While divers can enjoy a feeling of weightlessness in the water, a degree of physical fitness is still necessary in order to dive.
Diving itself benefits from the fact that, once in the water, the inherent buoyancy characteristics mean that the weight and encumbrance of all the equipment we wear is supported and we are able to enjoy that ‘weightlessness’ experience. However, there are degrees of physical activity associated with diving itself including finning and the physical effort necessary to transport kit, kit up and enter/exit the water. Consequently, a degree of physical fitness is necessary.
Getting fit for diving
With any lay-off from an activity, the physical fitness associated with that activity will decline and we can all benefit from building up fitness and stamina prior to returning after a break. It is acknowledged that the best physical preparation for an activity such as diving is to actually ‘go diving’. Unfortunately, in the current restrictions of the pandemic not only is diving not an option but also the traditional alternative of getting into the pool to practice and hone skills is even less accessible.
Under lockdown restrictions you are allowed to leave your home once a day for the purpose of exercise and so the first piece of advice is to make the decision to take some exercise. Whilst the options may be limited (walking, running, cycling) unless you have a home gym, any physical activity will be beneficial. You can even use the time spent exercising to help prepare for a return to diving.
It is important that you identify an exercise activity that suits you and to realise that you are not aiming to become an Olympic athlete. If you are not comfortable, or not yet ready, to run then stick to walking. Remember to start off slowly and build on an initial foundation. It is important not to injure yourself and so warming up and building strength and stamina over time should be the objective. Especially during the colder weather we are currently experiencing, when going out for a walk, dress appropriately for the conditions and start out a slow comfortable pace rather than start out power walking, but then build steadily to a faster pace. Likewise, start with a reasonable time and/or distance and increase them over a period of weeks. Keeping a track of the distances and times over time can be a valuable measure of your progress.
Once the opportunity to return to diving arrives then make sure you plan to build up slowly. The opportunity to get back in open water is likely to be possible before indoor venues, including swimming pools are accessible and so best to treat early dives as if they were a big misshapen pool.
As well as the need to comply with relevant medical requirements the impact of Covid-19 has introduced some additional considerations for our safety in diving. Covid-19 targets the respiratory and can have long term effects that could impact on our ability to dive safely.
The UK Diving Medical Committee (UK DMC) have prepared a Covid-19 scoresheet to help divers evaluate whether they can safely return to diving or need to seek additional advice depending on whether or not they have had any effects from the virus.
In dealing with the effects of the pandemic has placed a tremendous load on the NHS, with many elective services suspended or significantly reduced, and staff redeployed to help cope with the demands. There are also significant This is having knock-on effects for the ability to access services such as diving medicals.
Where it is necessary to consult a Medical Referee or seek guidance on whether or not your Covid-19 history may be a risk, it may be appropriate to seek initial advice without necessarily booking a full medical. Many UKDMC Medical Referees have email contact details on their listing and so may be able to advise on that basis. Increasingly, the hyperbaric chambers in the UK are offering a system of booking telephone consultations with a doctor. By booking such a consultation you may receive reassurance that it is safe to dive but if you are required to have a physical examination it may be possible to pre-book an appointment for when face to face consultations are possible again and that way you have a place in any queue.
The continuing pandemic and its consequences for us all have been recognised as placing significant pressure on people’s mental health. Diving, being near water and physical activity have all been recognised as contributing to improving mental wellbeing. Perhaps one of the greater impacts on our wellbeing is the limitations on our interaction with other people. Our ability to meet with other like-minded people and share our experiences have been seriously curtailed. Trying to get clubs together virtually can prove to be less attractive whilst many of us spend a significant proportion of our working day in virtual meetings. However, organising some form of contact can only be beneficial.
Physical activity in itself can contribute to improving mental wellbeing, and the more intense the activity the greater the benefit. If going out for exercise where you allowed to meet up with one other person the shared experience, ability to talk, and even a degree of friendly competition can all contribute to our mental status.
BSAC has a variety of information and guidance on divers' mental wellbeing.