Can you hold your breath 5 minutes?

Why you have to be slow to become a winner? What is the schedule of contractions? Is it possible to sleep under water? And how to set a national record in… a month?

November 1, 2013, happened what I was looking forward to the last six months. I started free diving – swimming under water holding your breath. How and why I came in free diving, and what I did in Egypt, I will discuss later in another post.

Meanwhile, I was driving Sergey Legeyda (the diving commander in Moldova) nuts, and he began to train me.

And it also turned out, that Sergey has wanted for a long time to have a freediving competition, and now a student with remarkable website and a strong will to get into this strange type of sport came to him. Everything came together, and, not to lose time, we decided to jointly organize the competition on December 1, on the first day of winter.

What motivates better the competition? I do not know…

There were trainings in the pool and on the couch watching TV, with and without fins, breaststroke, front crawl and butterfly. I quickly progressed.

My first breathhold was 2:16. After a week, already 3:05, and after another two weeks – 4:15. I think that such progress is based on the fact that I am actively engaged in swimming for 4 years and sometimes run marathons.

In mid-November, I took my family and a group of divers and went to Egypt, where I had the honor to meet her Majesty – depth.

Oh, now I know about compensation, Valsalva is and Frenzel methods, partial pressure, reverse block and I can distinguish hypercapnia from hypoxia and samba from blackout.

The depth was hard to win. On the first day I dove 6 meters, then 8. Two days later I reached 12. Then there was a pause, and I, exhausted, lay on the beach and massaged stunned overload ears. A day later, gain strength, I dove at first 16 and then 18 meters.

In short, despite the easy cold, clogged sinuses and Eustachian tubes, I was able to dive to 20 meters. The sea did not allow me deeper. Yet. Well, we will try to earn the right to go deeper …

Egypt, warm sun, hookah and grilled fish are behind. But ahead is the test.


And now, a month after the start of trainings and the travel to Egypt, we have the competition. At 10am, in the hall of Niagara, I see many people with long fins, masks, monofins. Cool, like-minded persons!

I began to get acquainted – here are underwater hunters, freedivers, scuba diving coaches and even yogas. Even girls of retirement age came – respect. Wow, breathtaking, so many useful contacts!

Took our clothes off, went to warm up before the statics.

And here was the first surprise – I could hardly hold my breath at 3:00. The heart is beating, as if I were back in the registry office and I had to give the right answer.

I made 3 breath-holdings. Contractions (contraction of the diaphragm, the urge to breathe) began at 2:30. It is bad. Previously, contraction begun at 3-3:30. This means that if I want to repeat my record (4:36) I will have to suffer more than 2 minutes.

Two days before the competition, I had a vegetable regime: no drinking, no walking, no stress, no trainings, only lying in front of a TV set and dribbling. I don’t understand, why am I not ready? I decided to go and take a nap before the start to calm down. Of course, I could not sleep, but my heart almost stopped.

In fact, freediving competitions are probably the weirdest in the world of sports. Some athletes are sleeping, they all go sleepy, yawn, playing a quiet meditative music – naptime in the kindergarten, in a word. And here is my solution.


Static apnea – the discipline of underwater sports, in which the main goal is to hold your breath as long as possible.

So, the strategy is this: I asked Roman Fedrych, my comrade, to touch me, when 4 minutes are passed, so I would not pop up before, and waited for his signal. Less than 4 – generally is not serious. In front of me were standing already two sportsmen with results more than 4 minutes. And I can take at least the third place.

I went into the water and began to breathe … slowly, more slowly, breathe in – stomach, chest, throat. Bloop. The clock is ticking.

I hear the heart beats faster, 80 strokes per minute. I am trying to stop thinking and sleep. After almost a minute, I manage to lower the heartbeats to 45-50. The reflex of mammals started, when the body realizes it is under water and cannot breathe, it lowers the heart rate, in order to save oxygen. A very useful reflex. I direct my thoughts to the black dot in front of me. I check whether the body is tense. I relax the neck and the facial muscles. “Falling asleep” …

I was comfortable not too much, about two minutes. I felt the first contraction. I woke up from hibernation and was ready to fight. A minute later, the battle begins. Cramps become more and more strong and frequent. Roma, where is the sign? Is it possible not to resist 4 minutes? I continue to endure. I use a false focus breath, thus I mixed the air in the lungs and get a bonus of 15-20 seconds. ROMA! Where are you!

