did it, but I have definitely found I think a much better way. I certainly didn’t create this. I first heard about it. It’s called the Wonka table. I believe it was from Freedive Paradise but that might not be exactly correct.
Ben: Why’d you call it Wonka table?
Ted: Well, Richard Wonka is the guy that invented it.
Ben: Not Willy?
Ted: It’s what I do and it’s what I teach all my students to do. There’s an inherent problem with the traditional CO2 table, and it’s as follows. If you remember I said the very last two, I said you breathe up for 15 seconds and then you hold your breath for two minutes, and then you breathe up for 15 seconds again and you hold your breath for two minutes. Now, if you have 15 seconds to breathe between two 2-minute breath-holds, there is only one possible way you can do that and you’re going to be breathing like this–
Ted: As fast as you can. You are going to be hyperventilating your head off. The table is designed so there’s no other way for you to pass it than to hyperventilate. Now, hyperventilation dumps your CO2, drops your CO2 level more than any possible way of breathing out there. And let’s think back. What is the point of a CO2 table? It is supposed to teach you to tolerate high levels of CO2. Well, if that’s what it’s trying to do, why would it force you to breathe in such a way that dumps as much CO2 as humanly possible in that amount of time? In my opinion, those two things are counterintuitive. They don’t go together.
Ted: Right? Because you’re lowering your CO2 as much as possible right before you hold your breath and you’re trying to get high CO2. So, here’s the better way. Let’s walk through this. Imagine I was going to do two–let’s call it two minutes is what we’re doing, two-minute breath-hold. Beforehand, I’m going to take five breaths; one, two, three, four, five. And then I’m going to hold my breath for two minutes. But you know what? I’d like a little bit more CO2. I want to start with more CO2. So, instead of five breaths, do you understand if I took four breaths instead of five, I would start with a little bit more carbon dioxide because I had less time to get rid of it?
Ted: Well, if I wanted more than four, I could do three. And if I want more than that, I could do two. You want to get the most amount of CO2 possible? You’re only allowed one breath between the two breath-holds. There’s no way possible that you’re going to have more CO2 stored in your system than if you only take one breath in between the breaths. Okay? Here’s how this works. Now, this sounds crazy, but I can–me and entry-level students can do this because here’s all I’m asking, and this is the way that I teach them to do it. All you need is a stopwatch. You don’t need an app. You don’t need to log on anywhere. It’s very simple.
Ted: You’re going to sit on a couch.
Ben: And what you’re about to teach us is basically this Wonka table?
Ted: Yeah, yeah.
Ted: CO2 table, Wonka table. You’re going to sit on a couch. Do this on dry land and not on the water and no risk of–so you may do this on dry land. You’re going to hold your breath. At some point, it’s going to be uncomfortable and you’re going to feel a contraction. I don’t care if that takes you 20 seconds. I don’t care if maybe you already got some freediving experience that might go for two minutes. It doesn’t matter what is. I don’t care. But as soon as you feel that contraction, that first hiccup, that first contraction, it’s now becoming difficult. And so, you’re going to start your stopwatch, and you’re going to only deal with that uncomfortableness for 15 seconds.
Ben: Fifteen seconds?
Ted: Anyone can do that.
Ted: At the end of the 15 seconds, you’re going to take one breath and you’re going to do it very specifically like this. You’re going to do a slow inhale using your teeth and tongue to make that sound as you exhale. So, you’re going to go–
Ben: That’s the exhale.
Ted: And then big breath, and hold again. At some point, I don’t care if it’s 15 seconds or 2 minutes, it’s going to become difficult. What are you going to feel? Contraction. You feel that contraction, start your stopwatch and you do 15 seconds. By the way, this is going to trigger–when you do that exhalation, you are going to get a massive urge to go to the bathroom. So, if you have not gone to the bathroom before you start this, you will not be able to finish this. So, do yourself a favor, go to the bathroom before you start, then you’re good to go unless you’re going to quit. Now, the goal is when I do these–let’s say I do six. And if I’m feeling saucy, feeling good, maybe I’ll do eight. But if I can do six, I’ll still pat myself in the shoulder and say, it was a good job.
Now, what’s great about this is it’s only 15 seconds. When you took your class with me, I assure you, when you were doing statics in the pool, you went through way more than 15 seconds of uncomfortableness, right?
Ted: You’ll do probably minutes, minutes with an S on it when you’re like, “Good Lord, I want to breathe.” So, anyone can accomplish what I just laid out. And the idea is if it’s super easy for you, awesome. Do 20 seconds, do 30. You’re just moving that number and just making it bigger based on your ability level.
Now, the other thing I like about the CO2 table is when I used to do your traditional training, some of those tables would take me an hour and 15 minutes.
Ted: You can do this in 10 minutes. Basically, you’re skipping all the point where it’s easy and you’re just getting right at the point of where it sucks.
Ben: Yeah. No. The last time I talked to you, you said that you’re doing some of this stuff while you were exercising, like walking or light jogging. Is this something you can do, say if you’re out on a walk or is there too much risk of hypoxia and passing out?
Ted: No, you’re doing this right on the couch.
Ted: You’re not doing anything else. Now, you can incorporate breath-holding into, in essence, any exercise. For instance, when I was really into competitive freediving and trying to train, one of the things that I noticed is I was stuck at about 200 feet for maybe a year and a half because I couldn’t equalize any deeper because that kind of depth equalizing is very complicated. And eventually, I worked through that and then I started doing 65, 70 meters, and then my limit became my legs. The lactic acid because I’m doing dives for let’s say the last two–that’s two and a half minutes that I have no access to–no other options than what I took down and that you’re generating a lot of lactic acid.
One of the things that was my weakness was my legs couldn’t do it anymore. They were done. So, I would do lactic tolerance training or I’m doing almost any typical breath exercise you would do at the gym except I do super lightweight and I’ll hold my breath for 30 seconds, and that’s as many as I can, as fast as I can for 30 seconds trying to get that extreme lactic build up. So, I would do a lot of stuff with my quads and it’s brutal because you’re not breathing. You get a lot of funny looks at the gym. I would definitely–anytime you breath-hold and stop, there is a risk of blacking out. So, I would always try to do these on seated equipment. Right?
Ben: Okay. Yeah.
Ted: So, I’m sitting down in some way because in most of the gyms, they’re going to have places where you can do that, right?
