Apnea Walks – A (…ahem) ‘step by step’ guide.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live next to the sea. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to swimming pools that allow apnea training. Thankfully there are other, ‘dry’ freediving training techniques that can fill the void. One of the most popular and useful are apnea walks.

It also happens to be an incredibly simple exercise to perform. In very simplistic terms, its walking whilst holding your breath!

Apnea walks do a lot for your freediving training, probably more than is immediately apparent. Apnea walks can…

  • Increase your c02 tolerance
  • Enhance your dive reflex
  • Improve your low 02 tolerance
  • Increase your lactic acid tolerance
  • Improve confidence
  • Enhance your awareness of the stages of breath-hold/hypoxia

There are two ‘versions’ of the apnea walk. One is the full version, to be used in dedicated training sessions, the other is a more ‘on the fly’ approach.

Lets look at the full version first.

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position, preferably on a chair or other raised area (so its easier to stand).
  2. Start a standard breathe-up.
  3. When you reach the end of your Breathe-up take your final breaths.
  4. Retain the breath and stay seated for 10-30 seconds.
  5. Relax your body and allow your heart-rate to start to drop again.
  6. Slowly stand up and start to walk (preferably on level, even and soft ground) at a steady pace whilst retaining the breath.
  7. Keep walking…
  8. Start to feel the effects of breath-hold.
  9. Keep walking….
  10. Keep walking…..
  11. Push yourself as far as you can without risking LMC or blackout.
  12. Stop and take some recovery breaths.
  13. End.

As you walk you can either count your steps, or use markers to check your progress. I find it easier to use markers as counting tends to put me off.

You can do more than one apnea walk in a row, and create a co2 table to help increase your c02 tolerance. Try doing say three, one after the othger, with a 2 minute rest in-between them. Try to walk a little further on each one.

The shorter version is to be used when you are just out and about, perhaps when walking to the corner shop or something. Essentially its the same as the full version, but you cut out the whole sitting down part. Do your breathe up whilst walking slowly, then take a final breath and keep going. Its easy to to this version at any point in your daily schedule.

Please be careful when doing apnea walks! Although its generally a safe exercise to do (as its not in the water) there are some risks you should be aware of.

  • Walking on hard ground means that, if you were to fall, its gonna hurt!
  • Watch out for trip hazards
  • Dont stumble in to the road!
  • Dont do it on  a cliff edge!
  • People will look at you funny… and may think you are mental.
  • If you are going to really push it, have a buddy with you as a spotter.
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13 Responses

  1. Hi, I’m sorry I don’t know what is your name, I’m Javi.

    I was looking for some information about apnea walks on internet, and get here.
    I really like the first part of the article, where you give some tips for the people who wants to train their apnea abilities but they can not do it in the water for some reason. It’s true that this kind of training, if performed properly, will improve your CO2 tolerance and your low levels of O2 tolerance and many other advantages.

    I’ll like to say that there are some parts of this article that I really don’t understand, perhaps you can explain me.

    I saw in other articles about apnea walks that they do some “repetitions”, something like CO2 tables, a few phases of breath-hold and some phases of breath-up. You suggest only one, how is this enhance your MDR? It sounds to me just like a warm up, or may be I just didn’t understand what do you mean by a dedicated session.

    Another thing that really confuses me is the is the step number 11 of your “full version”. My question is: How do I push myself as far as I can without risking LMC or blackout?
    In the “short version” I really don’t see the point at all, sorry.

    I really like the last tip you give about the buddy as a spotter, but just in case you gonna really push it, right? I’m sorry but I had to say this things, I hope people will take care of what they do while training and pushing themselves even if they are training out of the water.

    Thanks a lot for your article!

    1. Hi Javi, My name is Ian…. Nice to ‘meet’ you.

      To answer your comments…

      ” other articles about apnea walks that they do some “repetitions”, something like CO2 tables, a few phases of breath-hold and some phases of breath-up”

      Yes you definitely can do tables of sorts whilst doing apnea walks. I like to keep things simple in these posts, as much as is possible at least, this is simply a run down of the procedure surrounding a single apnea walk. I do use apnea walks as part of warm up sessions, completing probably no more than three repetitions in a session. Living by the sea, its not something i allocate a huge amount of time to.

      Another thing that really confuses me is the is the step number 11 of your “full version”. My question is: How do I push myself as far as I can without risking LMC or blackout?

      Freediving training is all about taking small steps to achieve your goal. You should always be aware of your limits to some extent, and should never push them ‘to the point of LMC or blackout’. This is something that comes with training and experience. In fact, blackout on land really only becomes a serious possibility, when your CO2 tolerance starts to fall in line with your maximum hypoxia tolerance, so its not something that new divers are likely to reach in a hurry.

      In the “short version” I really don’t see the point at all, sorry.

      This is for when you just dont have the time to complete the ‘full’ version. For example, i use this when im walking to the shops! Apnea training can take place throughout the day, not just in dedicated training sessions. You will positively affect your MDR by training like this. Again you can conduct this in tables of sort as well.

      Hope that answers your questions?

      Ill add a couple of lines about tables to clarify this to to anyone who doesn’t read this comment 😉

      dive safe….


  2. hye, great explanation on apnea walk. if i were to start the exercises, how many session per day or per week do you recommend to simply see some significant changes on the performance, say diving time?

    thank you.

    1. I would start with one session per day. Give yourself 15 minutes of walks to start with. Dont frighten yourself off the task by pushing yourself too hard too early. After a week do 20 minutes of harder walks, pushing yourself that bit more. To be honest you can do any activity and incorporate apnea (maybe not driving!). Walking to the shops, watching the TV, doing the gardening. Many freediving athletes will conduct quite extreme anaerobic training. I personally do dune running. I know Guillaume Nery does skipping (with simply incredibly short intervals, the guy is a machine!).

  3. Very informative blog, thanks a lot Ian. What’s the duration of a single apnea walk, of yours. I mean how many seconds do you walk without breathing.

  4. Hi !

    I have been practicing apnea walks for a few weeks now. At first I had no problems but now, I feel really uncomfortable when contractions come. My abdominals obliques are so contracted that I can’t relax to have good contractions. Do you have some fitness exercices to handle this ?


  5. Hi Ian and greetings from the PacificNW of the U.S. I’m commenting as I’m in the process of initiating my freedive instructor cert through PFI as AIDA isn’t recognized here in the states as a “proper” certification agency (I don’t understand why).

    I’m curious: In your description of doing the full process for Apnea Walking, you state staying seated for 10-30 seconds. I got to thinking why as this doesn’t tend to mimic an actual freedive from a physical exertion standpoint. I would think that once one holds their breath, they begin to do the slow walk to a certain distance, stop and hold that position while in apnea until the first contraction is felt, then slowly walk back to the starting point while feeling the continued contractions.

    Not trying to start an argument – just seeking clarification.


    1. Hi, no worries, its always good to see how these descriptions land on new ears.
      The concept of an apnea walk is flexible to say the least. What you are describing would be a perfectly valid training tool.
      What i do doesnt so much mimic the dive itself but it does give a good idea as to your potential depth/breath hold. The seated part firstly avoids any lightheaded feelings associated with standing up too quickly after a big final breath, secondly it builds a time backlog which mimics the effects of the exertion of the duckdive. I suppose the alternative could be stay seated for a few seconds to settle, then stand up and sit down a couple of times, to create the required energy expenditure to mimic the duckdive.
      As it happens, staying seated for a little while does this too .

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