Swimming Energy Calculator

OttrLoggr: Energy Use Calculator

Swim Energy Usage

Distance
Time
:
RER
Stroke

RER Value Guide

Slow (0.7)
A1 band - warm-up, recovery, cool-down sets
Moderate (0.85)
A2 band - aerobic capacity sets
Intense (1.00)
A3 band - aerobic power, VO2max sets

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

Coded for Swimming Science by Cameron Yick

Freestyle data

Velocity
/s
Cost
kj/
Total Cost
kj
Calories
kcal
Carbs
g
Fat
g

Quick Food Reference

Bagel
48g Carbs
Apple
25g Carbs
Peanut Butter
16g (2 tablespoons) *

Us Old Swimmers...

This was an article submitted to Swimming Science. Although it lacks scientific literature or
references, it's anecdotes provide an necessary look into the possible long-term effects of the sport. Although the writer is just one person, so is Michael Phelps. Although opposing ends, Phelps and the writer are just one, uncommon result, with the author having a more likely result than Phelps.

 Coaches, parents, and swimmers remember exercise is a life-long journey. For some, you'll have great success during adolescents and teenage years, but always question...will this add up when I'm older? Coaches, realize you can help swimmers in the short- and long-term, just ensure safe programs and healthy environments for long term success. 


I have added some editor notes, which are indicated with brackets, enjoy!

Take it Laura

Warning to all coaches and swimmers,

Bodies break down. It may take only a few years, but when the former swimming athlete is progressing into middle age his/her body will scream out for pain relief. When doctors tell you, “swim, itʼs a non impact, great exercise" or  "It's good for you”, watch out.

Some of you know know that swimming is probably the last thing you should do, as the mere thought sends pain throughout the body. If you feel as though a nice easy thousand yards would be the right ticket for your swirling mind, then you realize the agony of pushing off of the walls and twisting your neck turns you into a blithering pain ridden fool and stops you.

Hear me out.

This is my story of the body versus mind and whatʼs become of a relatively honed body.

I was never a top ranked swimmer. I was among the thousands of girls who had very few athletic opportunities in the 1950ʼs-60ʼs. My father, who ran swimming pools throughout New Jersey, private country clubs, public pools and taught swimming at Seton Hall University introduced me to swimming at birth. He taught me and many others, and he introduced the “swimming meet” to the clubs. One day after I suffered a bad asthma attack my doctor told said. “Get her on a swim team. The humid water and breathing rhythm will help with the asthma. And it did. I remember the first day, at age 7, like it was yesterday [there is some conflicting research on asthma and swimming, despite the common physician recommendation].

Boylan Street Pool in Newark, 50 meters x 25 ydʼs. It was BIG! Lots of girls swam up and down the pool. The coach, “K”, greeted me and said, “You stay in the outside lane, and if you need to hold on there is the wall”....

“Are you kidding me!”

Thus began the years of up and back....

In those days, we didnʼt have weight training per say. We had K. Under Kʼs leadership we did pull ups from the pool to the deck. She filled buckets with cement and attached them to a rope and spindle, which we curled up and slowly let down, and we dragged each other on our pulling lengths. She used cut off broom handles for sticks to keep our hands out in front swimming freestyle. She had us meet at a local university in the “off” season to run the track, throw discuses and shot puts, and hop over hurdles. K was an Olympian runner! She yelled, she screamed and we did lots and lots of miles. K taught form in stokes. We did starts and turns for what seemed forever. We never thought we were wearing out our joints. No one did. Until...

Now, I have participated in many sports since then. I played basketball for the CYO, tennis when allowed at the clubs, and many pick up games of whatever was playing in the streets and parks of Maplewood, so my cross training was all on my own. I have sprained my ankles many times, broke a nose from an angry bat wielding brother, and flown off many a bike. But when, in the midst of a awesome beach volleyball game, I swung my arm to spike a shot, it stuck there....

Uhoh!

I tried to just go with it for months, I finally saw a doctor, who is a well known specialist in Boston who says, “Where you a swimmer?” [personally, this is a bold prediction by any physician, but whether it is from swimming or another overhead sport, there is a common shoulder presentation.]

Ah yes.

