[Transcript] – Freediving, Breathholding, Iceman Wim Hof, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible Training, How To Use Static Apnea Tables & More!

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/01/ted-harty/

[00:13] Nuts.com

[01:42] Organifi Green Juice – Fitlife

[03:33] Introduction

[06:04] About Dr. Ted Harty

[07:14] How Ted Went From an Overweight Scuba Diver to a Free Diving Instructor

[15:22] Why Being Cold and Cold Water Can Inhibit your Ability to Hold your Breath

[19:33] Ted’s thoughts about Tom Cruise’s Freediving Scene in the recent Mission Impossible Movie

[20:07] How to Use Static Apnea Tables

[24:47] Why Training Your Mammalian Dive Reflex Is So Useful

[30:04] How Shallow Water Blackouts Occur and How You Can Avoid Them

[37:51] What Happens to your Body When You Hold Your Breath During Exercise

[42:33] The Specific Forms of Dry Land Training That Free Divers Do

[51:36] Ted’s Thoughts on Resisted Breath Training Tools

[55:56] Why You Should Avoid Hyperventilation and “blowing off CO2” Prior to a Breath Hold

[1:03:44] The Difference Between Ted’s Breathing Techniques and Wim Hof’s Breathing Techniques

[1:09:55] End of podcast

Ben:  Hello.  It’s Ben Greenfield and this podcast is brought to you by nuts but not my nuts.  No, I’m talking about the nuts brought to you by the folks over at nuts.com, nuts.com.  Now I actually was a customer of nuts.com long before they became a sponsor of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show because I get my Brazil nuts from nuts.com.  Why do I get Brazil nuts, because they’re high in selenium and some other compounds that are actually very important especially for men and their testosterone levels.  So I get Brazil nuts in the shell, I keep them in the freezer so they don’t get moldy or rancid and then I take them out usually about 3 or 4 of them, I de-shell them using a nutcracker and then I drop them into my morning green smoothie.  At the end of making the smoothie I just basically break up the Brazil nuts, drop them in there for a little bit of crunch and viola!  Now you too can get your nuts when you go to nuts.com and when you got there you click on the mic and you enter the code “fitness”.  That’s the special secret code “fitness”.  When you go to nuts.com click on the mic and you enter the code fitness, you not only can order Brazil nuts or anything else you want.  They’ve tons of things there like veggie chips, and dried fruits, and literally hundreds of different kinds of nuts but also anything you order they’ll include when you put that fitness code in. They’ll include 4 free samples.  You get to choose from over 50 different options of samples that you can add in.  It’s like $15 worth of extra nuts to go with your nuts.  So check that out nuts.com and discount code fitness.

This podcast is also brought to you by something else I’ve been putting in my smoothie.  So yes, I put kale, and spinach, and cucumber, and cilantro, and parsley, and all sorts of wild greens and herbs into my smoothie but I’ve been adding even more greens because you can’t get enough greens.  Actually you probably could.  You could probably overdose and kill yourself on greens but I’m not going overboard.  I put an extra scoop of greens into my smoothie and I’ve been doing that with this special green powder that I got from Fitlife it’s called Organifi Green Powder.  And it’s basically everything that you get from juicing without the mess or the blending or having to juice everything because let’s face it we’re all lazy.  We just wanna open up something and drop a scoop of powder into our smoothie.  So the cool thing about this stuff is it has ashwagandha in it.  I’ve talked about ashwagandha a lot on recent podcasts but it’s been shown to lower cortisol, increase testosterone.  So I’m just saying you throw that in there like your Brazil nuts from nuts.com pretty good 1-2 combo.  Ashwagandha also has some very cool adaptogenic properties meaning, it can increase your mental focus, decrease stress even increase strength and muscular endurance.  I’m not just pulling that out my butt that has been shown in research.  Just go to PubMed, check out what they’ve got over there and ashwagandha pretty impressive.  So how do you get your hands on this stuff?  Pretty easy, you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi.  That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi and when you go there and you'll see a special discount code that will get you 20% off anything including this organic vegan gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free juice powder.  So check it out.  And now on to today’s show with free diving and breath holding guru, Ted Harty.

In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:

“As a free diver I have to tolerate low levels of oxygen and high levels of CO2.  So there are these breath-holding tables that are designed by doing repetitive breath holds.  They’re designed to make you have lower oxygen levels or you do the CO2 tables where they’re designed to put your body in a higher level of CO2”.  “If I can make the ribcage more flexible then that allows me to take a bigger breath.  As a free diver I don’t need fast in and out movement may be like a cyclists or triathlon, I just wanna take the biggest breath I can.”

Ben:  Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield and just a few weeks ago I published an extremely popular article that’s called “How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex”.  And in that particular article I talked all about this freediving journey that I went on a few weeks ago down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and in the article I also talked about how I wanted to learn how to do everything from stay calm in the face of extreme stress to activate my primal mammalian dive reflex which you’ll learn more about in today’s podcast episode, to learn a little bit more about how to get into the sport of spear fishing but my guide, my mentor on that week-long journey that I took down in Florida was a guy named Ted Harty.  And Ted is a freediving instructor but it’s much more than a freediving instructor.  The guy is like the guru when it comes to everything from breath-holding to the mammalian dive reflex to getting your body to do what you need it to when it comes to controlling your sympathetic fight or flight nervous system, shutting that down, and getting yourself to the point where you could do things like breath holds and staying calm under water.  And also getting all the benefits that all these Olympic athletes of the world are now tapping into and using when it comes to breathe holding and freediving and I’m pleased to inform you that Ted is here with me on the call today.  So Ted, thanks for coming on, man.             

Ted:  Looking forward to be in here and talk with your listeners about freediving.

Ben:  Yeah, me too, because having sat with you for a very long time in the classroom and then spent lots of time in the pool, in the ocean with you, I know you’re a wealth of knowledge and I wanna tap in to some of the things that you talked to me about down in Fort Lauderdale that I think could be really helpful for the folks listening in.

And the first question I have for you is I know that you did not always or you were not always a free diver before.  I believe you were a scuba diving instructor and you had kinda whipped yourself into shape for this freediving thing, so can you talk about what took you from being I believe what you described as a fat out of shape scuba instructor to being a free diver and how that worked coz most of free divers I see are just like these skinny mini dudes and you’re like a big built ex-scuba instructor.  So how’d you kinda get to where you’re at?               