Ted: I’ve heard some nice stories from people on treadmills doing this. You can imagine that can go really bad. If you [00:46:39] ______ and do it, recumbent bike is the better option.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Ted: I would do things that the–I’d do apnea walks and jog. I incorporate a lot of that stuff but basically, my world is–I don’t have access to oxygen so if I want to train as–why am I breathing while I’m training?
Ted: Trying to get it as close to the world I operate in as possible.
Ben: Yeah. I’m a big fan of books like Patrick McKeown’s “Oxygen Advantage,” or there’s another one by Anders Olsson. I forget the name of his book. It’s “The Power of Your Breath,” I think is the name of it. And these guys go into the value of training yourself how to engage primarily in nasal breathing even up to relatively intense periods of exercise because that enhances oxygenation, humidifies the air, warms the air that you’re breathing in and keeps you from activating those baroreceptors in your chest that can tend to cause like a sympathetic nervous system cortisol response.
And so, a lot of times, what all do is I’ll go on a walk and I’ll have certain periods where I hold my breath for as long as possible, but the entire walk is breathing through my nose. And even the recoveries after my breath-hold are through my nose. I find that that alone, just going on those long walks seems to do a really good job with my breath-hold time, even the absence of regular apnea breath-hold practice. But I need to try these Wonka tables that you’re talking about now. Maybe I’ll make that part of a sauna session or something like, but that’s very interesting. I hadn’t heard of these tables before.
Ted: Yeah. It’s effective. It’s time efficient. I always tell people in the class, is whenever you see me clap my hands, I get really excited about something and say, “This is going to be awesome.” Eventually, you learn that when I do that, I’m about to do something–you’re about to do something awful. These Wonka tables, they’re awesome. They are awesome.
Ben: Yeah. Now, what about when you’re actually in the water? Let’s say somebody is out there in the water. They either want to dive deep or they’re spearfishing and they want to go down after a fish, maybe it’s–let’s say someone is used to being able to go 12 to 15 feet deep and they want to now go like, let’s just say 15 to 30 feet deep. Now, when they’re there on the surface of the water looking down on their stomach, in addition to that breath that we’re talking about where you start from your diaphragm and move your way up all the way up to your shoulders and suck in every last bit of oxygen, is there any type of breathwork that you can do in between dives or in between going down to fish that allows you to prepare for that dive in a manner that would allow you to hold your breath for a longer period of time, like is there a frequency? Like how many seconds in, how many seconds out or anything like that?
Ted: Yes. I would say the most important thing is when you–every freediving instructor is going to teach you a different way. Some instructors, they’ll teach you–argue that, “Oh, it should be this way and this way is better than that way.” And I’ll be honest, I don’t think there really any way is that much different than any other way as long as you’re doing one thing, any freediving instructor is going to teach you diaphragmatic breathing. So, that’s absolutely what we want to be doing. And the other way to put it is you want to be conscious on how you breathe. The average person hasn’t taken any training, freediver, spearfisherman, they’re just breathing, however, they think they need to breathe. And I’m going to tell you that diaphragmatic breathing is going to be a huge improvement over that.
So, the idea is when I say diaphragmatic breathing, you want to–when you’re breathing in and out, if you’re going to put your hand on your chest and your hand on your stomach, the only thing you should feel moving is your stomach goes out and your stomach goes in. Your chest should be absolutely motionless. When I have students try this in class, no one can do this at first because we all are chest breathers. I mean, every infant is–you will look at an infant on their back and watch how they breathe, their belly goes up and down. They didn’t have to take a yoga class or a freediving class to learn diaphragmatic breathing. That’s just the way we are. As we get older for societal pressures, we are taught to never stick your stomach out. In fact, you’re supposed to walk around your stomach sucked in all the time so we lose that natural ability of diaphragmatic breathing.
But if you can teach yourself to do diaphragmatic breathing, the way you test is hand on your chest and hand on your stomach. You want to do a slow inhalation a couple of seconds, take a good breath and then just exhale. I like teeth and tongue to make this sound–so that I’m regulating how much air comes out.
Ben: And you can still do that with a snorkel in your mouth.
Ted: Snorkel. Yeah, absolutely.
Ted: Snorkels in the mouth, teeth and tongue. I make that exact same sound and you just exhale to what’s comfortable, if it’s 5 seconds, 10 seconds, whatever. The main thing is to do where it’s comfortable. But what we’re doing is we are on purpose slowing our breathing down that’s going to slow our heart rate down. I can, when I’m out freediving, whatever I’m doing, I can 99% of the time breath like that. Now, can I sprint around like that? No, but if you’re doing things right, you shouldn’t be doing that because the more you raise your heart rate, the more you lower your bottom time. I’m breathing like that the entire time. I’m out there on the surface the whole time, slow, relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing just like what you would do at a yoga class. You walk out of a yoga class and you’re like, “Oh, my God, I feel so relaxed.” Why? Because you did diaphragmatic breathing for 15 minutes. That’s why you feel good.
Ben: Do you have a certain period of time where you’re doing the inhale and the exhale? Is it 5 seconds in, 10 seconds out or have rules like that?
Ted: It doesn’t matter. I mean, I typically do 2 seconds in, 10 seconds out, but what’s more–
Ben: Two in, 10 out.
Ted: Yeah. But what’s more important than the numbers is that it’s whatever is comfortable for you and that you are controlling your breathing instead of not thinking about it. Because if you’re not thinking about it, you’re going to be–having the tendency to breath more like that, which is going to increase the heart rate and just not be relaxing.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Now, what about when it comes to the idea of getting down to that depth that you want to get to? A lot of people do, and this is what many of us are taught when we’re in the pool when we’re kids or whatever and we figure this out on our own, this whole Valsalva maneuver where you just plug your nose and go–trying to equalize that way. Why doesn’t that work when you get–I mean, for me once I get to about 15 feet or so, that doesn’t work. So, why doesn’t that work and what should we be doing instead?
Ted: Yeah. Valsalva is the way most people are taught to equalize. I, as a scuba instructor, that’s the way I teach people to equalize and it’s very simple. The reason scuba instructors do it is, one, they don’t really understand the difference between Valsalva and Frenzel and it’s very simple to teach. I’ve got a 12-year-old kid in a scuba class and I’m like, “Hey, little Johnny. Can you equalize your ears?” “Uh-huh.” “Okay. Can you pinch your nose, Johnny?” “Uh-huh.” “Now, blow your nose real hard.” He’s like, “Oh, my ears.” Exactly, right?