Hmmm swimmersʼ shoulder, he diagnosed! He knew from the tests that I had over used my shoulders from swimming, not from all the other sports. We scheduled the operation to clean out the shoulder of calcium deposits, bone chips and shave down the acomion to give rotation some room. He removed the bursa sack sewed me up I was good to go, until the next shoulder gave out.

He did the other side. Same procedure. The explanation for all this was “When you were swimming, those years, you didnʼt do the correct exercises to pull your shoulders back. You needed to do back strengthening exercises. Overall, youʼll be fine. You can swim, but use fins to eliminate the pressure on your shoulders while swimming laps." He then asked, "How are your knees?” Really! “Pretty good”.

Perhaps I spoke too soon, ten years later I had my left knee meniscus trimmed. This was the second time a doctor said to me, “Were you a swimmer?”
“Yes.”
“Bet it was breast stroke.”
“Yes!”

He then told me I could swim if I didnʼt push hard off the walls [as a Physical Therapist, I'd be more worries about twisting the knee or large knee flexion].

All was going well until I turned sixty, and all hell broke loose in my body. I donʼt know if hormones are to blame, but doing workouts to stay in some kind of shape to avoid the dreaded weight gain, caused injuries that I couldnʼt shake. First a torn hamstring, then a strained Achilles tendon, and now a massive amount of arthritis in my right knee [all uncommon injuries in swimming. When asked Laura reports golfing, weight lifting, and officiating during this time period.]. Now the right knee!

So I see my knee guy and he sends me to his top surgeon and he says to me, “you were a swimmer right, bet a breaststroker!”

Ahh come on guys.

So, they canʼt give me anymore shots into it, cortisone or synvisc, or use any other delay tactic. Walking is wicked painful bone on bone and the wonder how I even can walk and when I'll soon need a total knee replacement.

I am throwing this out there because we need research to pass on to the new generations of swimmers. We need data from all us olʼ folks who swam and swam for preventing short and long term effects of swimming. I am a big believer in doing multiple sports. Overuse is hurting out bodies. Some of the techniques and equipment being used by coaches with their swimmers is hurting them. I officiate meets and watch young children walking around with ice packs wrapped on their bodies.

This is not good.

Knowledge and science is available. We need to pass it on. Parents and coaches need to develop their athletes without causing injuries.

Written by Laura Menza Wanco. Born and raised in New Jersey. She swam with the Watchung Lake
Swim Club an AAU team under the coaching of Catherine D Meyer, long time AAU Coach and Official with the US Olympic Committee. Laura coached summer club teams, was a lifeguard, and swim instructor in summer clubs. She started along with a group of former swimmers the Women's Swim Team at Seton Hall University in 1968 after a year of swimming with the men's team.

She started the Women's Basketball Team at Seton Hall University in 1971, from the Intramural teams. Coached Tennis at Summit High School, Mens and Women. Coached High School Swimming Team at Columbia High School.


She moved to Cape Cod, MA. where she started a team in the local health club and became an official. She has 
 officiated local, sectional, and state tournaments, swimming and diving and officiated at the NCAA Womens D1 championships.

Determinants of Masters Swimming Performance


Take Home Points on Determinants of Masters Swimming Performance

  1. The optimal time to maximize competitive performance in masters swimming is in the first year within a new age group
  2. Masters swimming champions in 50m freestyle exhibit a smaller age decrement than those at the bottom of top ten lists
  3. Grip strength is one modifiable physical trait that predicts performance among masters swimmer.
Yesterday, Dr. Barbosa examined performance changes throughout the swimming lifespan. In this post, we'll complement that topic focusing on the masters swimming literature.  

Masters swimming is a world unto itself, with different demands than youth, age group, college, and professional swimming.  Whereas younger swimmers have time on their side and biology to accelerate development, masters swimmers face different challenges.  In this post, we’ll explore the literature documenting factors affecting masters swimming performance.  Certainly, some traits (stroke mechanics, conditioning) will affect all swimmers, but some biological forces are unique to the masters population.    

PHYSICAL QUALITIES

Physical qualities may distinguish between relatively homogenous groups of swimmers.  While some qualities are not modifiable (you can’t go back in time and build a giant base if you never had that experience), knowledge of certain traits may guide the training process.  Zampagni (2006) sampled 136 elite masters and 125 non elites and found that age, height, and hand grip strength were the best predictors in short-distance events, whereas only age and height were predictors in middle- and long-distance events in both elite and non-elite masters swimmers.  You obviously can’t modify age, but you can affect hand grip strength, whether directly or indirectly, if hand grip strength is a proxy for neural drive.    

