Breathing - not something I think about on a daily basis but a serious consideration whether hiking in high alititude or SCUBA diving.
The idea of breathing under water seems more foreign to me, and it's ridiculousness, weirdness, freakiness more immediately apparent. One giant stride off the back of a boat into the water and you are plunged into a choice of survival - hold your breath or jump in equipped with an oxygen tank and breathing apparutus.
I remember our first SCUBA instructor. Breathing under water, he said, was as easy as sitting on your couch watching television. You just do it.
I didn't believe him.
My first time breathing under water, I sat in the shallow end of the pool, my left hand gripping the metal railing just above the spot where it was bolted to the bottom step. The top of my head was probably two inches below the surface. I counted to seventeen and stood. Breathing under water was neither natural nor easy!
The conundrum is that I love to SCUBA dive. Life forms under the ocean are unbelievably incredible and diverse, and weightless hovering - even though I'm still working on mastering it - is indescribable.
After 100 plus dives and lots of practice pacing my inhale and exhale - I can now take that giant stride without my heart racing in panic. I can breathe under water in a way that is natural for me, and usually not even think about it.
Breathing at high altitude usually takes me my surprise. Why is it suddenly so difficult to carry my backpack? Oh yeah, I am hiking above 10,000 feet. I was amazed that it took me an hour to traverse one mile once I had passed the 13,000 foot mark on Mt. Whitney.
The thinning of the air is so gradual, I often blame my slower steps, the heaviness of my legs, the feeling of walking in deep sand on my age or the difficulty of the terrain.
I read on one website that the breathable oxygen at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,000 plus feet) is less than half the amount commonly found at sea level.
I am building my aerobic fitness (bicycling, long walks, stairmaster) and hope that my breathing or lack of breath won't be a factor next July.