The Frenzel Maneuver

Jaques Mayol in a good mood. Still from Le grand bleu.

The Frenzel Maneuver is not a novel my Robert Ludlum, but a better way to equalize the pressure in your ears when diving. The Valsalva Maneuver, also known as pich-your-nose-and-blow, is more widely known, and easier to grasp the first time you try. The Frenzel Maneuver however, saves some precious energy, and reduces the risk of damaging your ears or blood vessels. After you learn it properly, it is also easier. There is a longer explanation on freeidvingfinland.net. My explanation is short: I simply pinch my nose, close my mouth and try to say K, without involving the muscles in my bowel. There should then be a faint popping sound in your ears. This way the diaphragm does not have to work, but the pressure is simply created by my adam’s apple and toungue moving upwards. If I focus too much on what’s actually going on in my mouth I am unable to do it. For me the “K-method” was the key.

When I started diving in the pool last winter, I couldn’t even get to the bottom at 5m without pain in my ears, and I seriously thought I could not learn to dive deeper. For some time I was not able to do the Valsalva. My usual method when I encounter any problem is to google it and I found a lot of resources on this, also the link above. Wikipedia has articles on it as well.

Today, after swimming 1500m and doing some push-ups and sit-ups, I managed for the first time to do the maneuver without pinching my nose. I discovered by accident, that blowing slightly through my nose against the rubber in my goggles was enough. I have read about this, but I seriously thought it was a freediving myth, reserved for those who believe in the sacred power of the Dolphin. This is good news, as it means I can keep swimming while equalizing the pressure in my ears. I also swam 45m under water (horizontally), my old record was 38m. Part of the reason might be my new technique. When I reach 50m I’ll treat myself to a pair of fins. Nice motivation to do my breath-holding exercises.

As I wrote in an earlier post, being in bad shape has the enormous advantage, that every exercise is a new personal best!

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