AGE

Age would seem to be an obvious factor, but how does it affect performance?  As a general rule, “The decline in performance among national champion swimmers, both men and women and in short and long swims, is linear, at about 0.6% per year up to age 70-75, after which it accelerates in quadratic fashion” (Rubin 2013).  Fairbrother (2007) noted a similar progression studying freestyle distance competitors at national championships, with the most extreme declines occurring after age 70. 

In a similar study examining masters sprinters, Fairbrother (2007) noted that first place finishers exhibited a more gradual increase in time (slowing down) with age than did those closer to tenth place.  Its unclear if the champions trained differently than the other competitors or if other health factors or genetics aided their ability to sustain performance.  
  
Another factors affecting championship performance is where the swimmer stands within their age group.  Whereas older swimmers have an advantage in the two year age brackets of age group swimming, younger swimmers have the advantage in the masters community.  Medic (2011)noted “the odds of a Masters swimmer participating in the championship during the first constituent year of any 5-year age category was more than two times greater than the odds of that athlete participating during the fifth constituent year.”  In fact, I recall one of my former teams in which one swimmer made several record attempts at morning practice in the first two weeks after a birthday aged her into the next age group!  As swimmers reach the higher age groups, we’d expect five year age differences to be magnified even further. 

Conclusion

Masters swimmers constantly battle father time, while time naturally aids development in youth swimmers.  Understanding the natural course of performance decrements can help masters swimmers set appropriate goals and help coaches to provide appropriate training loads. 

References

  1. Fairbrother JT.  Prediction of 1500-m freestyle swimming times for older masters all-American swimmers.  Exp Aging Res. 2007 Oct-Dec;33(4):461-71.
  2. Rubin RTLin SCurtis AAuerbach DWin C.  Declines in swimming performance with age: a longitudinal study of Masters swimming champions.  Open Access J Sports Med. 2013 Mar 12;4:63-70. doi: 10.2147/OAJSM.S37718. eCollection 2013.
  3. Zampagni MLCasino DBenelli PVisani AMarcacci MDe Vito G.  Anthropometric and strength variables to predict freestyle performance times in elite master swimmers.  J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jul;22(4):1298-307. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816a597b.
  4. Medic NYoung BWMedic D.  Participation-related relative age effects in Masters swimming: a 6-year retrospective longitudinal analysis.  J Sports Sci. 2011 Jan;29(1):29-36. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2010.520726.
  5. Fairbrother JT.  Age-related changes in top-ten men's U.S. Masters 50-m freestyle swim times as a function of finishing place.  Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Dec;105(3 Pt 2):1289-93.
Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

Changes in Swimming Performance During a Life Span


Take Home Points on Changes in Swimming Performance During a Life Span

  1. There is a non-linear impairment on performance with increasing age for master swimmers.
  2. The gap between swimmers ranked in 1st and 10th place is wider for age-group and master swimmers than elite swimmers.
  3. During elderhood, there is a sharp increase in the final race time but the inflection point seems to happen at the age of 90 years-old.

History was made in last January 24th. It was in Winnipeg (Canada) that Jaring Timmerman became the first master swimmer to compete in the 105-109 category. Timmerman raced the men 50 back and 50 free at the Catherine Kerr SCM Pentathlon (CBS News, 2014).

Master swimming competitions exist for a long time but lately became very popular around the world. Besides that, several former elite swimmers after ending their top-level careers shift to master competitions. So, master swimmers can be fitness-oriented people but a lot of them are still performance-driven folks.

Nevertheless, how swimming performance changes throughout life span? What are the limits of human performance at a given age span (childhood, adulthood, elderhood) when it comes to competitive swimming?

The aim was to describe the changes in swimming performance during life span (i.e. cross-sectional design, including age-group, elite and master swimmers). The men 50 SCM freestyle races were selected so that Timmerman’s recent achievement could be part of this analysis. US age-group top-10 LCM times, between 11 and 18 years-old were retrieved from a database (www.usaswimming.org) and then converted to SCM. FINA all-time top-10 (i.e. elite swimmers) and FINA all-time master top-10 were retrieved from another database (www.fina.org).