It becomes impossible to endure, no tricks no longer work – the whole body begins to roll, and the consciousness ceases to be clear. I understand that a little more and I blackout (loss of consciousness), so I move slowly to the side and lift my head out of the water. Exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. I have hardly performed the protocol: showed to judges the “OK” sign and pronounced aloud – “I’m fine”. If you do not – the result will not be taken into consideration. I felt like someone else was speaking, not me, plus I didn’t see people in front of me. I recovered myself and I heard applause, my coach Sergey Legeyda shakes my hand. I do not quite understand what had happened, he shows me the stopwatch, and there was – 5:29!

Wow, it cannot be! Roma, son of a bitch, how so? How about our sign? Roma threw up his hands – he was forbidden to touch competitors – the regulations … I have recovered about 15 minutes more. Probably there is no sense to be so closely to the blackout …

At that moment I did not know that I showed the best result in this competition and set a national record. And if I was in the Russian league, I would have taken the 14th place out of 45. I still do not understand how did I manage to be under water for so long.


Ahead there is still dynamics with fins.

Dynamic apnea is a discipline of underwater sports where you have to overcome distances by breath-holding.

My best result is 80 meters. Actually, I have nothing to do with the dynamics. Having my statics, I have to swim under water for at least 2 minutes. But I cannot resist more than 1:30. My muscles, accustomed to marathons and hard work, aren’t used to deny themselves anything, so they guzzle oxygen, like a blind horse eating hay. I did not manage to train them.

There is a paradox in trainings: if I swim as fast as possible, I swim 3 pools in 45 seconds, and if slowly, 65 meters in half a minute. But to go quickly is ineffective, this will tell you any freediving beginner. In short, a trap… Also I didn’t figure out a style of swimming. Dolphin is too complicated for me and thus ineffective, but the front crawl is more or less suitable, but to pause between strokes or ground all the time – I did not decide yet.

But let’s get back into the pool, to the competition.

I decided to try to sleep during swimming and to swim at least 85 meters. Before me was Vadim Zhurov in monofin. Oh, how beautiful – like a real fish. Wow, 100 meters, great! Applause!

Now it’s my turn. I get up on the track, begin to breathe, visualize the entire route, remember the technique of turns, try to deconcentrate. It is like when your attention is scattered all over the field of perception. It does not work. Thoughts run, the heart beats. I wondered how I could stay under water for five and a half minutes??? Stop!. Pull yourself together, rag! Do not think! Breathe…

And I take a breath and push myself; I am going under the water. The first pool I was flying like a bird, feel of fly and joy. I try not to lift up the neck and not to rush. I reject my thoughts. The second pool is calm, yet do not want to breathe, but not for long.

Turn, and here is the first urge. I try to accelerate, although I should not do it. But I need to have time to swim at least 3 swimming pools. And here is the rim. 75 meters. Cramps are not humorous, but I decide to turn around and swim as much as I can at full speed.

I pushed off, start to paddle intensely. The body screams: “BREATHE!” But I tell it: “Just a moment, just a moment, have little patience”. Wow, great. In front is the rim and 100 meters. The first desire to jump off the board and to take a breath. But I remember the instructions of the trainer – never get out at the rim – so does everybody. I push off and swim at least one meter back.

The body does not scream anymore, and squeaks softly with weakening voice: “aaaiiir…” And I tell it: “Yeah, yeah, you see the pop-up already.” I push off from the rim and with last powers I swim to the surface as far as possible.

I pop up. Exhale. I look around. 110 meters! I am stunned from today’s numbers. What a day, how is it possible? I am completely disorientated from today’s results, and the possibilities of the human body.

So, what is next?

I shacked the hand with all competitors; this was very cool and interesting. We will organize this competition annually, for example, on the first Sunday of winter. Hopefully, next year there will be more competitors and my results will be considered average ones.

Thanks to my coach Sergey Legeyda, the president of the Federation of underwater activities, because he was fiddling with me and answering to my stupid questions. By the way, he recently told me that next year we will go to the competition in freediving representing Moldova. Well, I am always ready for any adventures, although freediving is not a pool, and first of all open water, and depth, and mine is for babies by now.

And I realized that it is not necessarily to go abroad and spend a lot of money, in order to participate in an interesting competition.

Our team will continue to organize daring sport-events on our favorite open spaces of Moldova!

Hey hey hey!

The Results!

Time STA: 5:29 (national record)

Distance DYN: 110 meters

Time DYN: 1:43

Place in the overall standings: 1 (out of 29)


And yet – how did I stay for so long under water?

Mentioned projects:
Sporter Moldova freediving
Just Breathe...

Just Breathe...

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