scuba fitness BLOG

MARCH 2019


This is a question I get asked often. Remember, your fitness level can affect your susceptibility to DCS and other diving-related injuries. A good level of fitness can also help you be more efficient with your gas consumption and increase your overall enjoyment before, during and at the end of a dive.

Cardiovascular fitness (cardio for short) is the efficiency of the heart’s ability to pump blood and oxygen around the body. Improving your cardiovascular fitness brings lots of benefits.

  • It will give you a better quality of life.
  • t can allow you to exercise longer without being as tired.
  • It may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • It can lower blood pressure, body fat and the risk of Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

The two main types of cardio which we hear or read about are LISS (Low-Intensity Sustained State) and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that increases your heart rate. All cardio works the heart and circulatory system but LISS and HIIT work different energy systems.

So what’s the actual difference and which should you concentrate on? Let’s dive into this in greater detail.

LISS workouts use your aerobic system

LISS is an aerobic form of exercise as it primarily uses oxygen for energy. It is a steady cardiovascular form of exercise where you keep your intensity low and your effort consistent. LISS involves working at around 60 to 70 percent of your HR max (maximum heart rate) for 20 minutes or more. Examples include:

  • Going for a fast walk or a slow jog
  • Hill walks or walking at an incline on a treadmill
  • Steady cycling or rowing
  • Going at a steady pace on a cross trainer

With LISS, you will need to frequently adapt your goals or effort. This is because your body quickly adapts to become more aerobically efficient. As a consequence, you must mix up distances and speeds to continually improve.

What are the benefits of LISS?

  • LISS is great for a stronger heart, better blood flow, overall cardiovascular health and increased energy.
  • LISS requires much less effort than HIIT, is much less stressful on the body. This means you can complete LISS sessions more frequently than HIIT sessions.
  • LISS is good for people with injuries, novice exercisers or those with poor body composition. You do burn fewer calories than HIIT. Therefore, it takes more time.

HIIT workouts use your anaerobic system

HIIT is an anaerobic form of exercise. Your body primarily uses stored glycogen in the muscles rather than oxygen. It involves intervals consisting of periods of intense exercise followed by periods of rest/recovery.

Many people do HIIT incorrectly. They think it is about working at high intensities followed by low. This isn’t accurate. HIIT is working at near maximum, followed by a rest/recovery period. If you don’t need the rest, i.e. you could carry on working at a lower intensity then you didn’t work near your 100 percent max during the high-intensity burst.

Your goal is to push your heart rate as high as you can safely take it. This is generally about 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate (HR max). Examples of HIIT include:

  • Circuit training
  • Interval forms of running, cycling and swimming

For example, you could do sprint intervals where you sprint for 20- 30 seconds followed by a rest/recovery period of one minute. You could then repeat that for 15 to 20 minutes before you cool down.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

  • Due to the nature of HIIT, you can have shorter workouts. This is perfect for those who have busy lives. You can burn more calories in a shorter time than other exercise formats.
  • HIIT training is a great way to improve your strength and overall physical performance. It helps to improve your aerobic capacity.
  • These workouts push the body’s anaerobic threshold or capacity to continue high-intensity work.
  • With high-intensity workouts, the body experiences an ‘’afterburn’’ effect post-workout (EPOC – excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This is where it takes several hours to return back to a state of homeostasis (the body’s ‘energy in/energy out’ balance). This means you will continue to burn more calories even after the workout has ended.
  • HIIT can help reduce your resting heart rate and blood pressure. It can also positively affect your blood sugar and insulin resistance which are key to help lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • HIIT can be super challenging, but also fun.

Be aware that, if you have certain health conditions, working out near your maximum heart rate can be dangerous. Always consult with your doctor first if you are unsure.

If you are a novice exerciser, HIIT can increase the risk of injury due to its intensity. If you are just starting an exercise program, look to sustain at least 20 to 30 minutes of LISS before you introduce higher intensity exercise. It can be exhausting and stressful on the body, so it does take time to recover between sessions.

So what’s the answer?

Both! As you can see, both types of cardio provide different benefits and results. Having a balance of both types of cardio is important for diving. You want to be fit for different scenarios and events. Whether you are an absolute beginner new to exercise or a long term exerciser, you can benefit from incorporating both HIIT and LISS into your training plan to help improve your cardio fitness for diving.

You’ll never regret a workout. Getting those endorphins pumping is always a great thing. So whichever cardio session you choose just ensure you enjoy it. You will reap the benefits in all aspects of your life and your time in the water.

JUNE 2018

Improving your dive performance and comfort isn’t a massive stretch.

Stretching isn’t just for those who don tight leggings and own a yoga mat. Good flexibility can help improve your scuba diving experience and performance.