Ted:  Sure.  So I started getting into freediving when I worked at the dive shop.  So I worked at a busy dive shop in the Keys, I was teaching everyday which was pretty much exactly what I wanted to do.  And I remember kinda first getting exposed to freediving when I had free divers come out on the boat.  I obviously knew what freediving was but I had never seen real free divers.  So these 2 guys come on the boat, they’ve got crazy long fins, they’ve got camouflaged wet suits and I’m watching them and they’re twenty, thirty feet but they’re staying down there for a minute, a minute and a half and I couldn’t believe it.  I call that they must have like, oh spare air or somethin’ coz there’s no way they can stay down that long.  So I was really just shocked that these guys were doing that.  So the next trip we went out I’m like well, sure I’m gonna free dive so I told the Captain, “hey, I’m gonna hop in with just my mask, fin and snorkel and cruise around for a bit.”  So I jumped down to 20 feet where the reef was and I get down there for like 10 seconds and I’m like, “wow, freediving is so awesome.  It’s so quiet and after ten seconds I feel Hmph, hmph. I feel, “oh my god, I feel like I’m gonna drown”, and I fly out to the surface out of breath and on that one dive I dismissed freediving.  Freediving is totally stupid.  Just wear a tank down and stay down for an hour.  So after that one dive I tried freediving decided it was pretty stupid.  So what it ended up happening is working in a dive shop, working on a boat, it just can’t get away from it.  For instance, someone drops their mask at 20 feet and you’re thinking, “do I really wanna have to put my scuba gear on and get that, no just dive down and get it.”  And then all of a sudden just from freediving repetitiveness of it, then all of a sudden I could go to 30 feet, and then all of a sudden I could get the mask at 40 feet and just slowly through repetitive exposure to freediving I gained some sort of basic ability.                    

Ben:  So there’s obviously a lot of benefits that come with learning how to free dive and one of the things that I’ve seen you talk about and that I believe you wrote an article about in spear fishing magazine that I get now is this whole concept of the mammalian dive reflex.  And we’ve got a lot of smart cookies who listen in and who aren’t afraid of the physiology side of things.  So can you explain what exactly the mammalian dive reflex is?  How it’s tied to freediving and how it actually helps people, like why it’s a good thing to be able to activate in our body?     

Ted:  So the mammalian dive reflex is something that you’ll hear free divers talk about quite a lot.  And basically, the mammalian dive reflex is genetically encoded in every human being on this planet.  So if you look at dolphins, seals and whales, they are mammals, they are full time residents to the water and they clearly have this mammalian dive reflex.  We as human beings are mammals.  We are part time residents to the water so we still have genetically encoded in us that mammalian dive reflex.  Now the dive reflex is talked about in general as one thing but in fact it’s a long list of well understood and well documented physiological responses to breath holding and emerging in the water.  So one of them is bradycardia which is rapid slowing of the heart.  If I’m doing static apnea, holding my breath for a time for instance for a competition and my heart is beating 50, 60 beats a minute, well, that’s the main thing that’s consuming oxygen if I’m not moving in the pool.  So one of the things that will happen is during the breath hold my heart rate will drop quite rapidly and quite severely.  The last time I checked with the heart rate monitor was down to about 30 beats a minute.  So that rapid slowing of the heart is going to consume much oxygen which is going to allow me to hold my breath long.

There’s another interesting part of that bradycardia that has to do with the face being submerged in water.  You probably remember us doing this in the class but the idea is dolphins, seals and whales before they make a deep dive their face, their eyes go in the water and their bodies have learned, the seal has learned that when that eyeball gets submerged in water that seal is about to loop a long deep dive.  So let’s drop that heart rate down for the seal so that it can perform better on the dive.  But we get the same response which is why you remember in our class it’s some point us having the mask instead of wearing the mask actually putting in our forehead, and putting the snorkel in our mouth and getting that cold water across the eyes because our body when you do that because of the genetically encoded dive reflex your body goes up.  Ben’s about to make a dive so let’s slow down the heart rate so that he can dive better.  So there’s a lot of, I hate to use the word tricks but ways that I know how to activate that dive reflex and make it work for us.               

Ben:  Now some people will say that when they stick their face in water especially cold water or even when you take a shower and you know, some people are into the cold shower thing and the cold water hits their face that they feel like their sympathetic, their fight and flight nervous system takes over and their heart rate goes up and they have the sharp intake of breath and it almost gets them a little bit panicky.  How does that kind of like, does that feeling go away when you learn the mammalian dive reflex or does that mean that those people aren’t able to activate their mammalian dive reflex?   

Ted:  Well, my response to that would be when the water becomes so cold that it’s shocking and then I can understand why that’s gonna get triggered.  For instance, if I jump in a cold, cold shower, yeah, I’m gonna get that.  So I would just say that the environments that we are doing this like you did at class, the water wasn’t that cold so we are getting the benefit of that.  I would tell you that generally speaking, the colder the water is, the stronger that dive reflex would be but again that is for instance, for competitive free divers in cold water and their breathing up about to do a two hundred foot dive and they stick their mask on their forehead and get that cold water across their eye, that’s the one that’s very comfortable with what’s going on.  And so it’s gonna get the benefit of that more so than just Joe bow jumps in some really (chuckles) cold water doesn’t feel relaxed at all, right?       

Ben:  Well, what I thought was really interesting was you had us prior to actually doing a dive, stick our faces in the water, put our mask and our snorkel on, and simply stare kinda down into the deep blue and do a specific breathing technique that you taught us to lower our heart rate and just the simple act of putting the face in the water seem to drop the heart rate and activate this mammalian dive reflex.  I guess it took a little while to learn how to overcome perhaps the fear of seeing sharks and jelly fish and getting your face in there and thinking about water coming into your snorkel, and then once I got over all that, it was almost instantaneous that I’d stick my face in the water and the heart rate would begin to go down.  Now a lot of people listening in their experimenting with these things like cold thermogenesis and cold water swimming but one of the things that you talked to us about was the fact that that may actually not be conducive to say like learning breath holding or practicing long breath holds, freediving things like that.  Can you explain how cold could technically work against you when it comes to breath holds or freediving?       

Ted:  Well, I would say generally speaking colder water will in fact enhance that dive reflex.  For instance, if I were to have my mask in my forehead and do breathing up like I had you do in class and I did that in pool water that was nine degrees, I did that in pool water that was eighty degrees, I did that in pool water that was sixty degrees.  I mean, generally speaking what you’d find is the colder that water is the stronger that part of the dive reflex would come in.  So in theory it sounds like cold water is awesome for the dive reflex and technically it is but in reality for instance, you look at all the freediving competitions in the world and the best ones were all gonna be in warm water, right?  Yeah, there’s freediving in Vancouver and you probably saw videos of the class of guys freediving in Vancouver in fifty degree water, and yes, theoretically it increases the dive reflex more but for most people because they’re just not acclimated to that cold condition that just, the fact that they’re uncomfortable with cold ends up overriding the benefit that you would get from the dive reflex.  Now that being said there’s some very highly accomplished free divers that tend to work in those cold waters and able to make that work for them.  But for instance, I’m not used to that water, you put me in 50 degree water in Vancouver and I’m just gonna be uncomfortable and the thermoclines and any advantage I would get from the colder water would just be negated because of my not being acclimated to cold water.             

Ben:  Yeah, that was one of the things that you taught us was the simple act of shivering right, like any tiny movement if your body that could, for example require your heart to need to shove blood into your extremities, or would require your muscles to use up oxygen that your heart is delivering technically uses up just a few extra heart beats which exhaust your breath that much more quickly, right?         