Probably there is an overlap between ages for a few elite swimmers (i.e. 20-25 years old) and the first master’s categories (e.g., 25-30 years old). E.g., at the Beijing OG, the participants in the 50 free had on average 22.99±4.51 years-old and at least half of them more than 22.62 years-old (i.e. Median = 22.62-y; 27 swimmers were older than 25-y) (Barbosa et al., 2012). Category 100-104 only has 3 swimmers, while category 105-109 none, but I added Timmerman’s time. After modelling the performance-age data for swimmers ranked in 10th place and getting the fitting curve, the performance for a hypothetical swimmer was extrapolated.

There is an improvement in performance during childhood (11-20 years old), a steady impairment during middle-age (around 25/30 to 60/65 years-old) and an exponential increase in final time during elderhood (around 65/70 years-old) (Figure 1). Hence, there is a non-linear impairment on performance with increasing age for master swimmers.

Now let’s analyze these variations by different age spans. Between childhood and young adulthood the curves have a similar shape to what was reported in the literature for sub-elite swimmers (Barbosa, 2012). With no surprise the difference between the swimmers ranked in 1st and 10th place during the career peak (i.e. elite swimmers) is very slim (Figure 2). On the other hand, the gap is wide for age-group swimmers and master counterparts. For the case of age-group swimmers, we can see that the gap starts to narrow at the age of 15-16 years-old. Master performances tend to impair and the gap between 1st and 10th ranked swimmer increases over time. Interestingly the swimmer ranked 1st in the category 35-39 holds a World Record with a better time than the previous category (30-34). 35-39 record holder is Mark Foster (GBR), former Olympic swimmer, European and World Championships medalist that clocked 21.53s on the 27 October  2007.

Regarding elderhood, there is a sharp increase in the final race time but the inflection point seems to be more obvious at the age of 90 years-old (Figure 3). Performance impairment is coupled with the decline of several physiologic systems (that starts in the 30’s) and a decrease in the external training load (i.e., number of sessions per week, volume, intensity, etc.). The changes in the physiological systems explain the decline of both endurance and anaerobic performances. Anaerobic performance is dependent upon a number of factors including total muscle mass, muscle fibre type and size, muscle architecture and strength, substrate availability, efficiency of metabolic pathways, accumulation of reaction products, aerobic energy system contribution (Reaburn and Dascombe,, 2008). Performance in endurance events is dependent upon maximal oxygen consumption, maximal heart rate, stroke volume, lactate threshold, economy of movement, muscle fiber type, morphology and capillarisation, aerobic enzyme activity (Reaburn and Dascombe, 2008).

References


  1. Barbosa TM (2012). Swimming. Encyclopedia of Exercise Medicine in Health and Disease. Mooren, FC. (Ed.) Ed. Springer. Heidelberg
  2. Barbosa TM, Costa MJ, Mejias E, Marinho DA, Louro H, Silva A J (2012). Pico da carreira desportiva em nadadores de nível mundial: análise das idades dos participantes nos Jogos Olímpicos de Pequim 2008 [Peak career in world-ranked swimmers: age’s analysis of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games participants]. Motricidade, 8(4), 52-61 (abstract in english)
  3. CBS News (2014). Jaring Timmerman, age 104, sets 2 world swimming records. CBS News. Retrieved on the 28 January 2014 from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/jaring-timmerman-age-104-sets-2-world-swimming-records-1.2510764
  4. Reaburn P, Dascombe B. (2008). Endurance performance in masters athletes. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act 5:31-42
  5. Reaburn P, Dascombe B. (2009). Anaerobic performance in masters athletes. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act 6: 39–53

By Tiago M. Barbosa that earned a PhD degree in Sport Sciences and holds a faculty position at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Theoretical Reasons for Decreased Swimming Velocity with Aging other than Power Decline!

Take Home Points on Theoretical Reasons for Decreased Swimming Velocity with Aging other than Power Decline!

  1. Older swimmers are competing Internationally in sprint events.
  2. Power declines with aging are not the sole reason for decreased speed.
  3. Older distance swimmers are likely to rise in the future.
Everyone has heard that power and strength declines as we age. Now, this statement is difficult to refute as many aging adults have experienced decreases in power during their activities of daily living. However, as the age of elite swimmers continues to rise (especially in the sprint events), one has to question the relevance of a decrease in land-power vs. swimming power.

