Erika did pioneering work on spleen reaction in elite freedivers. She carried out ultra sound tests on nearly all the competitors in the international competition in Sharm in 2008. The spleen is a huge reserve of red corpuscles and her experiments demonstrated that after a series of 3 breath holds the spleen started to contract and release its reserve into the blood. This came to be called the “spleen advantage” and changed our understanding of the importance of warm ups before a maximum attempt.

In the 4 intervening years we began to ask the question if this reaction could be trained to react sooner. This was particularly important for CNF divers, who favour thinner suits in order not to incur the penalty of wearing any avoidable weight. Thinner suits and lighter weights have one problem – the athlete can get shivering cold if he has to spend time on a long warm up program and this can severely affect his performance. Today a lot of the top CNF divers and even CWT divers do no warm ups. Their first dive is the maximum dive, without any warm ups!

Erika was aware of this trend and even suggested that visualising the dive, by trained freedivers could instigate the reflex. It was great to hear what I believed possible was a belief shared by the authority on the subject.

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