Do you sometimes struggle to put on your suit or your BCD or Harness? Do you find it hard to reach down to put on your fins? Is it difficult to bend down with your gear on to reach for something you have dropped? Are entries and exits into or out of the boat or water difficult? Would you like to be able to reach your own tank valve if required? Is just turning around to look at your buddy difficult? Do you suffer with lower back pain? If the answer is yes to any of these then you should work on improving your flexibility. Having a healthy range of motion can help with all of the above (yes, including the lower back pain) as well as improve your daily life and help to prevent injuries. Taking the time to stretch even helps clear the mind a little!

Stretching is most effective when your muscles are warmed up so before you stretch either complete your usual exercise routine first, or if you simply want to have a stretching session do a light warm up first consisting of a few minutes gentle jog on the spot, some arm circles and some hip circles to get the blood flowing.

To ensure progress aim to complete the following stretches every day or at least every other day. If done frequently it will also help to avoid cramps from tight muscles and ease tension in your body. Once in position, hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. No stretch should be painful so adjust the intensity when you need to, never pull or push through pain. Inhale and exhale deeply whilst holding the stretch, relaxing further with each exhale. Perform each stretch twice.

Chest and Shoulder stretch

Stand in the middle of a doorway with one foot in front of the other. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and place your forearms on each side of the doorway. Shift your weight onto your front leg, leaning forward, until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder muscles.

Triceps stretch

Take one arm up into the air and place palm of hand on your neck/back as low down possible whilst keeping your elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Use your other arm to gently pull your elbow back to increase the stretch. Repeat with the other arm.

Glute (buttock) stretch

Lie on your back and bring knees up to chest. Cross right leg over left thigh. Grasp back of left thigh with both hands. Pull left leg toward chest. Repeat with your opposite leg.

Quad (front thigh) stretch

Lie on your right side. Grab the top of your left foot and gently pull your heel towards your left buttock to stretch the front of the thigh, keeping knees touching. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring (back of thigh) stretch

Lie on your back and raise your right leg. Keeping your left leg bent with your foot on the floor, pull your right leg towards you holding your thigh or calf, keeping the leg straight. Repeat with your opposite leg.

Calf stretch

Step your right leg forward, keeping it bent, and lean forwards slightly. Keep your left leg straight and try to lower the left heel to the ground. Repeat with your opposite leg.

Try to make stretching a new habit. Remember, good flexibility translates into to a greater freedom of movement, helps prevent injury and improves a diver’s performance and comfort both above and below the surface.

MAY 2018


My husband and I recently went out to visit a family member in Bali and decided that this would the perfect chance to visit Komodo National Park as we would be so close. We couldn’t pass up this opportunity having heard and read such great things about the scuba diving here.

We caught a flight from Bali over to Flores (the launch point for diving the National Park), which took about 90 minutes and spent the night on Flores island. We were to get on our liveaboard first thing the next day which would be our home for the next 3 nights. We decided to travel and dive with Uber Scuba Komodo after reading a review about them in a diving magazine. They did not disappoint and neither did the diving!

The diving around Komodo National Park was amazing and for me it was paradise. We were constantly surrounded by fish of all shapes and sizes, it was mesmerising. Sometimes you couldn’t see the ocean through the sheer amount of fish! We saw huge, majestic Manta Rays (one so close I could have kissed him if I didn’t have my reg in my mouth), reef sharks, bamboo sharks, bumphead parrot fish, cuttlefish, giant trevally, barracuda, napoleon wrasse, turtles, the list goes on. I also saw so many tiny animals I had never seen before – including a ghost pipefish, mimic octopus and leaf fish.

There are some very strong currents around these islands, some of the strongest I have encountered which, for the majority of the time, you had to swim against. I was grateful to myself that I was fit enough to still enjoy the dive without feeling tired and using up my air really quickly. In some places even the fish looked like they were struggling!

There was one dive site with a section of it aptly named ‘the shot gun’ where you got to ride with the current. Before you knew what was happening you were literally being fired out of a reef bowl at such speed that it made you feel like an underwater version of Usain Bolt. I’m sure it wasn’t quite that fast but you get my drift (no pun intended). It was great fun!

Our visit to Komodo National Park wouldn’t have been complete without seeing the Komodo Dragons, so on our last day we visited Rinca Island where it is estimated that around 1300 of them live. They were huge, about 3 metres long from tongue to tail and they are known to be very fast when they want to be (around 20kmph) with a venomous and deadly bite. I remember scanning the rest of the tour group and noting two things; (1) my flip flops probably weren’t the best choice of footwear if a quick getaway was needed and (2) although I may not be able to out run a Komodo Dragon in my flip flops, I was pretty sure I could outrun some other members of the group, so as long as I wasn’t the slowest, I should be ok. We walked a mini circuit trail on the island seeing a few dragons along the way and taking in the wonderful view of Komodo National park on the top of a hill. A great way to complete our Komodo National Park trip.

