Air consumption is something all new divers worry about, and even experienced divers sometimes talk about when we get to the surface. The first thing you need to know about air consumption is this: it’s not a competition. Don’t worry about it, we’ve all been there and nobody is going to hate you for making their dive 5 minutes shorter. That having been said, it’s still something worth working on, specially as you start making deeper dives and the amount of air you use multiplies times the surrounding pressure. Here are a few tips to improve, just make sure you don’t brag about when you get better!
– Work on your buoyancy. Good buoyancy will not only make your dives safer and more enjoyable, it will help your air consumption since it’ll reduce your fin kicking, leading to you getting less exerted and using less air.
– Slow down. Scuba diving isn’t be a race. New divers tend to get very excited to be in the water and swim around constantly, trying to look under every rock that they see. Not only does this make you breathe harder and faster, you’ll scare away all the fish if you keep using sudden or fast movements and you’ll miss the smaller stuff that you can only see when you are taking your time.
– Most importantly, and once the other two are under control, work on your breathing. I’m sure you all remember the number one rule of scuba diving, but I’ll repeat it here because it is damn important: NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH. Being honest, holding it won’t kill you instantly and isn’t dangerous of itself, but it opens up the door to nasty accidents and lung overexpansion injuries when you forget to exhale while going up. At the same time, breathing constantly doesn’t mean you need to breathe quickly. Take deep, full breaths and make them last for as long as it’s comfortable – don’t overdo it, if you start feeling short of breath you’ll end up having to breath faster to recover. If you’ve ever meditated focusing on your breath, it’s kind of a similar feeling. It’ll take a little practice, but it shouldn’t be hard to reduce your breathing to between two and three per minute, probably even less if you keep practicing. Just breathe in as slowly as you can, wait until you fill your lungs completely, and breathe out just as slowly, getting all of the air out. Using such deep breaths will of course change your buoyancy, but as long as you keep a steady rhythm it won’t bring you up or down, keep at it and eventually you’ll get the hang of it.
If you are having trouble slowing down your breathing, it helps to first make the duration of your inhalations and exhalations even. Most people breathe in faster than they breath out, so start by counting slowly as you are exhaling normally, then try to inhale slowly until you get to the same number. Once you’ve mastered that, you can start trying to count for longer for both inhalations and exhalations. The best part: you can start practicing this out of the water and it will still help when you go diving!
Finally, just be patient. Most of it just comes with practice, so dive lots and start practicing straight away!