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The trick to getting more time out of your tanks



By Roy Cabalo

We hear the question all the time from new divers and in some cases seasoned divers as well – How do I get more time out of my cylinder?  The usual answers include “relax” or “it’ll come with time and experience” or “count through your breaths,” just to throw a few out there. However, we rarely take the extra time to explain Diaphragmatic Breathing.

Diaphragmatic what??? 

Diaphragmatic breathing is sometimes referred to as Abdominal or Belly Breathing. It’s the scientific solution for effective oxygen exchange in the body, a reduced heart rate and relaxation, whether in or out of the water. All of us actually did this from birth and in our younger years, but as we got older, we started lung breathing and getting used to shorter, less effective breaths. Freedivers have been exercising breathing management techniques for years to obtain maximum breath holds and it’s time the scuba community embraces the knowledge and shares in the benefits.

*Hint, hint* The first and most readily noticed benefit – better buoyancy control!

Rather than directing everyone to a myriad of “how-to” websites and videos, we’ll cut through all that and provide the simplest abbreviated instructions you need to focus on. This is all about the diaphragm, the primary muscle below the lungs and heart that we need to retrain.

Most instructions will have these things in common: 

  • Slow, steady, and deep inhale through the nose with a focus on watching the stomach rise, not the chest (this is very important.)  Many websites recommend placing one hand on the stomach and another on the chest to make watching the rise and fall of each breath easier.
  • Some will recommend a slight pause at the end of an inhale, some will recommend holding that breath for a count of four and some will recommend a continued breath through the exhale.  What we DON’T want to do is get divers, especially new divers, into thinking that “skip breathing” is correct in any way.
  • The exhale should be deliberate, and by that I mean tensing the stomach muscles with an equally slow and steady rhythm to get as much of the exhausted air out of your body’s dead air spaces as possible.

On the surface, you’ll be breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth through pursed lips. It will take practice – you’re trying to retrain your body to do something it hasn’t done naturally since birth.  Some find practicing easier while lying down, while others find it easier to do in a seated position. The bottom line is you have to practice five to ten minutes at a time, three to four times a day. With time this can again become second nature and the health benefits extend beyond the underwater world.

How do we apply this to scuba? 

How and when do we best apply diaphragmatic breathing to scuba . . . not at the last second before you hit the water, that’s for sure.  Ideally, after you get your dive briefing and you’ve done your buddy checks, the time is yours. Save those last few minutes to get into a good breathing rhythm, listen to the waves and water, and relax.  Combine your breathing time with some visualization and you have a common focus that will not only lower your heart rate but give you a mental picture of what your dive should look like.

Will you notice a dramatic difference immediately? Most likely not. Will you notice an appreciable difference over time? If you practice, absolutely.  This is where we break off and start a class on SAC rates, so I’ll digress and welcome our brothers and sisters from PFI to chime in and leave you with the greatest words in our sport – Dive, Dive, Dive.

To find out more about International Training, visit

From its humble beginning in 1994 to today, the group of training agencies Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) form one of the largest diving certification agencies in the World – International Training. With 24 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries, the company today far exceeds the original vision the founders had when they conceived the idea on a napkin, sitting at a kitchen table in the early 1990’s.

Dive Training Blogs

When is it a good day to dive?



By Rick Peck

The standard answer is “It’s always a good day to dive.” The real question is: When is it a day we should not dive?

There are several factors that go into a decision for a dive day.

  • Weather
  • Waves
  • Tides (if applicable)
  • Physical condition
  • Mental condition
  • Water visibility


We would all like to dive in bright sunny conditions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. It is always a good idea to check the forecast before a dive day. The weather directly before a dive might be bright and sunny, but in some areas, thunderstorms roll in quickly. While it may be an interesting experience to see a lightning storm underwater with the strobe effect, we do have to come up sometime. A 30+ pound lightning rod strapped to your back makes for a very dangerous exit.

Wind is also a concern. Storms that roll in quickly can bring gust fronts that make for dangerous conditions. It could be flat and calm when you enter, and you may ascend after the dive into 5-6 foot chop with a dangerous exit onto the boat. Having a boat drop on your head or getting tangled in the ladder is not fun.

Waves and Tides

Shore diving in a coastal area makes waves a concern. Waves are generated by wind speed, duration and fetch. If there is a storm offshore you could be seeing big waves with very little wind in your area. Linked to the wave action is the tide. At some sites, waves tend to fizzle out at extreme high tide, making for easier entry and exits.

Tides can also affect your dive in an inlet. There is a popular dive site in my area that normally dives from a half-hour before high tide to a half-hour after high tide because of the current generated by the tidal change. The tidal currents can become so strong that an average diver can’t overcome them. The question is: does the tide change match the time you have available to dive? Your local dive shop should have recommendations on where and when is the best time to shore dive. As we learned in our Open Water class, local knowledge is the best.

Physical Condition

Are you healthy enough to dive? Do you have the physical conditioning to safely do the dive you are planning? Pushing your physical limits directly after a cold or allergy attack could lead to an ear injury or worse. If you have been sick, maybe you don’t have the energy reserves to rescue yourself or a buddy if required. The typical “Oh, I’ll be alright” could put not only you but your dive buddy at risk as well. Don’t let your ego write checks that your body can’t fulfill.

Mental Condition

You could compare diving to driving a car. We have all heard of distracted driving. If you are mentally upset or dealing with a great deal of stress, it might be prudent to evaluate whether it’s a good day to dive. Frustration and an urgency to get into the water to “relax” could mean you are skipping items on your buddy checks and self-checks. Unless you have the mental discipline to set these worries aside, it is probably better to dive another day.

Water Visibility

While there is a segment of the diving population that likes to “Muck Dive,” in general we prefer to see what is around us. One type of diving where visibility is important is drift diving. It is a two-fold problem, if you stay shallow enough to avoid obstructions, you can’t see anything. If you go deep enough to see the bottom, depending on the speed of the current, there is a possibility of being driven into a coral head or some other obstruction that you don’t see approaching. It is also much easier to become separated from your buddy. Remember to discuss and set a lost buddy protocol before the dive.


While it seems like all the stars and moon must align in order to safely dive, it’s really simple. Check the weather, check the tides (If applicable), do a self-assessment, and don’t be reluctant to cancel a dive if the conditions warrant it when you arrive at the dive site. A little planning and forethought will lead to a safe enjoyable dive. Always remember to dive within the limits of your training, conditioning, and skill set.

To find out more about International Training, visit

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Dive Training Blogs

Jeff chats to… author, avid cave diver and professional adventurer Steve Lewis (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to author, avid cave diver and professional adventurer Steve Lewis about life in general with a bit of diving as well!

Steve Lewis is also Director of Diver Training for RAID.

For more, visit Steve on Facebook at:

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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