Ted: It’s called the pinch and blow method. You pinch your nose and you blow your nose, that equalizes your ears. Now, here’s where things get confusing, especially because we get a lot of scuba divers take the class. If you use Valsalva as a scuba diver, you can scuba dive to 200 feet using that. It’ll work fine. We run into issues–I’ve had scuba instructors take my class and get stuck at 15 feet. I’m trying to explain to them, “Look, man, you need to be doing Frenzel.” And they’re like, “Yeah, Ted. I’m a scuba instructor. I can breathe through my ears just fine,” and then they get stuck at 15 feet and they’re like, “Alright, what is this whole Frenzel thing?”
There’s another method of equalization called Frenzel that as freedivers, we have to be doing. Valsalva will typically stop working for a freediver around 50 or 30 feet–I mean, 15 to 30 feet.
Ted: Now, you’ll see people go, “I can do Valsalva down to 50 feet.” Yeah, but they don’t dive down straight like a laser. They dive at a 45-degree angle and then every time they equalize, they have to turn their head up until their head’s at the surface then they can equalize and they turn back down. What a terribly inefficient way to get down to depth. If you want to go down straight like a laser just boom, boom, boom, pinch your nose and equalize every time, you have to be doing Frenzel.
Now, I’ll answer your question. Why doesn’t Valsalva work? Here’s why. When you’re doing a Valsalva–like imagine a scuba diver. So, scuba diver, when they go down to depths, typically they’re head up feet down. That’s the way that they go down. So, their head’s facing the surface. Every time you take a breath off your regulator as a scuba diver, your lungs are fully inflated. When your head is facing the surface, the air naturally wants to go to your ears because air rises. So, when you’re scuba diving, you’re in this position where your head up, the air naturally wants to go that way and so it’s very simple to equalize your ears. Now, as a freediver, we turn around. Now, our feet are facing the surface and our head is towards the bottom. So, when we started diving down, the air wants to go to our fins but we want it down here by our head. And what’s happening to the supply of air as we go down? It’s shrinking, shrinking, shrinking, shrinking.
That’s why Valsalva doesn’t work. It’s squeezing the air. It’s squeezing and ever and ever-shrinking supply of air and trying to push it the way it doesn’t want to go. And that’s why it typically doesn’t work ’til around 15, 30 feet. If I remember in your class, in the beginning, you were doing Valsalva and you were stuck right at that depth. It didn’t matter how hard you pushed, didn’t matter what you did, you’re just stuck, right?
Ted: Freedivers need to be doing what’s called the Frenzel method of equalization. Valsalva takes the air that’s in your lungs, your throat is open, you’re compressing your chest and lung and stomach and you’re pushing that air into your ears. You can tell if you’re doing Valsalva very simply. Put your hand on your stomach, pinch your nose, equalize five times in a row. Boom, boom, boom. If you feel your chest compressing every time you’re doing that, you’re doing Valsalva. Frenzel, completely different animal. Frenzel takes the air that’s in your mouth and shoves it directly into your ears, and your throat is shut so your lungs are not involved or whatsoever and you’re doing this whole thing. They always say use your tongue as a piston and push the air into the Eustachian tubes. So, Frenzel doesn’t have that depth limitation.
Ben: By the way, that’s F-R-E-N-Z-E-L, right?
Ted: Yeah. And so that’s the method that freedivers have to do. It’s tricky to teach.
Ben: When I interrupted you, you were beginning to say how Frenzel would differ from Valsalva.
Ted: Well, yes. I mean, Frenzel, it takes the air that’s in your mouth as opposed to the air that’s in your lungs and you’re using your tongue to push that air into the Eustachian tube instead of compressing your chest and stomach and shoving that air into the ears.
Ben: Okay. Alright. So, the way that you would actually learn the Frenzel technique, and I know that you have courses on this online, you do one-on-one Skype sessions with people like you did it with me leading up to that freediving course that I did with you, but what’s the basic overview of what the Frenzel would sound like or look like or be accomplished?
Ted: It’s very, very, very tricky to teach. That’s why you should spend an hour with every student on Skype. Now, as you know, I don’t do that anymore. They get the online program and I love it. They just walk in the door and they can do Frenzel. It makes my life so much easier. I don’t have to do another 500 hours of Skype sessions. But the simple explanation–and sometimes it works, sometimes literally, they take it up instantaneously. So, if you want to try that, put your tongue in the position like you would make the T sound–if you think about that, the tip of your tongue is on the back of your teeth. The sides of your tongue are down the molars.
Frenzel is you put your tongue in that position, and if you can imagine what that does, is that creates like a sandwich. The tongue is the bottom part of the sandwich, the bottom loaf of bread, and the middle is the air that’s trapped in between your tongue, and then the top slice of bread is the roof of your mouth. What you’re trying to do is you put your tongue in that position, you shut your throat, you pinch your nose, and you try to push your tongue up to the roof of the mouth. So, what that’s going to do is it’s going to compress that air that’s stuck in there and it’s going to try to make it come out your nose, but your nose is pinched so it can’t go out that way. That’s why you’ll see the nostrils flare and then it will go into the ears.
So, you can try it with what I call the T Block, doing it like that. Another way you can do it is what’s called the K Block, when you make the K sound. The middle of your tongue is on the roof of the mouth. So, again, the same thing. You can start to make the K sound where the middle of your tongue is on the roof of your mouth, but instead of making the K sound, you don’t let that air go forward. Right when the middle of your tongue hits the top of the roof your mouth, the back of your tongue pushes up while you pinch the nose. And you can do it that way. So, those are two ways that people do that is the T Block or the K Block. And some people who can just–I tell them that and they’re like, “What’s the big fuss?” Some people pick it up quite easily but what’s difficult is if you’re a life-long Valsalver, then that explanation probably isn’t going to cut it. It’s the people that have been doing it one way for a long time. It’s difficult to transition them over.
Ben: Yeah, especially when you’re stressed out and maybe have a speargun in your hand, you’re going after a fish, you have to make it almost like second nature. That’s what I’d found. Like I thought I had it nailed when I did dry land training and then once I got in the water and have all these other things going through my head, I just lost it. So, it takes a lot of practice to learn, but man, now that I know Frenzel, it’s easy, like you go down and you just do it.