At the past World Championships, I was truly surprised to see four of the finalist 30+ years old, as shorter races require more power than endurance races.



Now, this brief example is purely observational and I'm sure an outlier. However, this trend appears steady as the age of the U.S. Men's World Championship roster was also much older than previous years. If power declines were problematic in swimming performance, one would expect Masters swimmers would decline more in the 50 and 100 events, compared to the distance events, as well as breaststroke since it requires a greater output (Morouço 2011). Yet, this isn't the case as swimming declines are non-significant between events (Hartley 1986). Moreover, swimming decline is relatively well maintained compared to long jumping and cycling (Baker 2010). Also, aerobic performance appears not to significantly decrease, while anaerobic performance does decrease with age (Gent 2013). So, what make swimming different?
  1. Power Production Doesn't Correlate with Greater Velocity: Let me explain, sure if you have a swimmer increase their force production while maintaining the same drag, then velocity will increase, but when comparing elite swimmers, those with the greatest force production aren't always the fastest! In fact, when comparing in and out of water strength and swimming speed, it has been suggested more elite swimmers have less correlation (r=0.25) between land based power and swimming speed (Costill 1983).  Now, moderate correlation was demonstrated in bench press and leg press and 25-yard swimming performance in teenagers (Carl 2010). However, force production via tethered swimming was only moderately correlated with bench press (Carl 2010). Power may help predict sprint performance (25-yard), but this research disputes the current trend in older sprinters (Sharp 1982). 
  2. Biomechanics Are the Greatest Influence of Swimming Velocity: Technique is king, so it doesn't matter if you can't create as much power, if you can direct it in the correct path or simply plow through the water! In ~13.4 year-old swimmers, mean power of the arms was related to 50-m times, mean power of the arms for the combined group related to 50-m speed (r = .63). When 50-m times were predicted, arms alone provided as good a prediction (about 40% accuracy) as when leg power was also added. This indicates that arm power is important for sprinting but is not the only factor. Peak-sustained workload predicted 400-m speed (r = .70), still only a moderately related variable. The best predictor in this study for male sprint swimming was the stroke index, an indicator of technique (Hawley 1992). 
Theoretical Reasons for Slowing (other than power)?
  1. Decreased Training Volume/Intensity: As many swimmers age, they commonly perform less volume. Swimming less volume may decrease the neural drive and technical skill of a swimmer. 
  2. Decreased Coaching on Biomechanics: Many older swimmers train Masters or train by themselves. This form of training lacks biomechanical training, as many Masters coaches do not make biomechanical corrections and individual corrections are highly difficult.
  3. Decreased Training Intensity: Although volume decreases, the concentration of aerobic training or use of external devices (ie paddles) typically increases. These adjustments likely impair the technical skill of swimming and don't utilize the energy substrates used in many swimming races.
  4. Altered Body (aka poor range of motion for performing biomechanics): Aging
    commonly results in increased fat mass and long sitting times likely alter range of motion. These two adjustments are not for the better and likely inhibit stroke biomechanics. Some may argue fat mass benefits flotation, but if one doesn't perform the volume of intense training to adjust to this new position, they will unlikely improve.
  5. Increased Stress, Decreased Sleep: Work, family, or whatever, these two items are commonly impaired with older swimmers. Some may not feel they influence performance, but overall stress is likely impairs work capacity and training. 
Summary
Now, one can not ignore the influence of power in swimming, but realize this is not the only reason why many slow down with aging. In a sport where out of water power is not as influential on success as other sports, it seems plausible swimming provides an avenue for an extended career in many events. 

One must wonder why International-level endurance swimmers are not as old as sprinters. Perhaps injury and burnout are two reasons for this discrepancy, nonetheless  it is likely older distance swimmers will appear sooner than later. 

