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The terrible feeling of " Not enough air "

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by Pyde, May 2, 2019.

  1. Pyde

    Pyde Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Idaho
    I just wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful, informative and kind responses. I did another pool session that went very well. My new Atomic Z2 worked perfectly and felt really good to breath out of. It was a very relaxing session to be perfectly honest. My instructor pretty much just let me chill with this months class and work on skills as I saw fit. The only mandatory skill he wanted me to do was the CESA. So much more relaxing to just hang out and breath and not have to worry about working on those skills again. However I did practice some of the no mask skills again just to get used to my nose being out of the mask while continuing to breath out of my regulator. One of the dive masters taught me a simple trick to tilt my head to the side so bubbles don't go straight up my face and hit my nose while performing those skills. The bubbles up the nose make me want to hold my nose shut with my hand. All in all it was an awesome time. I will check back in and let everyone know how my Open Water dives go this next time around in 10 days.

    Also, my breathing this session felt amazing. Very long deep breaths with long exhales. Not once did I feel "out of breath".
    txgoose, Esprise Me, Neilwood and 3 others like this.
  2. Kimela

    Kimela Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: St Louis
    @Pyde - I didn't read any responses because I didn't want mine to be influenced by what others say (though I did see that things have already improved for you - yay!).

    First, I think you did the right thing to call your dives. I know you felt like you let everyone down - including yourself. But if you listen carefully you will hear that still, small voice inside you saying "You took care of yourself. This is a step toward being responsible for your own safety - and you rocked it." You may feel like a weenie, but you were strong in the face of pressure to just go with the pack. Good job!

    Next, I have had this feeling too. I had to call the dive in a similar situation. One thing I learned is to exhale completely and then start with a couple of deep breaths. You need to get oxygen rich air into your lungs to help your brain function better. When you hyperventilate you are depriving your brain of oxygen and you literally cannot think clearly. When you reintroduce a good amount of oxygen to the brain it begins to assert itself again and some calm may return.

    Honestly, breathing out of a regulator never feels as good as breathing free above the water (to me). Neither does breathing through a snorkel (though I'd take a regulator over a snorkel any day of the week). If I've been out of the water a few months I still have a bit of that same feeling of "I can't get enough air" on that first - and maybe even the second - dive. It helps to distract myself. I sometimes choose a song that I am going to learn really, really well ahead of time, and as I start my dive I play it in my head. I know every chord, where the instruments will enter into the music, etc. It's a nice distraction as I sink into the water and helps to get me 'into the zone'. Then I get distracted by fish and coral and the music fades. (yes, I'm an odd one, but it works for me and it might work for you. FWIW)

    Last, if you need to call a dive - for whatever reason - call it. If your dive buddy doesn't understand it they eventually will hit a situation that will require them calling the dive. Don't worry about it. No dive is worth taking a risk that could lead to injury or death. Live to dive another day.
    Kalab, chillyinCanada and Pyde like this.
  3. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
    I never take more than 2 students at a time on the 1st descent. Partly due to what you described and also I only have two hands to respond to a student's issue. Even if there were another instructor helping and we did take more than 2, they'd be going down a separate line so that people were not rushed and so that if someone did need to ascend, no one would be in the way.

    The other thing I am fortunate to have is virtually unlimited pool time with students before going to open water. Normally, unless someone has issues, OW students get 12-14 hours in the pool before OW checkouts. Even if they do their class over the winter, I have them come in for at least one session the week before checkouts to refresh their skills and knowledge.

    I've had students do all of the required classroom and pool two months in advance and then, since I am at the shop anyway which has its own pool, come in every couple of weeks to just get in the water and practice. I'll get in with them and watch of course and we will also work on some other skills as an addition to the required ones. At no additional cost.
  4. Charles Graves

    Charles Graves Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Washington, DC
    If your issue is psychological (which is quite likely), the only things that will fix this is time in the water, practice, and forcing yourself to be confident, calm, happy, and excited to do the dive. Your enjoyment of wanting to do the dive, and your persistence, will eventually wear down your inner worry, and you'll get over your fears. Jay has some good ideas.

    If your issue is physical, (genuine lack of ability to breathe) then I recommend you do a few things:

    1) Learn how to open the valve on your regulator to get more air from it. Sometimes if the regulator 2nd stage is partially or almost all the way closed, you wont get much air. Opening it allows a huge rush of air per breath.

