Should I Train To Hold My Breath for Running, Biking, Swimming, or Triathlons?
The narrow range is likely because this is not a metric that most people, or athletes, train. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts train their cardio but breath holding is different. Breath holding is not just about how you process oxygen, which can be improved. We have covered here before how VO2 max measurements vary across fitness trackers, but even a good VO2 will not inherently enable good performance in holding your breath. Holding your breath is also about dealing with the feeling of CO2 build up and oxygen depravation.
For a limited subset of athletes there is a direct reason to train how to hold you breath. Those athletes are ones who spend time in the water, where you need to hold your breath. Some other technical sports, like precision shooting or archery, also teach holding your breath. Even for others, breath training can have great tangential benefits in focus and mental health. Free diving is the one obvious area where breath training is critical. There are a number of apps that produce apnea CO2 tables. These are simple intervals sets designed to build up the ability to tolerate CO2 in the body.
If you are not a free diver, and instead are training for other cardio sports, there are some listed benefits to holding your breath including increasing life span, helping with new brain tissue generation, and increasing relaxation. The last of those, increasing relaxation, is the major reason to train this. It is something that can be trained without effecting the rest of your training plan, and has signficant benefits for race day when you wind up in splashy water, excited, and with loads of other athletes around. Staying calm can help avoid heart rate peaks, and lower the total amount of energy you expend on the swim, which then translates to more energy for a ride or run.
Benefits of Breath Training With an App
For swimmers, having more time between breaths helps to focus on stroke technique. It is also beneficial in open water swimming where you might try to breath to the side- only to have a wave cause you to swallow water of have you skip the breath. The tables that STAmina creates can be customized to simulate doing breath training in the pool. Some swim training plans call for repeats of 25m laps with 1 or no breaths, and you can replicate these times in the app easily.
Breath Training with STAmina Apnea Training App
The STAmina app is dead simple in its design and training. It uses your baseline best to build a series of charts to improve your breath holding abilities. Basically each session cycles through a rest period where you can breath normally (or deeply) and a hold period where you hold your breath. Cycling through the same loop 5-10 times will take between 5-20 minutes. There are two types of tables, one for CO2 and one for O2.
For CO2 the format is a standard breath holding time (30 seconds in the example below) but the breathing time between each gets lower and lower. This is a pretty good simulation for a standard swimming set on no breaths 25 meter intervals. Practicing like this will ensure that you know how to come take a breath in a controlled fashion, as you’ll need this calm break to prepare for the next hold. It feels like swim cardio training, but without any of the added muscle strain.