References:
  1. Morouço P, Keskinen KL, Vilas-Boas JP, Fernandes RJ. Relationship between tethered forces and the four swimming techniques performance. J Appl Biomech. 2011 May;27(2):161-9.
  2. Hartley AA, Hartley JT. Age differences and changes in sprint swimming performances of masters athletes. Exp Aging Res. 1986 Summer;12(2):65-70.
  3. Baker AB, Tang YQ.Aging performance for masters records in athletics, swimming, rowing, cycling, triathlon, and weightlifting. Exp Aging Res. 2010 Oct;36(4):453-77. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2010.507433. 
  4. Hawley JA, Williams MM, Vickovic MM, Handcock PJ. Muscle power predicts freestyle swimming performance. Br J Sports Med. 1992 Sep;26(3):151-5.
  5. Sharp RL, Troup JP, Costill DL. Relationship between power and sprint freestyle swimming. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1982;14(1):53-6.
  6. Costill, D. L., King, D. S., Holdren, A., Hargreaves, M. . Sprint speed vs. swimming power. Swimming Technique. 1992; May-July, 20-22.
  7. Carl, D. L., Leslie, N., Dickerson, T., Griffin, B., & Marksteiner, A. (2010). Correlation between dry-land strength measurements and in water force generation. A paper presented at the XIth International Symposium for Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming, Oslo, June 16-19, 2010.
  8. Gent DN, Norton K. Aging has greater impact on anaerobic versus aerobic power in trained masters athletes. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(1):97-103. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2012.721561. Epub 2012 Sep 13.
By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University where he swam collegiately. He is the founder of Mullen Physical Therapy, the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

Brief Swimming Review Volume 1 Edition 7

In an attempt to improve swimming transparency, a brief swimming related literature review will be posted on Saturday. If you enjoy this brief swimming review, consider supporting and purchasing the Swimming Science Research Review

Aging Increases Energy Cost in Swimming 
Many Masters swimmers attempt to maintain their velocity as they age (especially when aging up in age-groups to break records)! Unfortunately, many assume the decrease in swimming velocity is due to an decrease in strength. However, (Zamparo 2012) looked at the differences in energy cost of swimming across various ages and found no significance in energy cost, but energy cost " values were significantly higher than those assessed in young elite swimmers at the very same speeds; the difference increasing with age with a rate of 0.75 % per year".
Now, we just have to determine which factors alter energy cost with aging...

Masters Records Decline with AgeZamparo from Italy was at it again in October of 2012 looking at influence of age on world records with age and various strokes. These researchers assumed "a decrease of 1% per year at 40 - 70 years, 2% at 70 - 80 years and 3% at 80 - 90 years (as indicated in the literature)". The researchers found each swimmer stroke does not have the same declines with age and " the difference increasing linearly by about 0.30% (backstroke), 1.93% (butterfly), 0.92% (front crawl) and 0.37% (breaststroke) per year (average over the 50, 100 and 200 m distances). These data suggest that the energy cost of swimming increases with age. Hence, the decrease in performance in master swimmers is due to both decrease in the metabolic power available (E' maxA) and to an increase in C (Zamparo 2012)".

Keep these numbers in mind Masters swimmers, but don't sell yourself short, as research in aging adults is still novel.

Intra-Cyclic Velocity Variation and Swimming Velocity in Young SwimmersDr. Barbosa (2012) analyzed the intra-cyclic variation of the horizontal velocity (dv) and the velocity of the 4 competitive strokes (for a maximal 25-m swim) in 45 young swimmers.

Barbosa concludes: 

"The dv was higher in the breaststroke, followed by the butterfly, the backstroke and the freestyle. The quadratic models had the best goodness-of-fit and the lower error of estimation for the relationship between the dv and the swimming velocity in all swimming techniques (0.24 ≤ R(2) ≤ 0.51). As a conclusion, there is a non-linear relationship where the increase of swimming velocity leads to a decrease of dv in young competitive swimmers (Barbosa 2012)".
In other words, reducing intra-cyclic velocity variation improves horizontal swimming velocity during a 25-m swim. Unfortunately, this is a non-linear relationship, suggesting greater benefits may exist at different speeds. 

References:
  1. Zamparo P, Dall'ora A, Toneatto A, Cortesi M, Gatta G. The determinants of performance in master swimmers: a cross-sectional study on the age-related changes in propelling efficiency, hydrodynamic position and energy cost of front crawl. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Dec;112(12):3949-57. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2376-y. Epub 2012 Mar 17.
  2. Zamparo P, Gatta G, di Prampero P. The determinants of performance in master swimmers: an analysis of master world records. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Oct;112(10):3511-8.
  3. Barbosa TM, Morouço PG, Jesus S, Feitosa WG, Costa MJ, Marinho DA, Silva AJ, Garrido ND. The interaction between intra-cyclic variation of the velocity and mean swimming velocity in young competitive swimmers. Int J Sports Med. 2013 Feb;34(2):123-30. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1312582. Epub 2012 Sep 12.
By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University. He is the founder of Mullen Physical Therapy, the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