Ted:  Sure.  So freediving were very concerned about the wetsuits that were wearing like you remember in the class we had these high performance wetsuits that are very different than your typical scuba wetsuit or what they might wear at the triathlon because as a free diver as soon as we shiver, as soon as you’re in the water and your shivering what’s happening is every muscle in your body is trying to generate heat through friction.  So now every muscle is moving back and forth and that just crashes your oxygen consumption.  In fact it goes up by almost a factor of 5.  So for instance, I got in the last class we had a cold front come through and we were doing static apnea the second day.  Now the first day he was doing, I think he was doing 4-minute breath holds.  The second day, I guess the temperature was much lower and he really didn’t have a really good suit and now all of a sudden a cold front came through and it was like a fifty, sixty degrees outside and windy, his breath hold was a minute and thirty seconds.  Just because he was shivering so much so as soon as that shivering happens you’re ability as a free diver from a breath holding standpoint is pretty much shocked which is why we’re really concerned about what kind of suits we have.        

Ben:  You know this whole concept of conserving energy when you’re trying to hold your breath reminds me of a recent movie I saw, the Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation with Tom Cruise.  Did you happen to see the free diving scene in that movie?    

Ted:  Yeah, absolutely.  So yeah, I saw that and the agency that I teach for Performers Free Diving International, Kirk Krack is the head of Performers Free Diving.  He actually worked directly with Tom Cruise for training for that movie.     

Ben:  Interesting.  Was there anything that they did special for that particular movie that you’re aware of as far as like training Tom for the freediving scene or anything you noticed that was accurate or inaccurate in that particular part of Mission Impossible?

Ted:  Yeah, they did a lot of trainings.  So Kirk Krack went up there and worked with him for quite a bit.  In fact he was doing 6-minute statics, so 6-minute breath holds he got up to during the training.  So definitely kinda Kirk put him through some freediving boot camp to get him for what he needed to do in that role.    

Ben:  So one of the ways that you taught us how to get up to, we didn’t do like a 6-minute static apnea but we messed around a little bit with these apnea tables.  Oxygen apnea tables and CO2 apnea tables, and you told a pretty amusing story of what you do when you’re like watching movies or watching TV on the couch.  Can you explain how you use apnea when you’re just sitting around watching TV?     

Ted:  Sure.  So one of the ways, I mean it seems it’s pretty obvious you know, it was nice to get us full, how can you get better holding your breath well, in essence the simple answer is hold your breath more.  So the idea of these tables, there’s O2 tables and there’s CO2 tables, so as a free diver we have to learn to tolerate low levels of oxygen and then as we’re holding our breath when that oxygen is getting consumed one of the ways as far as it is created is CO2, so the CO2 level is rising.  So as a free diver I have to tolerate low levels of oxygen and high levels of CO2.  So there are these breathe holding tables that are designed by doing repetitive breathe holds.  They’re designed to make you have lower oxygen levels or you do CO2 tables where they’re designed to put your body in a higher, higher level of CO2, and the idea is do repetitive training you can tolerate lower version of oxygen and higher amounts of CO2.

So one of the things that I can do as an instructor, what you saw in class and certainly you can share with your reader, I mean listeners, I’m certainly not this super athletic, amazingly fit guy yet during class I can do repetitive hundred foot dives over and over again with very short surface center hold because I’ve specifically trained my body to tolerate quite high levels of CO2.  Whereas, you do have that level of CO2 in your body you would think, “well, this sucks I can’t hold my breath anymore.”  Whereas I get that same level of CO2 and my body’s just kinda used to it.  So what I do is I use these tables if I’m watching TV.  Yeah, I know there’s a lot of things I need to do to get in shape, like go to the gym and all these other things, but you know I like these tables because I can sit on the couch, watch some really stupid television and in fact practice doing these breath holds while I’m in essence doing nothing sitting on the couch.  So my girlfriend Cathy is very supportive of what I do but she does not like when I’m doing breath hold stuff on the couch because I start having contractions.  They can be kind of extremely uncomfortable and she is not a big fan of having to watch that as I sit next to her on the couch.                   

Ben:  So when you’re doing these apnea tables and you have those contractions, what exactly are the contractions that you feel because I got these both when I was doing the apnea on dry land but also the apnea in the water.  What exactly is the contraction that you feel? 

Ted:  Yes, so if you’re curious what a contraction feels like, just sit on the couch and hold your breath at some point you are gonna feel a contraction.  So the contraction is it’s your diaphragm in essence is a little bit like a hiccup, but think more uncomfortable.  But in essence what’s happening is you’re holding your breath 80% of your urge to breath comes from that rising carbon dioxide.  It’s what I was saying earlier as your holding your breath your carbon dioxide level is constantly rising.  At some point it gets to the point where the alarm goes off and your body says, “you know what, that’s too much CO2, I want to take a breath.  And your body, your diaphragm will literally try to pull the air in your lungs coz it’s actually trying to make you take a breath but you as a free diver shake your head and go, “Ah-ah not yet, maybe a little bit but not quite yet”, and so the contraction goes away.  And then ten, fifteen seconds later it says, “hey, look I was serious, take a breath”, and feel another contraction and then after it’ll go away and then 10 seconds later it comes back and this time it’s stronger, right? You’re gonna feel more of a tug, more of a contraction and as you keep holding your breath, the contractions come quicker, there’s less time between each contractions and they become quite strong whereas, in the beginning you might just feel a slight little pull from the diaphragm.  You know, when that happens to me I just kinda laugh and like that tickles and that does not bother me at all.  Now after a couple of minutes of dealing with that I’m not laughing at the contractions coz they’re getting quite uncomfortable and in fact the diaphragm, chest and shoulders altogether are trying to make me take a breath.           

Ben:  Interesting.  So when you’re doing these apnea tables and you’re like sitting on the couch it’s the same thing your diaphragm is just going into these contractions, it’s trying to get you to take a breath and you’re essentially trying to force yourself to not take a breath even though your entire body is screaming for you to?   

Ted:  Yeah, absolutely.  So one of the things that’s nice about if I’m sitting on the couch doing this kind of work is I’m not in the water.  I only have one thing to think about is what I’m doing and so the name of the game is when I start.  We talked about this a little bit in the intermediate class and certainly as I start working with more competitive type divers, the name of the game I wish I could teach you to have to hold your breath a long time and not have contractions, right? but I’m not that good.  You’re gonna have contractions, you’re gonna have that uncomfortableness.  So the name of the game is how you can you become more comfortable with it.  So when I’m doing this breath holds on the couch I am trying to minimize the amount of that contraction that’s happening, I can’t stop it, but instead of a really strong contraction where my shoulders and everything really start trying to make me take a breath, if I can really try to minimize that muscle movement, coz that extra muscle movement is burning oxygen and then it just feels worse.  So if I can practice minimizing the contraction, keeping them calmer, one that just makes the breath hold feel easier and it’s using a less oxygen because I’ve get less muscle activity.          