Ted: You’ll never think about it. Once the light bulb goes off–like beforehand, it seems like, “Good Lord, there’s like 13 steps I have to do with my tongue. I’m not going to ever freedive. I can’t even do it sitting on the couch.” Then once the light bulb goes off, you’re never going to think about again.
Ben: Yeah. The best tip I can give to people is go do it in a pool first. Even if it’s just like your local YMCA pool or whatever, which might go down to 15 feet, you can at least play around with it without having to worry about the ocean and distractions and the cold. You just go down and practice it in the pool. And especially people who might be at the gym anyways, doing a lap swim session or lifting weights or whatever, that’s simple enough to just hop in the pool and do it. I find that that works far better than practicing on dry land because once you’re in the water, it’s a little bit different. It feels different and it works differently.
Now, I also want to ask you because this is obviously extremely popular, this whole idea of Wim Hof and Wim Hof breathwork where you do like a whole bunch of power breaths. Then after you’ve done like 30 power breaths, you breathe off as much oxygen as possible and you just hold your breath for as long as you can. I mean, it’s essentially almost like hyperventilating followed by a breath hold. What is your take on that for increasing breath hold time or doing like Wim Hof does, which is where you’ll do that and then you’ll get in cold water and sometimes go underwater and cold water?
Ted: Okay. I’ve heard about Wim Hof breathing. I’ve had other freediving instructors talk to me about it, and in essence, what it seemed like to me was you just hyperventilate your head off. And I did some Google and I saw I am teaching people to do it, and in essence, it’s a lot of hyperventilation before breath-hold. So, I don’t know anything about cold. I’m assuming it’s really good for that.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I mean the cold component, I think, is just that you’re inducing vasodilation through that power breathing. So, essentially, you’re actually shoving blood to your extremities that could allow you to withstand the stressors of cold a little bit more. But I’m interested in comparing and contrasting that breath-hold technique to your breath-hold technique.
Ted: Yeah, for sure. What I was getting at is as a cold person, maybe that’s great for cold. As a breath-holding tool, there’s any freediving instructor from any agency on any continent would tell you, you don’t want do that because hyperventilating before a breath-hold increases the risk for blackout. Now, most of his stuff he’s doing in dry land, as I understand it, but this is extremely dangerous.
Ben: Well, I think Wim himself–and he’s been a podcast guest a couple of times. I think he’s almost passed out like underwater, like under the ice doing this.
Ted: Yeah. So, I mean, as a freediving instructor, and this is not me, you ask any freediving instructor, they will tell you absolutely under no circumstance–I mean even freediving instructors that hate each other will say, “Don’t hyperventilate before breath-hold because it absolutely increases the risk of blackout.” That’s why every freediving agency teaches that. So, let me explain why that’s happening.
Now, hyperventilation, as I mentioned earlier on top of the CO2 tables, it drastically lowers your CO2. It makes it so that when you start that breath-hold, your CO2 is as low as possible. One of the biggest triggers for your urge to breathe is your carbon dioxide levels, right? Your physiologist will say 80% of your urge to breathe comes from rising carbon dioxide and 20% of it comes from low oxygen. So, hyperventilation has a pretty obvious advantage.
Since you start with lower carbon dioxide, it’s going to take longer for that CO2 level to get to where you have an urge to breathe or a contraction. So, if you have a breath-hold where you just hold your breath normally and you wait ’til you have a contraction, let’s call it two minutes, and then you go backwards in time and you hyperventilate a bunch, then you hold your breath again, now you might not get that contraction until 230 because you started with less carbon dioxide. So, hyperventilating absolutely delays your urge to breathe. I will not deny that it does that because it certainly does. This why so many beginners like me when I started, I remember freediving down to 20 foot of water and I’d stay there for like 20, 25 seconds and I felt like I was going to die and then my captain told me to hyperventilate. Then I went to that same spot, I could stay down there for like 45, 50 seconds because it’s delaying the onset of the urge to breath.
Now, here’s the other thing that it does that people don’t understand, and this is why every freediving instructor says don’t hyperventilate. Not only does it delay the urge to breathe, but it also physically reduces the amount of oxygen available to your body. This is a bad combination.
Ben: The Bohr. Can you get into the Bohr effect?
Ted: When we hold our breath, our blood is becoming more acidic. As our blood is becoming more acidic, that’s changing the pH levels of our blood. So, when we hyperventilate, what that does is it’s increasing the strength of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen. So, if I’m holding my breath, I’ve got all these hemoglobin molecules running around through my bloodstream, the hemoglobin molecule has little oxygen molecules attached to it. That’s how it transports the oxygen, and then it pops off the oxygen and gives it to the muscle tissue so I can use it. If the strength of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen is too high, that oxygen molecule can’t pop off and be used as fuel. So, it’s stuck to the hemoglobin. So, when we hyperventilate, it’s altering the pH levels of our blood and it doesn’t allow that oxygen to be used because it’s dropping the pH level before the breath-hold.
As the blood becomes more acidic, the strength between the hemoglobin and oxygen gets less and then we can actually use that oxygen because it’s shifting it so much the wrong way in the beginning, now at the end of the breath-hold, there’s still oxygen stuck on the hemoglobin that we can’t access. That’s why it’s limiting the amount of oxygen available to your body, but it’s confusing especially for beginners because they hyperventilate and they can instantly hold their breath longer. And then you get people saying, “Oh, yeah. Well, you just got to hyperventilate and it lets you access all the oxygen.” They say that because they’re holding their breath longer so it seems logical, but the facts are it’s not.
Ben: Yeah. Essentially, you have less oxygen available to the tissue but also a lowered urge to breathe, and that’s why when you’re doing the Wim Hof breathing, you can hold your breath for a longer period of time, but it’s also why you get the lightheadedness and the tingling and the potential for passing out. And I personally have found that when I jump into a cold pool–all right, I have cold bath protocols I do and I have some of my clients do this. Like one of our workouts we do is you get three minutes in the ice or a very cold bath but you precede that with Wim Hof breathing. You slip into that bath while you’re on your breath-hold. You’re not in deep water. You’re in a tub. You’re typically with someone. And in that tub full of water then you get out and you do another round of breathing to warm yourself back up, and sometimes a lot of people hit the bike for a few minutes then get back in the water. But I’ll never combine that with actually going underwater or deep water. I’m pretty remiss to even do the Wim Hof breathing with the breath-holds and be near water unless somebody else is there, even if it’s shallow water.