Age Declines with Triathlons

Age related declines are evident in real life as much as sport. Studies suggest peak age for athletics is 35 years of age, with some exceptions (Dara Torres, hopefully not synthetically enhanced, but I have my doubts)4. Muscle force, endurance, power and aerobic capacity have been documented to decrease 1-2% per year following peak performances (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). These numbers are suggested values in sedentary individuals, luckily there are mechanisms to prevent age related declines. The most prominent decline is in type II muscle fibers (fast twitch muscle fibers). If these muscle fibers are lost most frequently in adults, why are most Master's swimmers apprehensive to do sprint swimming which engages the most of these diminishing muscles fibers? Seriously, anyone I'm still waiting for a good rebuttal. One can argue that performing sprint exercises can be advantageous towards musculoskeletal injuries, but with proper warm-up and exercise progression there is no more risk of injury than overuse injuries secondary to pounding yardage. Moreover, injuries with sprinting are typically muscle strains which heal well with proper managed healing, opposing overuse injuries (rotator cuff tendonitis) can be dehabilitating injuries which may recover with proper management, but is much more complex and typically involves surgeries in later life. I have a few swimmers that swim to stay in shape and loose weight, this is great and important for a healthy lifestyle. However their opinion to loose weight involves swimming 4,000 yards in 1 hour. A lot of their arguments are catered around the notion that moderate exercise burns the most fat, which is true...but (there is always a but) moderate exercise burns less calories. Lets do the math, if moderate exercise burns 65% fat and 35% carbohydrates, but high intensity exercise burns 40% fat, 60% carbohydrates. Once again, theoretically moderate exercise is superior, but lets do the math

Table 1: These total values are estimates1

Activity

Calories

Burned

Fat Percentage

Calories from Fat

Watching TV for 60 minutes

120 calories

60 percent

72 calories

Swimming easy for 60 minutes

350 calories

65 percent

260 calories

Sprinting and strong swimming for 60 minutes

900 calories

40 percent

360 calories

There is my rant on sprinting and calories burned. The article today compares age related declines in the top 10 times for Olympic and Ironman distance triathlons. The study only looked at males over two seasons (2006-2007). First, I will discuss the physisiological response to aging, how it affects the different aspects of a triathlon and how to prevent these disadvantageous changes.

Adaptations Secondary to Aging

As stated, aging decreases the amount of type II (type IIx more specifically) muscle fibers. Type II fibers are the big, explosive muscle fibers, when these fibers are lost muscle mass and strength decrease termed sarcopenia. It is estimated lean muscle mass during adolescence is 50% of body weight, aging declines lean body mass to 25% at ages between 70-80. During sarcopenia, type II fibers may atrophy (shrink in size), transition towards type I fibers, or decrease the volume of satellite cells3. Satellite cells are essential in protein turnover in muscle, more specifically when exercising your muscle are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. This impressive mechanism is one of a kind that damages itself to get stronger, simply unorthodox! Satellite cells are needed during rebuilding of muscles and a decreased volume leads to less rebuilding (don't worry we can help them out, stay tuned).

How are Triathlons Influenced

The main finding in the study noted by Lepers et al. was cycling had the smallest age related decline in performance compared to swimming and running4. Secondly, the study believes running and cycling had a larger relative decrease in performance in the Ironman than the Olympic distance triathlon, but swimming had a similar decline with increased distance4. The reason cycling had the smallest decline in performance is likely due to a variety of reasons. First, it has the least amount of stress on the body. Cycling is low impact allowing athletes to perform high volumes of training without orthopaedic injuries. Orthopaedic injuries are the second hypothesis it has the smallest decline compared to swimming and running. Swimming and running have multiple orthopedic (knee, hips, shoulder) injuries associated with them, but when was the last time you heard of someone being hurt while cycling, other than falling off a cliff on the Santa Monica mountains? The last hypothesis cycling holds off time declines is cycling does not use a stretch shortening cycle which relies on more type II fibers. A stretch shortening cycle occurs when the body utilizes eccentric muscle contraction. For example, the hamstring is the predominant muscle in the back of your thigh. The hamstring is composed of three muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosis…in case you were wondering) and their primary collective action is to flex the knee. The most common cause of a hamstring strain is from the “eccentric use of the hamstring” while running. The eccentric use of the hamstring is highest when your leg is extending, off the ground, and swinging forward prior to hitting the ground for your next step. This stage is termed the “terminal swing” (and yes, we realize these sounds more like a carnival ride than a leg movement). The eccentric load is highest due to the amount of stretch it places on the hamstring muscles (this is similar to the strain you feel in a straight leg raise). Eccentric contraction is used in swimming during recovery of the arm in all the strokes, as well as kicking. During kicking, the downkick in freestyle, the hamstrings are contracting eccentricly as they stretch across the hip and pelvis. Eccentric contraction requires less energy, but generates more force requiring type II muscle fibers which are typically decreased in older adults.