    2) Aside from doing #1, which is important, you also should be in good physical shape. Go running, hard swimming (above water, like freestyle or breast stroke etc) and also do some swimming where you just use your fins to kick very hard. Also, practicing with mask and snorkel in a pool will help you get used to the feeling while also greatly improving your cardio and leg endurance in the process. Also once a week, do some weightlifting for upper and lower body (2x a week if you are fit and ambitious). When you are in great shape, your body needs less air at rest or minimal activity, and you wont feel as fatigued or panicked from breathing out of the regulator.

    3) Take full, deep breaths. If you feel the need to breathe fast, ok, breathe fast, BUT ONLY AFTER YOU HAVE INHALED ALL THE WAY AND EXHALED ALL THE WAY. This will get a ton of air deep into your lungs. Whatever you do though, don't hyperventilate by breathing shallow breaths rapidly. This is a bad idea, and it can deprive your lungs of oxygen. If you feel fear, just relax yourself and tell yourself "I am intelligent. I have a high IQ. I am in control of my dive. I will dive smart and be successful. Relax." Just be confident in your abilities, your training, and your body. And if your body is fat and out of shape (no offense of course), then getting into great shape before diving is certainly an ideal scenario (of course not everyone has the time in their day, or the ability to wait months to get in great shape, before diving).

    As far as equalizing- make sure your sinuses are good (ENT doctor can tell you), sometimes people need one of the following surgeries to equalize properly- either A) deviated septum surgery, B) tonsil removal surgery, C) collapsed nasal valve surgery or D) polyp removal surgery. Sometimes, allergy shots combined with a corticosteroid nasal spray and a daily OTC allergy pill also help reduce inflammation of ear, nose and throat. If you are congested before the dive, mildly, then either dont dive or take a nasal decongestant like "severe cold and flu" 30 mins before the dive and combine that with a spray of corticosteroid nasal spray an hour before the dive. If you are very congested, then dont dive, period.

    Equalizing should be done early and often, you should do it as soon as your entire head is under water, before you even descend further. If you are waiting until your ear hurts, then you are doing it wrong. You should do it before you feel really any pressure. It should be done every foot or two. If any, the feeling of ear/nose pressure should be tiny and manageable. It should go away each time you equalize.
  5. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    You've pretty much heard it all now and more than once, plus you've had successful extra pool time. So, I'm going to add only one thing and that is visualization.

    Before you dive, see the successful dive in your mind's eye, calmly and peacefully.
  6. Miyaru

    Miyaru Tec Instructor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: below sea level
    You nailed it! Congrats!
  7. miadukes

    miadukes Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: South Florida
    Bolding mine: I may be wrong here but this is bad advise. If you have the need to take an OTC decongestant "severe cold and flu" before you dive then you should not be diving that day.
  8. Doby45

    Doby45 Do I have something in my teeth?

    I can bet you a dozen donuts that when you are going down that buoy line to the 20ft platform you are not going down in a "skydiving" position but head up and fins down. This has more effect on the "feeling" of breathing than you can possibly imagine. It is not as exaggerated in the pool and therefore it can be masked while doing pool work. But it is absolutely easier to breath from a regulator and get a "full breath" feeling when your regulator and lungs on the same level in the water column. I require my students to assume the diving/sky diving position when they go down the line to the platform and then they hold onto the edge of the platform, the whole time they are in proper trim and not flailing around or kneeling on anything.

    It may feel a bit weird to descend the line that way as a new diver, but I promise you it will make an incredible difference. I learned very early in my instructor career to always have students flat and in trim. Even in the shallow 4ft work I have them go from a squatting position to basically falling forward and laying flat on the bottom.
    Pyde and miadukes like this.
  9. Satrekker

    Satrekker Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Clearwater, FL
    Overexertion, as well as shallow breathing can cause that feeling of not enough air. This is due to CO2 buildup. Relax and breathe out and in completely. Once the excess CO2 is expelled, the feeling disappears as quickly as it came on. Remember that you have an air source and are able to breathe freely. That really helps mentally when you feel that sense of panic creeping into the periphery of your brain.
  10. Charles Graves

    Charles Graves Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Washington, DC
    You’re right, of course. I’m just saying if someone has a cold, and still stubbornly wants to dive, that it’s at least much safer to take a nasal decogestsnt than to not take one at all. They should take one an hour before the dive and then also take one right before the dive. That way there’s no chance of it wearing off mid-dive. It’s better to be decongested 90%, than not at all.

    I did say in my post that if it’s a bad congestion they shouldn’t dive at all no matter what. But if it’s only very mild congestion and they have an awesome dive pre-paid for, then if they wanna dive with (only mild) congestion it isn’t a terrible idea as long as they take the decongestant at the right times (also a nasal spray and lots of water helps too).

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