Ted: Yeah, it is. It absolutely increases the risk for blackout. Take a look at competitive freedivers. They do the exact opposite. So, basically, if you understand what I was getting at is the more acidic your blood gets, the lower the strength of bond between hemoglobin and oxygen, meaning oxygen is more accessible. Well, this seems like a good thing, right? If you look at like a competitive freediver world record holder, they’re saying, “Carbon dioxide is my friend. I want as much carbon dioxide in my blood as possible so that I can more quickly make that shift to where the oxygen becomes more readily accessible.” So, if you watch a competitive freediver breathing up, they might be doing what I would call minimal breathing where they’re breathing out–just like they’re sitting on the couch doing nothing. That’s the way they’re breathing because they want to keep every amount of carbon dioxide in their blood as possible so they can shift that way.
Now, thanks to the wonderful world of the internet. People will be like, “Oh, Ted. Well, why don’t you teach the way these top freediving world records do it? Why are you teaching different clearing methods that don’t work?” I said, “Are you a world record freediver?” “Well, no.” “Well, then you shouldn’t breath like one because what they do, they understand, they’re trying to get that extra little bit of advantage. They certainly get an advantage of doing that, but what happens? Because they start with more carbon dioxide, the contractions come way earlier. The dive becomes way more terrible, way more difficult of all these other things. Yeah, if you’re a world record freediver, your goal is to dive deep as humanly possible. You don’t care how terrible you feel because you’re going to train that out of it. But the average Joe–I mean, Ben, do you want your 80-foot dives to feel harder than they were?
Ted: Than what you did? Probably not.
Ben: It’s already hard as it was.
Ted: Exactly. People have access to information on the internet, and sometimes, they don’t understand how it’s most applicable.
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Ted: So, you want it middle ground, which is what I teach.
Ben: That was a gnarly adventure. When we’d got in the ocean, remember, like a tornado but we had sharks circling around us that you showed us how to point our–I think you were–we weren’t spearfishing. So, you have a gun but you had like some kind of a long pole or object in your hand and you showed us how you could point it out and the shark would go away. So, I burst one of my eardrums, still trying to learn Frenzel. So, I’m bleeding. I didn’t burst the eardrum but I was bleeding out my nose and I thought I’d killed off half my brain. And then we finally get in the boat to go back. We’re all shivering. We’re starved. We’ve gone through that rite of passage in the water and then this tornado blows in off the Fort Lauderdale Coast and we’re like racing in a boat to get back.
Ted: That was an unusual trip.
Ben: Yeah, but it was fun. I don’t want to scare people away but it was actually pretty cool. It made my other dives feel easy.
Ted: Well, I was just so ecstatic when you finally got Frenzel because the first two days, you’re stuck at 15 feet and I’m like–but I could tell you were that close to being like, “No, I’m not coming out the third day and I’m not coming.” And then the light bulb went off and boom, you got it.
Ben: Yeah. No. To nail 80 feet, it felt good. I can’t fish at 80 feet but it felt good to just be that deep in the water and know I’d been that deep. How about how freedivers exercise? I remember you showed us, and I’d love for you to get into this, like how you exercise the diaphragm. You have like the number one stretch that you recommend for freedivers, but are there any other things that–like in the freediving community that people have–because you’re very connected to that community, ways that people exercise or ways that people stretch any typical like gym routines. What’s the training protocol look like when you’re out of the water?
Ted: Well, you look at most competitive freedivers, they’re all going to be extremely fit. They’re athletes, so that’s not their–they do whatever they do to get fit. But competitive freedivers has this very weird thing. Certainly, because we’re athletes, you want to have a high VO2 max. It’s like almost any athlete would. Now, high VO2 max comes with hard training, which does watch our metabolism, raises it. As a freediver, do we want a high metabolism?
Ted: No. We want the lowest.
Ben: That was why you wouldn’t even let us drink a damn cup of coffee before we got up.
Ted: So, there’s that weird thing, and I’ll be honest, we don’t–I don’t know the perfect answer but the idea is so they might have–if you look at training progression leading up to a competition, there’s going to be some point where they’re going to be doing all your typical cardio, however they want to do it. And then as they’re getting closer and closer to the event, they’re going to be doing more apnea, more breath-holding work. And then towards the end, maybe the last two weeks, they turn into a sloth. All they’re going to do is hold their breath on the couch, or maybe do some workouts in the pool where they’re trying to lower that metabolism.
It is a very tricky thing to train at at a high level because I don’t know of any sport where that’s important where you have those two competing issues. The other thing that’s tricky about it is we don’t know the answer. Now, if you want to become the–if you’re a U.S. speed skater and you’re like top speed skater in high school, they just put you on some campus and there’s a whole program and there are doctors and there are researchers and they just–they know how to make the best speed skater. They just put you through the program. We as freedivers, there’s no money in the sport, so we don’t have all of that. Not only we don’t have that and what we’re trying to solve is incredibly complicated.
Ted: So, it’s tricky.
Ben: Is there any type of gym routine or any type of stretching routine or anything like that? Because you showed me that one stretch and I’m curious when people go to the gym, are they doing like high rep/low weight, low rep/high weight or any insight into that?
Ted: In most circumstances, you’re not going to see big, bulky freedivers, in most circumstances. There are some that are actually pretty built that do very well. [01:16:00] ______, he’s a big guy, right?
Ted: But most, kind of you jokingly talked about, the then mild-mannered freediver. You’re going to see a lot in that way. If you’re looking at the world record static guys that they’re doing the maximum breath-holds, they’re very extremely skinny. They’re going to be not eating. They’re going to be fasting to do everything they can to put their self in starvation mode. But as far as typical gym training, I don’t think there’s anything super special in particular to what they’re doing. Most of them are just–they want their good cardio and they’re not trying to bulk up on muscles.
Ben: So, it’s almost like cycling where a cyclist is going for a very good power to weight ratio and a lot of cyclists don’t do a lot of strength training for that reason, at least traditional hypertrophic strength training. But you could make an argument that you want low amounts of muscle mass but the muscle that you want would be like lean, wiry muscle that doesn’t take up a lot of space, but that’s very efficient metabolically.
Ted: And in the areas that you need it. Like if you’re doing constant weight of the ocean, you’re going to need some power in the quads to get yourself back up from 200, 300, 400 feet or whatever you’re coming from. I would say the biggest thing, the thing that they will all do is that idea of diaphragmatic stretching which is really, really critical. So, I can do a very quick exercise all your listeners can do to prove the power of that diaphragm.