Ben:  So when you’re doing this type of seeded apnea tables like when you’re sitting on the couch watching a movie and by the way, for those of you listening in I will link to examples of static apnea tables that you can use over on the show notes for this episode. You just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/freediver, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/freediver, all one word and I’ll link to those and so many other things that Ted and I talk about.  But Ted when you’re doing these static apnea tables is there a danger of blacking out on land?  I’ve thought about that before since I returned from your course when I’m doing some of these apnea holds, you know.  I even downloaded an app to walk me through it.  Do you find that people black out like when they’re sitting on the couch watching movies next to their girlfriend or?     

Ted:  So anytime you’re gonna be holding your breath certainly there’s gonna be a risk of that.  Now, as you start doing these breath holds during these tables which you’ll probably find is you will complete one table.  I tell you I can complete that one, so now let me do the next one, it’s a little bit harder.  And then you’re gonna complete that one and you’re like yeah, I can do that.  Let me do the next one and it’s a little bit harder.  And as you’re increasing that difficulty level you are in fact, you Ben, me Ted, there’s just each one of us only has so long where we can hold our breath for and at some point we’re gonna reach the point that we will black out.  So as you’re progressing through those tables you could run into that.  What I would say, a couple of things I would say.  In general, your average listener who just wants to sit and hold his breath probably wouldn’t have the ability to hold their breath ‘til they blacked out because the body’s response would be, “hey, what the heck are you doing?  Stop, stop, stop, stop.”  So they’re gonna get really stronger just to breathe that will override that, but you know the thing is through training is you’re learning to override that which in essence is making you get closer and closer to the point where you would possibly have a hypoxic event which would be a loss of motor control or black out.

Now that being said, I’ve actually seen people black out while doing these tables and that being said I don’t want anyone to black out and I’m not saying black out is good for us, but what I will say is if you were to black out on dry land while you’re for instance holding your breath on the couch, what’s gonna happen is as soon as you black out your body’s gonna make you take a breath.  So what we talk about in the program is it’s not black out that causes us the problem.  The thing that kills the spear fisherman, the swimmers all this stuff is they black out in the water and there’s no one there.  So yeah, when the body makes them take a breath it’s all water coz they sink down to the bottom of the ocean or to the bottom of the pool and that’s what kills them every time.  So it’s not necessarily the black out that causes the major problem, it’s the inhalation of the water.  So if you’re doing this on dry land, sitting on the couch certainly much less risk because even if you were to blackout you’re gonna take a breath afterwards.                  

Ben:  I’m glad you brought this up because we’ve got guys like Wim Hof the Iceman who combines like underwater, cold water swimming and breath holding, and there’s a guy named Bryan Mackenzie who runs the performance breathing, they’re like workshops in performance breathing.  And then Laird Hamilton has Youtube videos now of him doing underwater breath hold workouts like carrying dumb bells and kettle bells across the bottom of the pool.  So a lot of people now are kind of experimenting with breath holding and not just breath holding on the couch while watching a movie but breath holding under water.  Now I heard about one fellow who recently blacked out and nearly died doing this.  I believe that this was somebody who Tim Ferriss was referring to and I’m curious when these types of blackouts occur when people are actually training breath holding in the water.  What’s going on physiologically that causes the actual black out first of all if you can explain what’s going on like why someone blacks out?  And then also how something like that could be avoided?         

Ted:  Sure!  So anytime you’re doing these training regimens where they’re doing underwater, work underwater like you told me about some guy lifting weights underwater, whatever.  Absolutely any type of breath holding specifically in the water definitely has some serious risk associated with it.  Let’s take a look at static apnea.  So a person’s just face down holding their breath, they’re not moving.  Let’s say they’re in a free diving competition for instance and they’re trying to hold their breath for as long as possible to get as many points as possible, but obviously they don’t wanna black out.  So let’s imagine there was someone that was just holding their breath, they are face down in the pool and this person just kept holding their breath in fact until they black out.

So what’s happening is as you’re holding your breath, your body is doing a lot of making very intelligent decisions to manage the supply and demand issues of oxygen that in fact you’re putting it through, right?  So what’s happening is you’re holding your breath, the body just starts or let’s say when I hold my breath.  When I hold my breath my body is (inaudible) going on, so my body does a lot of work to help me because of this mammalian dive reflex.  So as I was holding my breath around 2 or 3-minute mark I’m gonna start feeling my first kinda contractions as the diaphragm’s trying to pull the air in.  And so once it realizes that, hey, this guy’s not gonna take a breath, my body says, you know what I know Teddy, in fact he knows this all the time that he’s not gonna take a breath for quite a while.  So I’m gonna try to get him to breathe but he’s probably not gonna, so let’s start reducing the demand for oxygen.  So let’s do things like, let’s drop that heart rate so that’s when we see someone’s upwards 50% dropping of the heart rate, so my heart rate will drop to help deal with the supply demand of oxygen.

Another thing that will happen is that the blood vessels in my fingers and toe have something’s called blood shunting.  The blood vessels in my fingers and toes constrict and what that does is pushes more blood to my core coz my body says, hey, Ted is sitting and holding his breath in the pool.  Do I really need to pump oxygen all the way down to his pinky toes and his pinky fingers?  No, let’s constrict those blood vessels and put more blood to the core where we really gonna take care of heart, lung and brain.

Another part of that mammalian dive reflex is the spleen.  The spleen will contract, the spleen is a reservoir for red blood cells and we definitely seen through studies that an elite free diver just the aspect of holding their breath will compress that spleen and why that’s exciting is because it’s a reservoir for red blood cells.  It’ll actually push more red blood cells in our body.  So if you were to look at a good blood work done of a competitive free diver after a dive it would look like they’re blood doping because that inadequate percentage would actually go up.  But in essence to get back to your original question, all these things are happening to help me hold my breath longer but at some point there’s just not enough oxygen to maintain consciousness.  So in fact what the body does is the body’s trying to make me breathe, it’s giving me really strong signals to take a breath but if I won’t one of the things the body says, you know what, I can’t really be bothered to fuel consciousness.  That’s just a demand for oxygen that we can’t deal with.  And so we’re gonna institute a black out.  So when it institutes a black out what the body’s now doing is it says, I can’t afford to keep this guy conscious but I just gotta keep the blood flow to the heart, lung and brains.  So I’m gonna institute black out.  So when that happens the number one rule in freediving is protect the airway and luckily our body knows that.  So when it institutes a black out the laryngospasm of the throat will shut off which is trying to stop water from going into the lungs.