If you get the opportunity to dive here and say hello to the Komodo Dragons, do so, it was absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend it.


APRIL 2018

The Scuba Fitness Coach: Top 5 tips for a healthier lifestyle to become a safer, fitter diver.

There have been a few articles recently about the importance of having a good level of health and fitness for diving. We all know we should be exercising for general good health and if you aren’t then you should seriously start to think about primarily improving your cardiovascular fitness as this is extremely important for diving.

Yes, diving is on most occasions, in good conditions, a relaxed sport and appears to require little physical effort, so the importance of good fitness is overlooked. However, there are a lot of physical processes going on in your body during recreational diving and even more so in advanced diving, which place a great demand on your cardiovascular system. Couple this with the fact that conditions can change very quickly under water, for example suddenly having to swim against a strong current or being involved in an emergency situation and you can see why good fitness becomes critical.

Fitness is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the condition of being physically fit and healthy” and “the quality of being suitable to fulfil a particular role or task”. Think of an emergency situation involving you and/or your buddy which you could possible encounter under water. Are you confident that you have a good enough level of fitness to be able to cope with the stress your body will be put under and fulfil your role in the rescue? If your answer is no, then it’s time to build your confidence in this area by improving your health and fitness.

The subject of good fitness and its direct relationship with increasing safety and reducing risk in the diving industry is now starting to be recognised, for example the UK have recently tightened their medical pass mark guidelines regarding diver fitness levels and BMI levels for those who work in diving, to ensure any medical related issues due to poor health and fitness are minimised.

We know that exercising helps improve our fitness, but nutrition and healthy habits also play a huge part in improving our health, aiding weight loss and therefore reducing the stress on our hearts in every day and in emergency situations which all makes for safer diving.

Even if you aren’t yet able to dedicate time to an exercise regime, there are a number of things you can do to start building a healthier lifestyle. My top 5 tips for this are:

*Hydration – The importance of water and being hydrated is generally underestimated and is even more important when diving to help reduce the risk of DCI. Water is the single most critical nutrient for health, growth and development. Achieving optimum hydration should be high up on the list for anybody trying to lose weight and reduce fat as it reduces hunger by naturally supressing appetite, increases the body’s ability to metabolize fat and flush out toxins and it also help to increase energy levels. Aim to drink around 6-8 glasses of water a day.

*Portion Control – An easy way to measure this is by using your hands as a guide. A serving of protein is about the size of the palm of your hand (a chicken breast). A serving of carbohydrate is the size of a large handful (large handful of cooked rice). A serving of vegetables is about a fist-ful. Yes, vegetables are also a type of carbohydrate but they are natural and bursting with nutrients, so I like to look at them separately.

*Protein – Your organs, tissues, muscles and hormones are all made from proteins so eating protein helps your body to develop, grow and function properly. Having protein in your meals helps stabilise your blood sugar levels and leads to you feeling satiated quicker which can help limit over eating. Most people are eating too many refined carbohydrates: they are carb-centric. Let’s switch to being protein-centric for each meal. The first question when preparing each meal should be ‘what is my source of protein?’.

*Move more throughout the day – There are infinite ways to move more throughout the day so there is no excuse of not having time or not being able to get to a gym. If you are in a sedentary job then ensure you get up and walk for a few minutes every hour. Take a walk at lunch, play a sport and don’t be limited by convenience. For example, take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, or get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest. There are always ways to add a little more movement and exercise into your day.

*Sleep Well – Sleep is a vitally important factor (one that is often neglected) that influences our physical health, mental health and weight loss. Poor sleep can lower concentration and brain function, lower your immune system, increase hunger and sugar cravings, which can then lead to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Try to chill out before you go to bed, read a book or take a bath. Be sure to minimize exposure to laptops, tablets and phones for at least 2 hours before you go to bed, avoid stimulants after 6pm (coffee, tea, chocolate) and sleep in a room that is ventilated. Who’d have thought that optimal sleep can actually help us lose weight!

If you want to find out more about how to build a healthy lifestyle and improve your health and fitness to become a safer diver then please contact me.


MArch 2018

getting diving fit - coaching the dive doctors.

For 3 months I coached Dr Oliver Firth (London Diving Chamber) and Dr Michael Gonevski (Midlands Diving Chamber), helping them to reach their health & fitness goals. Here is Oli Firth's article, featured in Tanked Up Magazine, regarding his experience of working with me. For the full article including Dr Michael's review, be sure to get your hands on the magazine available at your local dive store or request a copy from Tanked Up.