Ted: Okay. So, all I’m going to ask them to do is just follow my instructions for just a bit. You only have to hold your breath for 15, 20 seconds maximum. I alluded to this earlier. Your physiologist will tell you that 80% of the urge to breath comes from high carbon dioxide levels and 20% comes from low oxygen levels. I always start with that story in the class and we’re going to pretend that physiologist is sitting in the back and he’s going to be doing the same exercise with us.
Here’s the exercise. We’re all going to do it together. You want to be sitting down. You want to make sure there’s space in front of you so if you bend down and put your head between your legs, you’re not going to bunk onto anything. Here’s the deal. You’re going to take a big breath.
Ben: Pull over the car.
Ted: Alright. So, biggest breath you can. Now, we’re going to exhale the air out. All of it. You’re going to bend over and push out every bit. Push, push, push, push. Now, you’re going to hold your breath, sit up, and we’re going to hold our breath for 10, maybe 15 seconds. Keep holding your breath if you can. If you’ve already breathed, that’s fine. Alright. Five, four, three, two, one, take a breath.
Ben: Oh, I got to pee. There comes the pee.
Ted: Right. So, if you guys did that, you’d probably say that was one of the worst feelings that you’ve ever felt, especially if you actually exhaled all the air out. If you didn’t exhale all the air out, do it again. I promise you, it’ll be terrible.
Now, let’s look at what just happened there. The physiologist will tell you 80% of the urge to breath comes from CO2 and 20% comes from low oxygen. Alright. And I’ve done this. I wrote an article in Spearing Magazine just recently, and it’s going to be coming out in a month, actually, in a couple of weeks, about this exact same thing. I used a pulse oximeter in the middle of that exercise. So, pulse oximeter measures my oxygen level in my blood. And when I did that exercise, it started at 98%, and when I was done, it was 98%. So, the oxygen level of my blood didn’t alter at all, which means that the urge to breathe didn’t come from oxygen, but we expected that because 20% comes from oxygen, 80% comes from carbon dioxide. So, it must be the carbon dioxide.
Let’s look at that. How is carbon dioxide created? It’s created by consuming oxygen. How long do we hold our breath for? Fifteen, 20 seconds. So, that means we created 15- or 20-seconds worth of carbon dioxide. The exact same amount of carbon dioxide was created in that exercise than if you just held your breath for 15 seconds normally where you would get no urge to breathe. So, this means the low oxygen level didn’t trigger the urge to breathe, and the high carbon dioxide didn’t trigger the urge to breathe because both of those are absolutely normal. So, now the physiologist in the back of the room is scratching his head like, “Well, why did I feel like I wanted to die?” It’s because I would say 80% urge to breathe comes from carbon dioxide, 20% comes from low oxygen, plus there are other factors. As a freediving instructor, I’ll put in that there are other factors, and that’s the diaphragm.
Your diaphragm, now unless you’re a freediver who trains or a competitive freediver, you have never exhaled all the air out and then sat there. Your diaphragm got stretched in the way that it has never been stretched before. So, in essence, as you exhale all that air out, your diaphragm–as your lungs shrink, your diaphragm gets sucked in to fill the void. So, your diaphragm is getting sucked in up, up, up and it’s a muscle just like your hamstring and it got stretched in a way that it has never been stretched before. So, what it did–if you stretch your hamstring too far, you’re going to get a signal that says back off. Quit bending forward, bend backwards to loosen that because the hamstring can’t take it.
When your diaphragm gets stretched too far, guess what it does? It says, “That’s too far.” So, how would that diaphragm go back to normal? If you took a breath. So, it’s triggering an urge to breathe to reset your diaphragm. So, that urge to breathe in this particular example had nothing to do with your oxygen levels, had nothing to do with your CO2 levels, was completely triggered by the inflexibility of your diaphragm. It’s the inflexibility of the diaphragm that’s causing that. That’s also why as a freediver if you have somebody who maybe have freediving experience, like my students, they’re freedivers already and I say, “Look, every student in my class has some depth where they go to and they feel fine. Maybe it’s 15 feet, maybe it’s 30, 40 feet. They get to the bottom, they feel no urge to breathe, they feel totally calm and relaxed. Every one of those students has a depth where you put 15 foot under that, 15 foot deeper, they get down there, they feel antsy, they feel uncomfortable. “I got to get out here. I can’t handle this. I don’t feel good.” But why is that happening?
It’s because when they went down deeper, their lungs got compressed more, their diaphragm got sucked into the point where “That’s too much. I’m not comfortable with that level of stretch.” and that why it triggers that urge to breathe. That’s why every competitive freediver on the planet stretches their diaphragm because it makes you more comfortable at depth. It helps [01:23:01] ______ and does a lot of stuff. That’s something that most people don’t understand. And I’m always talking to my typical student who’s a spearfisherman and they tend to want to poo poo on all this. They’re like, “Competitive freediving has nothing to do with spearfishing.” I’m like, “Look, we dive really deep. We stay down a really long time. You should learn exactly how we do that and then do it for what you’re doing.”
Ben: Yeah. Interesting. By the way, returning back to the piece about stretching the diaphragm. I think that one other thing people should consider would be in many cases, there are like fascial adhesions, there’s immobility in a lot of the muscles around of the diaphragm. Paul Chek talks about this in some of his videos about foam rolling the diaphragm. I have my massage therapist actually do massage therapy especially on either side of my rib cage. And you can do some of this yourself like digging your fingers up underneath the rib cage while you’re taking your breath. But it’s shocking to me how many people will get their IT bands massaged or their calves or their traps but not do any work on the fascia that surrounds the abdomen and the diaphragm.
So, I think that that’s a very important component. And the other thing that I wanted to bring up, returning back to the training was, you know what I think is probably the best form of training that someone interested in freediving could do? I’ll assume by your silence that you’re just waiting with bated breath, pun intended, pun intended. Would be what Laird Hamilton does at his training pool where he’ll have a bunch of people over and they do this Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in Malibu from like 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. They’ve got a whole bunch of people over. Everybody’s got a buddy. There’re people monitoring the whole program but you’re in the water with dumbbells, carrying the dumbbells back and forth under the water. You’re swimming with the dumbbell-like treading water with a dumbbell between your legs. You’re doing jumps from the bottom of the pool while hoisting the dumbbell upwards. And you’re basically doing an entire workout in the water.