So then at that point the person will black out and you would always tell that the person blacked out by a release of air, right, coz that’s what’s gonna happen is you release some air out of the mouth and then at that point what’s gonna happen is depending on what sort of procedures you have in place.  If you’re a swimmer who’s doing over unders by yourself and you black out where at that point you’re just gonna sink down to the bottom of the pool, and after a minute or two you’re gonna take terminal gas then when that’s at the bottom of the pool, that’s gonna be a fatality.  Now if it’s someone that’s using proper techniques and training that we teach in the program, so there’s someone trained in freediving rescue, if that were to happen at that point, they will institute one of the rescue techniques that we teach and do you remember clearly in the class where they would be blowing across the eyes, and that’s gonna stimulate a breathing response because what happens is the reason we teach this idea if there’s a blacked out, free diver blow across the eyes coz the body once you blacked out in the water, it is intentionally not taking a breath because the body knows, hey, if I take a breath right now there’s a good chance it’s gonna be a lung full of water and that’s gonna be the end of me,  So let’s maybe not take a breath.  And so when we teach them in the program to put them on their back, take their masks off and blow across the eyes, and what that does is that it send a direct signal to the brain that says, hey, we’re an air.  It’s safe to take a breath.  And that’s why typically when you (blows) blow across the eyes like that, you’re gonna get an immediate breath.                                                    

Ben:  Interesting.  Okay.  So what it comes down to then would be if you’re going to experiment with long breath holds or underwater workouts you wouldn’t wanna be by yourself and you would also want to learn proper safety techniques.  If you did blackout, someone could get you out of the water, breathe across your eyes, wake you up and ensure that no water was actually getting into your lungs.     

Ted:  Yeah, I mean absolutely.  You know, unfortunately this sport like many sports has lots of risk associated with it.  And because freediving is getting more popular for all those things that you just described, people see some guy on the internet doing this underwater breath holding works and then they start those sort of things, yet they don’t understand the risks and that’s why we probably lose fifty to a hundred people a year in the US and it’s growing.  As the sport is growing, the fatality rates are growing.  Just the other day I saw across my Facebook feed is a spearfishing in Hawaii, died.  Recently we had 2 seals that died in the pool and there’s a lot of people that die in the pool because they see all these interesting freediving stuff, so they go I wanna practice, right?  And so they’re holding their breath under water yet they don’t have any understanding of what say freediving looks like, right.  Lifeguards, they don’t understand freediving.  They have no training.  They don’t know what to do if someone blacks out.  They don’t know how to recognize what it is, so specifically, safe freediving looks like this; anytime you’re holding your breath in the water, you wanna have someone that’s trained in freediving rescue techniques watch you and that’s someone who’s taken the freediving course.  That’s not the lifeguard, they don’t know anything about freediving.  That’s not someone who’s an EMT because they don’t know anything about free diving rescues.  I’ve taught EMT’s they’re like, I wouldn’t know what to do.  It’s not a scuba instructor.  It’s not a swim coach.  It’s someone that has this very specific type of training that you really know how to get through a licensed freediving class.           

Ben:  Now you’ve also experimented a bit with breath holding combined with jogging and dry land exercise.  Can you explain why you did that and what you found from that experiment?

Ted:  Yeah. So I’ve got a treadmill in the house and so this was when I was getting geared for some competitive freediving training I was doing.  What I would do is I would get on the treadmill and I would start at a really low speed and I would slowly ramp up the speed.  I’m also using a heart rate monitor so I can see what’s going on with my heart rate.  So imagine if I started 3 miles per hour and I’m slowly increasing it up to 7 or 8.  In the beginning of that exercise this is in fact easy, my heart rate’s not super elevated coz I’m walking and running very slow.  So in essence while the exercise is easy, what I was doing is and I’ve got the heart rate graph I can send you.  You read it and see it’s actually pretty cool looking.  But I would do 30 minutes of breathing and 30 minutes of not breathing as I’m slowly jogging.  So you’ll see as if you look at the heart rate graph, so I do that probably 10 times and I’m slowly increasing the speed and at some point I start running so fast I can’t maintain the 30 seconds of breathing and 30 seconds of not.  But what you will see if you look at the heart rate graph is you’ll see 10 massive drops in my heart rate.  The line just drops straight down to the bottom.

So it’s cool even in the act of me running on the treadmill, as soon as I stop breathing my body says, yup, I know Ted he’s in that when he stops breathing, he’s gonna hold his breath for a while, so let’s plummet that heart rate even while I’m running on the treadmill.  So I do exercises like that to just get used to the breath hold part of it.  And then towards the end in the exercise I’m trying to do high red zone training.  So in fact once I get up to the red zone at that point, I could run at that speed a bit but not super long.  But in order to maintain in the red zone for maybe 10 or 15 minutes once I get to that speed or I can’t maintain anymore, then I just start slowly bringing the speed down the treadmill yet increasing the incline so at the end I might on be going walking 2 miles an hour but coz the incline is as steep as it’ll go I’m still maintaining in that red zone for 10, 15 minutes.              

Ben:  So your essentially dropping your heart rate by holding your breathe during exercise? 

Ted:  Yeah.  Absolutely. 

Ben:  Interesting.  You’ll find a lot of people will now use deep nasal breathing to get themselves into a little bit less of a fight and flight state during exercise and this concept of holding your breath is really interesting.  Since you told me a little bit about this, I’ve actually been practicing a few of these breathe holds when I’m doing for example, squats or push-ups, a little bit of isometric works, some of them like yoga that I do in the sauna and it’s really interesting you have to mentally get over that little feeling of panic mode.  I don’t know if you experience this but your body wants to panic a little bit and then once you overcome that you kind of achieve that same almost like deep meditative state you can get when you’re doing something like nasal breathing.

Ted:  Yeah, definitely what your experiencing is it’s not natural for the average person to stop breathing and their body’s gonna go crazy, coz all their life they breathe in, they breathe out, they breathe in, they breathe out.  As soon as that stops, the body goes what the heck are you doing?  So what you’re experiencing is you didn’t have a big freediving background but through the course you start to learn all these techniques and all these techniques are directly tapping in your mammalian dive reflex.  And even though you don’t have any experience in the sport you can feel all these benefits that I’m talking about, right?  And you’re gonna start to feel yeah, I actually am hoping that once I follow the formula and then I can hold my breath for so much longer that’s actually a relaxing sign.  So it just takes a bit to get all that sorted out now that you’re kinda out of the program and experimenting you can still experience some of that.            

Ben:  Yeah, it’s a lot of fun to play around with some of these breath work because prior to this point I was only doing like nasal breathing and rhythmic breathing, and now I can actually use a little bit of this breath holding as well which I actually always thought would be a bad thing.  Increase in inter-abdominal pressure and herniations and all the potential things that could happen when you hold your breath, but as long as you control the amount of force that your producing don’t do it during say, like a 1 rm deadlift for example.  It actually is pretty cool what happens.

Now, as far as other types of training that free divers do like specific kinds of weight training or specific forms of cardiovascular training, are there things that you see free divers doing as far as the type of exercise modes or workouts that they do on dry land to better prepare themselves to either activate their mammalian dive reflex or hold their breath for a longer period of time, or withstand any of the other rigors of freediving?         

Ted:  Oh yeah, there’s tons of things that we do.  So let’s see one, you mentioned how can they increase their dive reflex? Well, the good news is just the aspect of free diving every time you go free diving your dive reflex gets stronger.  Every time you hold your breath your dive reflex gets stronger, but what you’ll see is your competitive free divers and you saw this in class that there is a ritual that we went through.  When we went down to the rig, the ocean, the first thing we did was we did this pull downs, right.  And these pull downs were going to depth but were doing in a very calm manner and so keeps our heart rate low yet were getting adjusted, we’re getting to depth, which increases the dive reflex more.  So competitive free divers have this very ritualistic way of doing everything, and it’s just designed so that when the body has done the same thing every time the same way, that dive reflex starts to kick in even stronger and stronger.  So there’s the idea of just repetitive breath holding where you keep doing things at a ritual, certainly gives us an advantage.

