Original article can be found at Sport Chalet SCUBA Community here.
By: Jonathen E. Davis, Sport Chalet SCUBA Expert
What is the most important part of your SCUBA gear? Cylinder? Regulator? Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)?
When it comes to taking care of your gear you are probably meticulous; having it checked and serviced regularly to ensure that life sustaining equipment is in good repair.
But what about the diver themselves?
It’s easy to discount the physical requirements of SCUBA diving because, once the diver is in the water, he or she is wonderfully weightless. However, before entering the water – the diver must be capable of comfortably lifting 50+ pounds of gear, as well as walking up and down stairs or boat ladders while wearing a wetsuit. This can be a real physical chore if the diver is out of shape or if a long span of time has lapsed between dive sessions.
While the first step is the most obvious; are you medically fit? Checking with your personal physician regarding cardiovascular health, especially if a diver knows that they have high blood pressure or anything that might lead to an underwater emergency. However, a healthy diet and exercise plan can help a SCUBA diver be more comfortable and more efficient diver.
When starting a new type of exercise for the first time please consider consulting with a trainer or partner to make sure you are properly performing the exercise correctly. Doing so incorrectly can lead to injuries – meaning you’ll be a fish out of water… and that is never good for a diver!
Getting fit in ways that helps divers enjoy the sport!
The first step can be a simple cardiovascular routine. While running is not always on diver’s list of favorite things to do – other cardio activities such as walking, swimming, and rock climbing can help improve heart and lung health. A pleasant side effect of a healthy heart and lungs is a more efficient use of oxygen that can help improve underwater air consumption that means longer diving.
Lower back and knee injuries can also take a toll on divers. It is important that a diver can handle loading, carrying, and swimming while wearing the additional weight of dive equipment. A weight training routine focused on these areas can help a diver prevent injuries and ensure that he or she is comfortable in the water. This isn’t to say that you have to devote hours in the gym pumping iron, but instead using bodyweight exercises or a few dumbbells to keep your legs and lower back in good shape.
Squats (body weight only or with weights) will help strengthen your glutes, calves, and lower back muscles and also build muscles that help support knee tendons. Deadlifts can also add strength to your glutes, hips, and upper back. These muscles are used to transport SCUBA gear to and from, or into and out of, the water and also used while swimming.
While often overlooked, flexibility can help a diver feel more comfortable while entering and exiting the water. Donning and doffing fins, bending down for a dropped snorkel, and reaching behind one’s head to recover a regulator can be simpler if you include stretching or yoga into a regular routine. As a positive addition, the awareness of breathing and relaxation of yoga can aid anxious divers or air hogs into mindful breathing and relaxing states.
Been a while? Schedule a tune-up dive.
Fitness is important when there has been a gap in time – not diving consistently. For shore diving, specifically, returning to the water after a few months may mean diving a site that is more accessible, has a shorter walk to the water, a shorter shore swim, and less current and surge. PADI has addressed this common issue by offering a diving “tune up” course called ReActivate. Chances are, if a diver’s gear has a thick coat of dust, it may be a good idea to get re-acquainted with the sport before diving in to a more difficult dive. Ask your local Sport Chalet SCUBA Center on how to take part in this program.
Food and Fuel
It’s easy to roll out of bed, check the ocean conditions, and head out to a favorite dive site without even taking a second thought about breakfast. A cup of coffee and a doughnut may be easy to grab on the go, but isn’t likely to give a diver the energy needed to fight against the current on a return swim.
A fit diver is a more comfortable diver and a more comfortable diver is a safer diver. Knowing that one is prepared to manage the, at times, strenuous activities involved with SCUBA diving grants a boost of confidence and makes the activity more fun.
Stay fit to be a better diver:
- Ensure that you are healthy and prepared for the physical demands of SCUBA diving.
- Keep a cardiovascular routine.
- Work legs, lower back, and core to better handle heavy equipment.
- Consider stretching and breathing exercises, such as yoga.
Jonathen E. Davis is a Sport Chalet Expert Ambassador for Sport Chalet. He is the owner of a Southern California based photography and videography company called Image Hero (www.image-hero.com)
A special thanks to Lisa Swank (IG: @kelpdreamer) for help with gym photographs and this article.
Also thanks to Rock Fitness (www.rockfitness.com) for allowing us to photograph in their large rock climbing and fitness facility in Wildomar, California.