And what I like about that is Laird developed it for being able to survive the mental and physical rigors of being under the water for long periods of time when the surf tows you under or you’re thrown off your board and in the waves. Also, what I like about it is you get this amazing cardiovascular and breath flow workout but you’re not sore the next day, meaning that you’re not inducing muscle mass or hypertrophy. It’s exhausting. You’re cold. You’re tired. You’re hungry afterwards just like a freediving session. I actually interviewed him, and in that interview with him–I’ll link to some articles with like samples of their workouts and stuff like that, but I was thinking as you’re talking about the diaphragm stretching, I’m like, “Gosh, I think more freedivers should know about the kind of stuff Laird is doing in his pool because man, not only is it a blast but you’re not sore, you’re not building a bunch of muscle mass but you’re training blood and lungs tremendously.” I’ll link to that in the show notes as well, my podcast with him, but I think that could be a good way to go for some people.
Ted: Yeah. I’m pretty sure he went through the big wave surf program that PFI does.
Ted: Where we go through all that sort of stuff. So, it’s pretty cool.
Ben: Very cool. Very cool. Well, I know we’re getting towards the end of the show but I wanted you to really just walk us through quickly here the different courses that you teach. I mentioned that you have one on breath-holding and these are just courses people can take online. You’ve got one on the Frenzel technique. What else do you have?
Ted: The one I’m honestly the most excited about is, I launched it from the [1:26:47] ______ Recording four or five days ago. It’s freedivingsafety.com. Alright. So, the idea of this course is it’s an online resource that teaches people safe freediving practices from a trusted and reliable source, and it’s free. My whole taking is this. For the past 10 years, I’ve been teaching these classes and you sat through my class. You know I’m passionate about freediving safety. And the reason is there are 50 to 75 fatalities per year in this sport of freediving, mostly incurs in spearfishing, but we’re getting growing, growing number of people doing stuff in the pool because they saw some YouTube video, some guy telling them to do something in a pool but they don’t have safety. They don’t understand.
For 10 years, I’ve been dealing with the spearfishing community and what I always hear is, “Ted, I love taking those courses, but my boss, man, he’s such a pain in the–I can never get the time off,” or, “I can’t afford the course.” So, the way I look at it is you want to get better at freediving? Yeah, you’re going to pay and take a course just like anything. But if you want to learn how to be safe, if you want to learn to not kill yourself, there’s no barrier to that.
So, the idea is it’s an online course. It’s got basically an hour worth of videos. You’re going to learn the rules, safe freediving practices. You’re going to learn the myth of, “I don’t push myself. I know my limits. I would know before I blackout.” Because the reality is most circumstances you wouldn’t. I have a video footage of a spearfisherman with 30 years of experience. He’s spearfishing at 50 feet, which is a total number of depths for him. He did seven dives at that exact same depth and you see him coming up from a dive and 10 feet in the surface, he has no idea what’s wrong. He blacks out. He exhaled all his air out and you see him start to sink down.
Now, the video recorder was a friend of mine and an instructor, [01:28:28] ______ Chapman took care of him. He is fine. But I always have been trying to get across this point that when you’re diving in the ocean, people say, “I’ve never had a problem. I don’t push myself. I’m not that worried about it.” The physics of it is that on most dives in the ocean if you were to have a blackout, you’d feel 100% fine the whole time. So, saying that you don’t push yourself, it’s going to explain that. And then it also has video. I hired two camera guys at multiple camera angles on what to do if you have a [01:28:54] _______, what to do if you have a blackout at the surface. I’ve launched the course just four or five days ago. I’ve already had 150 people on it and people are–the response has been very good and I’m very excited about it.
Ben: And that one’s freedrivingsafety.com?
Ted: Safety.com. Yeah.
Ben: Okay. I’ll link to that in the show notes and then you’ve got all these other courses like how to make the mammalian dive reflex work for you and the spearfishing checklist, the guide on how to mitigate the risks of freediving, the guide on equalizing, the guide on taking a 30% bigger breath. I’ll link to all of those so that you guys can just delve into all of Ted’s knowledge, and that is all going to be over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/freedivingpodcast. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/freedivingpodcast.
You got me excited, Ted, because I’m headed down to Kona to do some bow hunting next month. I’m going to throw in a couple of days of going after a tasty fish. So, thank you for opening me up to this whole world of freediving and spearfishing, man. You’re my guru in this department.
Ted: I enjoyed working with you and I’m excited to hear how the trip to Hawaii goes. And if you want any suggestions for who to hook up with there, definitely let me know.
Ben: Sweet. Alright, folks. Well, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Ted Harty signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
In my article entitled “How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex,” I mentioned the fascinating book by James Nestor, entitled “Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves.”
After reading it two years ago, I hired Ted Harty, from Immersion Freediving in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to certify me in freediving so that I could learn how to spearfish.
At over six feet tall and 230 solid pounds, Ted is a big, bold, loud, extroverted character. He looks like a boxer and not like a guy who you’d expect to be diving at incredibly efficient oxygen capacity to depths deeper than most human beings have ever ventured.
But it was Ted who was about to open my eyes to a whole new world of freediving and who I spent nearly every waking moment of ninety-six hours of my life with learning every possible closely-guarded breath-holding and deep-diving tactic.
Ted began his underwater career in 2005 as a scuba instructor in the Florida Keys. Over the years, Ted became a Scuba Schools International Instructor and a Professional Association of Diving Instructors Staff Instructor.
But whenever Ted was on the boat and did not have students to take care of, he’d jump in with mask, fins, and snorkel and play around on the reef, sans scuba equipment. As Ted highlights in this fascinating, quick video about his life:
“Sometimes I’d have just five minutes to swim around without all of my scuba gear. I loved it. I could swim down to the sand at Sombrero Reef and hang out for a bit at 20 feet. I wanted more. I wanted to learn how to stay down longer and how to dive deeper.”
So, in January of 2008, Ted took his first Performance Freediving International (PFI) course.
“I couldn’t believe how little I knew about freediving at the time. As a scuba instructor I knew more about diving physiology than the average Joe, but quickly realized I knew nothing about freediving. At the start of the course I had a 2:15 breath-hold, but after just four days of training, I did a five-minute hold! I couldn’t believe it was possible.”
Next, Ted signed up for instructor-level courses at Performance Freediving. He was soon offered a job teaching with Performance Freediving when he moved to Fort Lauderdale.