Ben:  Now as far as those pull downs go, do you want to explain to people via audio what those are or do you think that would be dangerous to inform people over audio without them being in the course?   

Ted:  Yeah, any stuff, me like telling them to go pull themselves underwater (laughs) and tank out down there.    

Ben:  Understood.  And what I can tell you listening in, is that we definitely had rituals from breath holding rituals to mammalian dive reflex activation rituals that Ted brought us through his course, and I definitely don’t expect somebody to come on the show and reveal all the secrets of their freediving course but ritual was definite a big part of it.  Now what about specific exercises or specific forms of workouts, Ted?  Can you give some examples of the type of workouts that free divers do?       

Ted:  Sure.  I can certainly share things that I’ve done.  So one of the things just like any sport that’s competitive in nature, when I’m going out and performing years ago when I was freediving around the two hundred foot range, well, what happened is when I would be coming up from two hundred feet, my legs would just give out, right?  The lactic burn would just become so strong.  In fact the last twenty feet I felt like I just couldn’t kick my legs anymore.  So what’s happening is because these dives are two hundred foot dives let see, that’s roughly at two men that dive, so that’s two men that’s may not breathing.  So I don’t get rid of oxygen when coming up from two hundred feet I put some serious strain on the legs.  I was limited back then due to just what my legs could tolerate but that would come too much like strong enough that could tolerate the lactic acid.  So what I would do is, okay, so now I know that’s my weakness.  So anytime you identify the weakness it’s pretty simple it’s just to train it out of the system.

So I would go to the gym and I would do a lot of exercises that were giving my quads and the quads were the muscles that were giving out on me when I was coming in from dives.  So I would do in essence apnea weight training.  So let’s say I’m not sure what you call it but I’m seated and I’ve got a big sled that I’m pushing up that’s hitting the quads, so what I would was put up a small amount of weight that’s not heavy at all.  And then I would do, I would hold my breath and do as many reps as I can for 30 seconds.  And so what I’m wanting to do is just really get that lactic burn on the legs. So I was doing a lot of workouts like that quite heavily for a while because I knew that was my weakness and then not surprisingly when I went back the next year to the competition, and then I was diving in the seventy, eighty meter range which is two hundred fifty, two hundred seventy, and my legs weren’t a problem even though I was diving much deeper but it was just because I’d kinda trained that out.                      

Ben:  So that’s breath holds while weightlifting?

Ted:  Yeah. 

Ben:  Okay, got it.  What about pool?  What about like a pool workout that someone could do like a lap swim or a triathletes that would be something similar what like a free diver would do?    

Ted:  Well, we do a wide variety of exercises in the pool.  In essence we’re holding our breath and swimming laps underwater.  The issue with that is anytime I’m doing that, I had someone trained in freediving rescue doing that with me.  The average listeners not… yeah, so maybe let’s not talk about that. 

Ben:  Okay, well just to clarify though you did mention something I think we should hone in on and that is how many times can you swim back and forth in a twenty five yard pool, because it was an ungodly number that you told us about during the actual freediving course?

Ted:  Yes, so my longest diving recap, so diving recap is yet another discipline that we use competitively if ever I was to compete in.  And it’s very simply how far can you go on one breath.  Distance.  So my longest is, I did this in the World Championships in 2011 was a hundred and seventy seven meters.  So that’s… let’s see… six, seven?     

Ben:  Yeah, that’s slightly over seven laps in a 25 yard pool underwater back and forth and that’s literally doing like… Are you using like a breaststroke motion underwater? 

Ted:  No.  For that discipline I was using a mono fin, so your readers or listeners may have seen competitor free divers with this big… they look like whale tails, so that’s what they’re mono fins for that event, I was using a mono fin.  I was using a big mono fin so I have my hands in front of me and then that’s kind of a dolphin kick with the mono fin to get the distance.          

Ben:  Right, and one of the things that you told us was this type of pool work should definitely be done with a partner not a lifeguard looking at you from the pool but an actual partner who is there in the water with you who is well versed in saving and blowing on the eyes, getting you out of the pool all those things that we learned during the free dive course, but some of the workouts that you showed us during one day in the classroom that I believe some of the professional free divers were doing were these back and forth like hundred meter sprint repeats while holding your breath, and then these folks would like go to the deep end kick vertically, touch bottom, go back up do that ten times over and over again and then do ventilation in between each effort.  But it really interestingly there are almost like these hybrid strength training pool workouts that some of these free divers were doing that I found intriguing.  I haven’t yet hunted down yet a partner here in Spokane, Washington to do some of these workouts with me but it was pretty crazy, and then also yeah, you showed us some of these gym training workouts where folks are doing like leg extensions, and leg curls, and leg presses but basically doing essentially some of these static apnea tables in between or holding their breath during these efforts.  So just this, I think it’s really interesting this hybrid form of training and breathwork that not a lot of people are tapping into so quite intriguing.                

Ted:  Yeah, the freediving training is interesting looking at what competitor free divers go through and as you know, I’m a competitor free diver myself, I mean the training it’s brutal, it’s really not that (chuckles) fun, right?  You’re doing these repeated breath holds and it’s just uncomfortable, but it’s the way any training works.  Any hard training that last set you’re doing isn’t particularly comfortable, but that’s what you need to do to get the results.  So in essence what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to put our body through these extremes of what’s gonna happen when we’re doing our breath holding work so that our body gets more used to it and then in fact what I would tell you is most of the training is way more uncomfortable than harder than any of the things that I would actually do during the dive.  In fact, that’s the way the training works.  You train in the extreme and so then when I’m actually doing other stuff I’m like, oh wow this is so much easier than that awful stuff I was doing in the pool but you know, that’s the way training works.           

Ben:  Yeah, now how about gear?  Like biohacks or special pieces of equipment like you’ll have some people training with these elevation training masks, other people will use these inspiratory and expiratory resistant devices like a Powerlung that you breathe in and out of?  I’m curious what your take is on those and also if there are specific tools that you’d recommend free divers or people looking to increase their breath hold that actually should use?          

Ted:  As far as tools, I would say no.  I would say no.  I’ll just bring this up coz I get asked about this a lot like for instance there’s the thing called Powerlung, there’s the thing called Expand-a-lung.  And it’s basically you put it in your mouth, you breathe through it and it’s harder to breath, right?  So it’s in fact resistance training for breathing.  And so there’s one particular called the Expand-a-lung and obviously they’re gonna say that that thing expands your lung bio.  So I get asked about that a lot.  So you go through that type of breathing resistance device.

