7 Things You Should Know About Being Fit For Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is a physical and mental activity that takes a toll on your body. Here are 7 tips to help you not only stay safe but to get the most out of your time in the water.
Scuba diving is a super fun and rewarding sport. It pairs both physical and mental aspects all into one. But let’s face it – we weren’t meant to breathe underwater. So it can take a toll on your body. The better care you take of yourself, the better dive experience you will have. You’ll not only stay safer, but enjoy longer bottom times, and have more energy to do more dives. Yes, please!
I know, I know… you thought fit = exercises. We’ll get into that one later. Let’s start with our favourite. Sleep!
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. When you sleep your body recovers and repairs itself. Literally, the fluid in your brain rinses out bad toxins that accumulate and helps it reset.
Sleep also helps you make better decisions and have a better memory. Two skills that are very useful for any problems that may arise while scuba diving. Getting enough sleep also keeps you sharp and alert. Helping you identify and catch smaller problems before they might turn into bigger ones. Sleep also helps you better handle your emotions, especially stress.
Which leads me to my next tip…
Find Your Inner Zen
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax. Repeat as needed. Life can get so crazy and hectic these days. Try not to over-schedule yourself on diving days, and treat yourself to some zen.
Stress can cause many problems while scuba diving. If stressed, you are causing a much greater toll on your body. You will also burn through your air much faster (and let’s face it – we want our air to last as long as possible). Stress also lowers your immune system. Whether you are diving at home or on holiday – getting sick is never on anyone’s agenda.
Try to disconnect with some yoga, meditation, go for a walk, take a nap, or get a massage.
Stay Hydrated – Drink Up! (Water that is)
Water is super important when it comes to being fit to dive. It’s also the one that people tend to neglect the most. It not only helps prevent cramps but most importantly it helps prevent DCS (decompression sickness).
Simply put: dehydration causes your blood to be thicker. Which then, in turn, causes you to hold onto nitrogen longer – increasing your risk of DCS. Being hydrated keeps things loose and flowing easier. Which in return allows for easier off-gassing.
Did you know you lose water while you breathe from the tank in diving? Also from sweating both on the boat in warmer weather, and from exertion underwater. Let’s not forget the coffee/tea most people drink that are diuretics and make you pee more. Even the beer and alcohol from the night before! I’m not saying don’t indulge, but try not to go too crazy and pair each drink with a big glass of water. Plus being hungover and/or still intoxicated while scuba diving is a big no-no!
To stay hydrated, aim for 3-4 liters a day if you’re scuba diving. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. The funny way to ensure this is to make sure you are peeing clear all day.
Eat a balanced diet
Mmmmmm food. I’m not talking diet as in weight-loss, although a lower BMI does help prevent decompression sickness. Life is too short to not enjoy what you eat though – so balance is key.
Food’s main purpose is to fuel our bodies. So be mindful of what you eat. Again with the balance. Protein for muscles. Carbs for energy. Vegetables for nutrients. What that means for you can vary from person to person. So listen to your body.
As a general rule of thumb try to avoid processed foods, as they are more difficult to digest. Speaking of digestion, give your body time to digest before hitting the water. Diving after overeating is sooo uncomfortable, and uncomfortable diving is never good.
Exercise and move your body!
Some people love to exercise (like myself). Others hate to exercise (like my best friend). Good news – you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to scuba dive. But some is important.
That being said, you will have about 50lbs attached to you before you get in the water. Plus you’ll be using muscles your not accustomed to using. For instance, unless you’re a ballerina, you probably don’t spend an hour a day pointing your toes. Practice pointing your toes on land for 60 seconds and then relaxing.
Air squats are great for leg and butt strength for kicking. Especially if you need extra power in a current. And arguably the most important exercise you could do would be any form of core work. Sit-ups. Crunches. Plank. All things that help stabilization.
Cardiovascular health is also very important. Diving can put extra strain and stress on your heart. So the stronger it is, the fewer problems you will have. It also increases lung capacity. Better lung capacity = better breathing = better air consumption and a longer dive. Swimming is the most obvious choice for this. But, jogging, running, hiking, biking, it’s all good. Anything that gets your heart pumping. Even things like dancing, climbing, sex, or walking have great benefits. Just make sure not to workout directly after diving.
Stretching can also be beneficial. Keeping your muscles loose and relaxed. You need to be able to relax and flow in the water. Tight and stiff can lead to aches and pains.
What does learning have to do with being fit for diving? A lot actually. Being fit to dive extends beyond the physical fitness and the mental aspects as well.
The more you learn and practice the better experience you will have. The more comfortable you will be. The more tools in your toolbox you can access in various situations.
Plus learning new things stimulates your brain. Trying new things and being outside of your comfort zone helps you grow as a person.
Smoking doesn’t do your body any favours on land, nor does it in the water. This one should be obvious, but when I started diving I was amazed at how many people smoke that dive.
Smoking decreases your lung capacity, thus making it harder to breathe. At the same time, it kills the lining in your lungs, making gas exchange much more difficult. It also creates carbon monoxide in your blood, which lowers oxygen levels. Lower oxygen levels mean a harder time off-gassing nitrogen built up during the dive.
Do yourself a favour and quit. You will not only be healthier, but the money saved can equal more diving!
Side notes on avoiding DCS. After a dive, while you are still off-gassing nitrogen, it is not a good time to exercise or get a massage. You don’t want to move it around, create bubbles, or anything like that. So save the workouts and massages for off days. Light stretching and walking are always good but don’t overdo it. Remember tips 1 and 2.
Bottom line – take care of yourself. Being fit to dive means listening to your body. Stay safe. Stay hydrated. Avoid DCS. Breathe and relax. Then enter a whole new magical world.
Written by Nicole Smelson
Pictures by Nicole Smelson, starred by members of Scuba Republic Family
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