Preventive Measures

The old adage, “if you don't use it you loose it” is making a comeback like skinny jeans. To prevent muscle loss resistance training has been proven to reduce the detrimental effects of changing by increasing strength by 174% after 8 weeks. Resistance training can enhance satellite cells, allowing muscles to rebuild. A high intensity, multi-joint lifting program utilizing maximal lifts is the most beneficial and can be performed safely, if it is monitored properly and increases in loads and volumes are made correctly.

Next, it is essential to fuel the system. Once again, older adults naturally loose muscle mass therefore more protein to prevent these changes. The current daily recommendations for protein consumption are .8g/kg of body weight. These values were derived from younger persons, current research protein consumption for older adults needs to be higher, roughly 1.0-1.25 g/kg of body weight to prevent sarcopenia. Information protein timing after a workout can be read in an earlier post found here: http://www.swimmingscience.net/2010/02/weights-wednesday-post-resistance.html. Lastly protein with the 10 essential amino acids, especially leucine, enhances protein synthesis3. Here is a list of foods high in leucine, thank you http://www.dietaryfoodfiber.com.

Leucine food sources Leucine content (grams/ 100 gram food) 2

Soybeans, mature seeds, raw

2.97

lentils, raw

2.03

cowpea, catjang, mature seeds, raw

1.83

Beef, round, top round, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 1/8" fat, select, raw

1.76

Beef, top sirloin, separable lean only, trimmed to 1/8" fat, choice, raw

1.74

Peanuts, all types, raw

1.67

Salami, Italian, pork

1.63

Fish, salmon, pink, raw

1.62

Crustaceans, shrimp, mixed species, raw

1.61

Chicken, broilers or fryers, thigh, meat only, raw

1.48

Nuts, almonds

1.47

Egg, yolk, raw, fresh

1.40

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, raw

1.37

Seeds, sesame butter, tahini, from raw and stone ground kernels

1.36

Chicken, broilers or fryers, wing, meat and skin, raw

1.29

flax seed, raw

1.24

Nuts, walnuts, english

1.17

Egg, whole, raw, fresh

1.09

Egg, white, raw, fresh

1.02

Sausage, Italian, pork, raw

0.96

Milk, sheep, fluid

0.59

Pork, fresh, separable fat, raw

0.40

Hummus

0.35

Milk, goat, fluid

0.31

Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat

0.27

Soy milk, fluid

0.24

asparagus

0.13

Snap beans, green, raw

0.11

Milk, human, mature, fluid

0.10

Summary

The goal of this paper was not to dwell on the declines of aging. These declines are inevitable, but with the right plan and execution reducing these declines are possible. The more muscle mass embodied, the more one has to decline before detrimental effects are noticed and I challenge each Master’s swimmer and coach to safely push themselves to achieve levels that are atypical for their age!

References:

1. Leucine: food sources high in amino acid leucine. | amino-acids. http://www.dietaryfiberfood.com/leucine-rich.php. Accessed March 10, 2010.

2. Busting the Great Myths of Fat Burning - For Dummies. 2009; http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/busting-the-great-myths-of-fat-burning.html. Accessed March 10, 2010.

3. Koopman R, van Loon L. Aging, exercise, and muscle protein metabolism. J Appl Physiol. Jun 2009;106(6):2040-2048.

4. Lepers R, Sultana F, Bernard T, Hausswirth C, Brisswalter J. Age-Related Changes in Triathlon Performances. Int J Sports Med. Feb 2010.