I’m not a fan of those because resistance training as all your listeners will know, builds muscle, right?  So what this device does is it puts muscles on our rib cage, right.  As you remember from class what restricts how big a breath you can take is not the size of your lungs, it’s actually the cage that the lungs are surrounded in.  We’ve actually documented through several studies that we can increase our lung bio and the way that we do that is through stretching.  If I can make the rib cage more flexible then that allows me take a bigger breath.  So that’s why I don’t like devices like that because all that does is put muscle on that area and as a free diver I don’t need fast in and out movement maybe like a cyclists or triathlon.  I just want to take the biggest breath that I can so we increase that through stretching which you remember in the class that stretches allow you to take a bigger breath.

Ben:  Right, the stretches worried… like now I stretch out the lungs and the rib cage but then you also have stretches that we do where you would have us exhale all of the oxygen from our lungs and then go on to kind of a contorted kneeling position simply to enable our bodies to withstand the mental and physical rigors of the diaphragmatic spasms.  Those were pretty tough exercises as well.      

Ted:  Yes, so that’s the diaphragm stretches.  So those are a part of every competitor free diver’s training regimen, if you’ve ever seen a lot of people have seen pictures of competitor free divers and they’re like, what in the heck is that guy doing? he’s sitting cross-legged and his stomach’s all sucked in, right?  So that’s in fact what exercises I had doing with Ben, when he took the program were this idea of diaphragm stretches.  So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to increase the flexibility of the diaphragm because that is the really big limiting factor to what sort of depth you can dive to.  And kind of a short explanation of that is as follows; the lungs as we dive underwater obviously our lungs are shrinking like they’re compressing and what’s happening is the diaphragm is in essence connected to the lungs so as the lungs compress, the diaphragm gets kinda stretched up towards the lungs as the lungs are compressing and so for the average person, your average listener they’ve never pushed out every ounce of air they have in their lungs.  Why would you ever do that, right?  So what’s happening is the average diver when they start diving down to depth sixty, seventy, eighty feet because their lungs is compressing their dive diaphragm is getting sucked in and they get stretched past the point where it’s comfortable and it triggers an urge to breathe.  Now that urge to breathe has nothing to do with the oxygen levels being low.  Has nothing to do with the CO2 levels being high.  It has to do with the fact that diaphragm is stretched so far beyond what’s comfortable for it, it triggers an urge to breathe because as soon as you take a breath, the diaphragm then goes back to what’s normal.               

Ben:  Got it.    

Ted:  So, that’s why this idea of stretching the diaphragm is so key among competitor free divers, and if you talk to any competitive free diver I challenge you to find one that doesn’t say they do those diaphragm stretches all the time.   

Ben:  Now, when you’re feeling this urge to breathe, this spasm, some people will say that spasm could be alleviated if you say didn’t have as much CO2 circulating in your blood stream.  And I know there’s this concept of blowing off CO2, I believe it’s called like scrubbing CO2 that some free divers do.  What do you think of that practice of trying to eliminate as much CO2 as possible?    

Ted:  Alright, so CO2 is the largest drive our urge to breathe, right?  So if you ask your conditional physiologist, he will tell you that 80% of the urge to breathe comes from high CO2 levels and then 20% comes from low oxygen.  So CO2 is in essence what’s driving the urge to breathe.  So it would seem to make sense that if CO2 is causing that urge to breathe, well man, what I should do before I hold my breath is just get rid of as much CO2 as possible so then it takes longer for that CO2 level to rise to a point when it becomes a problem.  So one technique that would accomplish that is something called hyperventilation which is exactly what I used to do before I took a freediving class.  Where I’m before I’m diving I’m wooh, wooh, wooh, wooh taking really big breaths in [0:57:15.5] ______.  And what that does is it dumps off your CO2.  So now because there’s so little CO2 it takes a long time for that CO2 level to rise until you get that urge to breathe.  So at this point your listeners’ probably seem like, well that sounds like a pretty great deal.  I just need to hyperventilate.  So the problem with that is, by the way, before I did the freediving class that’s exactly what I did I hyperventilate.  Now there’s a major safety issue with that.  So when you hyperventilate yeah, it does blow off the CO2 and what that does for you is that delays your urge to breath.  But the big thing that it does that’s of safety issue which is why we don’t do it is it actually physically reduces the amount of oxygen available to your body because when you hyperventilate like that you’re getting rid of all the CO2.

Now if you look at your blood during a breath hold what you would find is in fact your blood becomes more acidic as you hold your breath because CO2 is acidic.  So as we’re holding our breath to get more and more CO2 the acidity level of our blood is rising.  Now there’s this crazy thing called the Bohr Effect you remember me talking about it in class.  The hemoglobin dissociation curve and that thing illustrates if there’s not enough CO2 or if our blood isn’t acidic enough, it affects the strength of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen.  So what can happen is if you blow off too much CO2, your blood’s not acidic enough and when your blood is not acidic enough then the strength of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen is too strong and now what happens is all your hemoglobin molecules have a couple of oxygen molecules attached to it that your body can’t activate.  It can’t use because the strength of the bond is too strong.

Ben:  Right. 

Ted:  So in essence that’s why hyperventilation does delay your urge to breathe, I won’t deny that it does that but it physically reduces the amount oxygen available to your body.  And so all has to tie into this hemoglobin dissociation curve and has to tie into this CO2 levels.  So if you look at competitive free divers well, they’re all aware of the Bohr Effect, they’re all aware of what I’m talking about.  So they’re gonna say, hey, I don’t wanna get rid of CO2.  I want as much of it as possible because the more CO2 I have in my system the more acidic my blood is, the more acidic my blood is the weaker the bond between the hemoglobin and oxygen’s gonna be.  So what they’ll do is they have completely different breathing techniques from techniques that I taught to use.

If you are to look at William Trubridge the way he breathes up, if you are to watch him breathing up, it would be pretty much as if you were sitting on a couch watching TV.  I mean he would be breathing in just minimal, barely in, barely out.  And the reason he does that is he wants as much CO2 in his body as possible.  So the more CO2 he has the more acidic his blood is which lowers the strength of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen.  So listeners might say, okay well, clearly that’s the way we should all breathe is this minimal thing that all the top competitive free divers do.  But absolutely that’s not what you should do because in fact that’s not what I taught you to do.  The reason that he does that is coz he wants to get every possible advantage.  The down side is CO2 is what triggers the urge to breathe so he starts to dive already with the high level of CO2 so that tactic in fact makes every dive feel more uncomfortable.  Urge to breathe is gonna come sooner.  Urge to breathe is gonna be stronger but he does get that advantage of having that extra bit of oxygen, so it’s something that yeah, elite free divers are gonna do things very differently that I might teach a student to do because you can remember what those eighty foot dives in the class felt like and would you like me to instruct you in a way to breathe that would make that dive feel worse.                             

