Diving, when done properly, should be a Zen-like amble through Poseidon’s realms. But to maximise your safety and keep any stress at bay, it’s still important to ensure that your bod is dive ready.
A certain degree of flexibility is important in diving. We’re not suggesting you need to be able to tie yourself into a pretzel, but being able to competently touch your toes, and reach behind your back is important to allow you to manage your equipment or any issues underwater. Recovering a regulator, picking up dropped pieces of gear, turning to look for your buddy, or removing a cramp will all require some basic suppleness. If you need to up your physical pliability, think about practicing some basic yoga or regular gentle stretches.
1. Heart and lungs
According to recent research by DAN, around 26 percent of dive fatalities involve cardiovascular emergencies. So you need to set your heart on ensuring that you are fit enough to dive.
Exercises that involve cardio reduce hypertension (which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease), increase stamina, and help your breathing. Both running and swimming are great ways to up your cardio, which will not only make those surface swims a breeze, but will also help to shed the pounds, making slipping into your wetsuit even easier.
Strong core muscles (your abs and lower back) are the key to improved balance and stability. Diving presents unique challenges to the core muscles because the load placed on the body by dive gear is distributed differently than your normal body weight. While most of the time you will be underwater and essentially weightless, lifting tanks, weights, stabilising yourself on the edge of the dive tender, and maintaining good (horizontal) trim underwater will all test your core strength.
Try exercises like the plank to avoid muscle strain, lower back pain or injuries, and total wipe outs on the dive deck; plus you can feel like a Men’s Health cover star by getting that middle in shape.
From standing up and sitting down while kitted up, to climbing boat ladders, and proper flutter kicks, your thighs are the driver of your journey to and through the blue. Regularly exercising your lower limbs will help improve muscle endurance and flexibility – making for a safer, and more enjoyable dive. Exercises like the wide stance squat will help prep your pegs.
4. Calves and Feet
Kicking into high gear, moving across currents or manoeuvring yourself into position to snap that next SDAA cover shot, your lower legs and feet can get quite a work out underwater. Foot and calf cramps can strike even the fittest of divers, and can be caused by a number of factors including muscle strain, dehydration or overuse.
Be sure you’re properly hydrated; replacing the essential salts as well as the water you’re losing. You can also give yourself an advantage and tone up your calves with exercises like the standing calf raise.
**Note for disabled divers: Diving is not off limits to many people with disabilities: there are alternative ways of entering, exiting and moving around under the water, and other exercises that can help strengthen the specific muscles you will using. Divers who have a physical disability are starting at exactly the same point as any other new diver – with zero experience. For more information visit Disabled Divers International at www.ddivers.org