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Data Source: Zamparo P, Bonifazi M (2013). Bioenergetics of cycling sports activities in water.

Coded for Swimming Science by Cameron Yick

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Swimming and Cycling Overload training Effects on Running Economy

Take Home Point:
  1. Overloading swimming and cycling training does not alter running kinematics at 65% VO2max.
The International Journal of Sports Medicine designed a study to investigate the effects of 3 weeks of overload training in swimming and biking with trained triathletes on running economy and kinematics. The study used four analysis days before the intervention was added and the study team looked at VO2 max on two of the days (to determine running economy) and running kinematics at 65% VO2 max (studying various joint angles during different aspects of the gait cycle). 

Following this analysis the study team split the participants into two groups, control and overload training group. The control group maintained their current training protocol for three weeks which included: 24.3 km swimming (26,500 yards)/week, 528 km biking (328 miles)/week, and 109 km running (67 miles)/week. The overload training group increased their swimming load by 46% (34,488 yards/week) and biking by load by 57% (551 miles/week). To ensure the overload training group achieved over training syndrome, symptoms and surveys were assessed each week. This survey is the best means of measuring over training syndrome because over training's most detrimental effects are psychological.

Following three weeks of over load training, the subjects retested VO2max (running economy) and running kinematics. Surprisingly, the subjects had little change in either of these categories. This result had the researchers questioning their study design: "Several hypotheses may explain these results: a low magnitude of a break of the habitual training structure and training load, a shorter duration of over training period, a high level of training adaptations in initial conditions...." 

Personally, I feel the study needed to assess running kinematics at a higher intensity ~75% VO2 max or higher to see variations in running or increase the duration of the overload training to 6 weeks where physiological adaptations of muscles began to occur. However, there is a chance overload training also obeys the principle of specificity.

As a swimmer or triathlete, we have all gone through overload training, do you think it changes your running mechanics? Does overload training in swimming effect your running efficiency? 


  1. Palazzetti S, Margaritis I, Guezennec CY.Swimming and cycling overloaded training in triathlon has no effect on running kinematics and economy. Int J Sports Med. 2005 Apr;26(3):193-9. 
By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, Swimming World Magazine Columnist, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.