Then, in 2009 Ted went to PFI’s annual competition. At the time, he was about an 80- to 90-foot freediver and weighed 230 pounds. He wasn’t in good shape at all, but after three weeks of training under the tutelage of world-renowned freedivers Kirk Krack and Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, he did a 54 meter (177 -feet) freedive.
“I was blown away by what I was capable of.”
Ted spent a year working with Kirk and Mandy while traveling around the country teaching the Intermediate Freediver program. Then, in 2010, a much more fit Ted went back to PFI’s annual competition. That year his new personal best was 213 feet, and currently, he’s managed to up that to an impressive 279 feet.
In June 2012, Ted was selected as the Team Captain for the US Freediving Team at the Freediving World Championships, and in 2013 he attained PFI Advanced Instructor and PFI Instructor Trainer, becoming the first and only PFI independent instructor to receive this rating.
Oh yeah, and Ted also holds the record for hypoxic underwater swimming in the pool, having done 7 full lengths (175 meters) without a single breath.
But most impressive?
Ted has anemia.
This means his blood can’t deliver oxygen as efficiently to his muscles and brain as most of the world’s population. This means he has a blood hematocrit level of 34, easily 1/3 less than most athletes. This is a condition that would leave most folks huffing and puffing for air after climbing a flight of stairs.
Obviously, anemia hasn’t stopped Ted. In our last podcast, which you can listen to here, Ted and I covered:
-Why being cold and cold water can actually inhibit your ability to hold your breath…
-How to use static apnea tables to enhance your ability to tolerate high levels of CO2 and low levels of O2…
-Why training your mammalian dive reflex is so useful, even if you have zero desire to do long breath-holds or freediving competition…
-Why you should avoid hyperventilation and “blowing off CO2” prior to a breath hold…
-The difference between Ted’s breathing techniques and Wim Hof’s breathing techniques…
-And much more…
Today Ted is back, and we take a deep dive (pun intended) into:
-What happens to the body during free diving…9:30
- Similar effects as yoga
- Alter how you breathe
- Interact with marine life
- Stress release
-What the “mammalian dive reflex” is and why we would want to activate it…12:25
- Genetically coded in every human on the planet
- Dolphins, seals, whales possess the mammalian dive reflex
- We all have it, but at different levels depending on experience
- Several components:
- Bradycardia; Body lowers demand for oxygen
- Fingers, toes constrict
- Pee reflex – peripheral extremities constrict
- We don’t have conclusive data on how free diving affects HRV and the vagus nerve
- The connection between the spleen and breath holding/free diving
- Another component of the mammalian dive reflex
- Simply holding one’s breath on dry land compresses the spleen
- Legal blood doping
- In elite athletes, holding breath compresses spleen; an ordinary person, not so much
- In free diving, your body becomes more accustomed to these changes
- Large amounts of blood circulate through the spleen; compressing it leads to a large release of red blood cells
- Breath holds in the sauna activate the spleen; not the same effects as diving
-The benefits of free diving…24:37
- Overall well-being
- Q: How can drowning and suffocating be relaxing? A: You don’t feel that way
- People swear by its efficacy
- Comparable to training to lose weight
- How many calories are lost during free diving:
- It’s absolutely exhausting
- Generate tremendous amount of body heat
- Study: 1,100 calories burned per hour
- Breathwork wouldn’t translate to burning calories
- Glycogen sparing effect
- Ketones increase the ability to hold breath
-Tips for increasing breath hold time…30:10
- Take a bigger breath
- Diaphragm, chest, shoulders, neck
- Flexibility of rib cage determines the size of your breath
-What an apnea table is and the difference between CO2 and O2 apnea…37:30
- Table: series of breath holds
- How you can breathe up for
- How long you can breathe for
- Learn to tolerate low levels of oxygen; CO2 levels rising
- Carbon dioxide table: breath up for 2 minutes; hold breath for 2 minutes…
- Wonka table
- You want higher CO2 levels
- Hyperventilating discards CO2 faster than anything
- Sit on couch, hold breath
- You’ll feel a contraction, start stopwatch; deal with discomfort for 15 seconds
- Take one breath
- Go to the bathroom before doing this!
- Would you do a table while exercising?
- No, but you can incorporate breath exercises into your training
- Risk of blacking out; do on seated equipment
- Book: The Oxygen Advantageby Patrick McKeown
- Book: The Power of Your Breathby Anders Olsson
-What kind of breath work one would do in between dives to maintain maximum breath hold time…49:30
- Remember diaphragmatic breathing
- Only thing you should feel moving is your stomach moving out and in
- We’re all chest breathers
- Control, be conscious of your breathing vs. not thinking about it
-Why the Valsalva breathing technique is not optimal for free diving…53:22
- Pinch and blow: equalize your ears
- Can use Valsalva scuba diving
- Frenzel technique
- Pinch your nose.
- Fill your mouth up with a little bit of air.
- Close the epiglottis.
- Move the soft palate to the neutral position.
- Use the tongue like a piston and push air towards the back of your throat.
- Valsalva is optimal for scuba diving as you dive head first; air rises
- Frenzel is optimal for free diving because you dive head first; opposite of scuba diving
-A demonstration of the Frenzel breathing technique…58:30
-Similarities and differences between Ted’s breathing technique and Wim Hof’s…1:02:45
- Hof’s methods are good for cold therapy, not necessarily breath holding
- Hyperventilation increases risk for blackout
- Drastically lowers CO2 levels
- Carbon dioxide levels trigger urge to breathe
- Physically reduces amount of oxygen available to your body
- Bohr effect:
- When we hold our breath, our blood becomes more acidic; changes ph levels
- Hyperventilating increases strength of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen
- If strength of bond too high, oxygen molecule can’t be used as fuel
- Hyperventilating initially increases ability to hold breath, but there’s the risk of blackout
-Exercise and stretching regimens specific to free divers…1:13:30
- Paradox: Free divers train a lot, which leads to high metabolism, which you don’t want as a free diver
- There is no set regimen on how to craft the “perfect free diver”
- Problem seeking to solve is very complicated
- Similar to training cyclists would undergo
- Diaphragmatic stretching is critical –
- Ted gives demonstration
-Some of the courses Ted teaches online…1:26:30
-And Much More…
Resources from this episode:
-The Oxygen Advantage book by Patrick McKeown
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