Ben:  Right.  Okay, that makes sense.  So what you’d want to do then if you didn’t want the extreme discomfort of the urge to breathe you would actually want to blow off CO2.  You’d want to breathe out a little bit more than you breathe in and you’d want to do that so that as you blow off CO2 you reduce the body’s urge to want to breathe that can occur and make things uncomfortable when you’re underwater.  But for somebody who’s more elite free divers, some of these folks who just are simply focused in maximizing breath hold and are as concerned about the discomfort, they are actually not trying to blow off so much CO2 because they know that they need a certain amount of CO2, a certain amount of acidosis in order for oxygen to be able to dissociate from hemoglobin and go on to tissue where they’re gonna need it when they’re underwater for those ungodly amounts of time.

Ted: Yeah, absolutely.  So if you look at the 2 extremes top competitive free divers are gonna do what I call the minimal breathing just in and out as if they’re on the couch.  Then you’ve got the other extreme which is hard core hyperventilation wooh, wooh, wooh, wooh, wooh, wooh before you go.  We absolutely don’t want to do that because that absolutely increases our risk of blacking out because it’s delay, that you can stay down there longer but it’s also physically reducing the amount of oxygen.  So that’s really why it’s super dangerous.  So we pick as somewhere in the middle and if the 2 second explanation of how I breathe, how you should breathe when you’re freediving is in general you wanna be exhaling out for a lot more than you’re inhaling.  So if you listen to me take a breath right now you hear in (inhaling) wooh, and then (exhaling) fiiiis.

Ben:  Uhm. 

Ted:  So you can hear I’m spending less time inhaling more time exhaling.  And that’s kinda generally speaking what we wanna be doing. 

Ben:  That’s gonna like to blow off a little bit of extra CO2.   

Ted:  Yes, it’s good, yes.  Blow off makes me uncomfortable coz blowing off is what hyperventilation is which is what we don’t wanna do.  But in essence it’s gonna be that nice happening.      

Ben:  Yeah.  It’s really interesting to compare your breathing advice with somebody like say this Wim Hof who is another very, very popular breathe holding guy who does a lot of the cold water swimming, and he’s the guy I mentioned earlier known as the Iceman.  His recommendation is to basically breathe out very, very relax and not really focus too much on the exhale and then do nice big inhales with the purpose of retaining CO2.  I guess of getting into this more acidotic state where you’re gonna be slightly uncomfortable where you might get more oxygen dissociation.  So it sounds like his method would be a little bit more uncomfortable for folks potentially get them a little bit longer breath hold but definitely not be a happy place to be necessarily and if you’re freediving potentially a stressful place to be.          

Ted:   Yeah, I had one of his students take the course.    

Ben:  Oh really?   

Ted:  Yeah, he was interesting.  That was really the kind of first I have heard about him but definitely sounds like he’s doing some pretty interesting stuff.    

Ben:  Yeah, he is.  It’s interesting.  I’ll send you a link to the podcast that I did with him because he actually goes in with some of his breath work techniques.  Now I know we’re coming up against time but as far as the free diving course that you do down there in Fort Lauderdale, the immersion freediving course I know a lot of people are gonna want to be interested in that and just to clarify you have a beginner, an intermediate, and an advance level of that course, correct?         

Ted:  Correct.   

Ben:  Okay, for folks listening in who have never done this before if they were going to say sign up for a beginner course what can they expect from something like that?   

Ted:  Sure.  So I’ve got a 3-day course and basically that course is for people that are water people that just don’t have any experience freediving, right?  I mean like you weren’t a free diver but you certainly been a lot of time in the water, right through all your swimmings.  So basically as long as you’re comfortable in the water, you know, I get a lot of people they may be scuba divers.  But yeah, as long as you’re comfortable in the water then that course makes sense.  And as far as how the course is organized it’s a 3-day course.  It’s all day Friday and a long day of 10, 12-hour days.  It’s all day Friday, we do class from like 8 until 2, and then we go to the pool in the afternoon and that’s where we actually start putting all the skills to the test where we’re actually doing breath holds in the pool, and then Saturday we go to the pool again and then we go in the ocean diving in the afternoon on Saturday, and then on Sunday we finish around 2 and 3 o’clock, we actually go diving a second time.  So the average student in that program does a two and half to three and half-minute breath hold in the pool and the average student does a sixty-foot dive.  Typically, the thing that will limit students from not getting sixty feet is the ability to properly equalize correctly using a very specific technique called Frenzel.  And so one of the things that I do which is pretty unique is when student sign up for my course they get some several videos that will kinda walk through how to do Frenzel.  It will also allow them to figure out that they’re doing it the correct way and then if they’re doing it incorrectly, then I’ll schedule a Skype session with them and (inaudible) via the Skype session before the class starts.                   

Ben:  Gotcha.  Cool.  Yeah, and the combination classroom time, pool time and ocean time I found extremely helpful and I wound up taking the intermediate course just because as a triathlete and open water swimmer I felt pretty comfortable in the water and pretty ready to dive in, pun intended, at that level.  But yeah, I highly recommend Ted’s course to any of you who are interested in getting into this stuff a little bit more intensively and I’ll put a link to that as well as everything else that we talked about in the show notes to today’s episode.  And you can get those over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/freediver and that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/freediver.  I’ll link to the book called Deep that got me interested in all these stuff in the first place to Ted’s course to my previous podcast with Wim Hof to the static apnea tables that we talked about, the static apnea table app that I personally use and a lot more.  So you can check all that out over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/freediver.

And in the meantime, Ted, thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing all these stuff with us, man.          

Ted:  Oh, you’re welcome.  I absolutely enjoyed it and it was really cool to get you in the program because I enjoy people that have, you know, most of my students don’t have that extreme background in physiology and all that sort of stuff, so it was cool to have you in the program.     

Ben:  Yeah, absolutely and I’m looking forward to the potential of a spear fishing adventure in 2016 which I know you and I are already talking about.  For those of you listening in, stay tuned because I’m sure that I’ll be putting out an article on that whole sport as well.  So in the meantime, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Ted Harty signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.  Have a healthy week.



A few weeks ago, I published an extremely popular article entitled “How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex.” In that article, I mentioned a guy named Ted Harty, from Immersion Freediving in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

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 hour of ninety-six hours of my life 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.”

So 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 a 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-reknowned 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 oxgyen as efficiently to his muscles and brain as most of the world’s population. Thes 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. And in today’s podcast, he shares his secrets with us, including:

-How Ted went from an overweight scuba diver to becoming a fit free diving instructor…

-Why being cold and cold water can actually inhibit your ability to hold your breath…

Ted’s thoughts about Tom Cruise’s freediving scene in the recent Mission Impossible, and how Tom Cruise got up to a six minute static apnea hold…

-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 so useful, even if you have zero desire to do long breathholds or freediving competition…

-How shallow water blackouts occur and how you can avoid them…

-The cool things that happen to your body when you hold our breath during exercise like jogging… 

-The specific forms of dry land training that freedivers do to get their bodies necessary to excel underwater and to enhance oxygen carrying capacity and oxygen delivery…

-Ted’s controversial thoughts on resisted breath training tools like the Powerlung and the Elevation Training Masks…

-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!

Resources from this episode:

-book – Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves

-podcast – my previous podcast with Wim Hof

Static apnea tables

The static apnea table app that I personally use

Immersion Freediving in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida





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