Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Anaerobic Exercise Workouts for Swimmers

Over time, swimming increases endurance and strength as you exercise in a pool. Swimming laps or long distances improves your aerobic fitness, but most competitive swimmers need to perform at maximum intensity for short periods of time, using primarily anaerobic energy production. This energy pathway uses no oxygen to produce energy but unfortunately can result in the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles. This lactic acid buildup rapidly causes muscular fatigue, a real problem for the competitive swimmer.
Energy Production
There are two primary ways your body produces the energy necessary to propel your body through the water, and which system is used depends on the intensity and length of the event. Your aerobic energy system uses nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins to produce energy by using oxygen to break down the fuel and produce adenosine triphosphate. Your anaerobic energy system uses only carbohydrates to produce energy. The anaerobic breakdown of these carbs produces lactic acid that builds up in your muscles, resulting in that burn and muscle fatigue familiar to many swimmers.
Long vs. Short Distances
The difference in long-distance swimming versus short-speed events is similar to running a marathon versus running a sprint. Swimmers who are competing in high-intensity events that last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes should train their bodies to endure the lactic acid buildup that will accompany this maximum-energy expenditure. Swimmers who compete in longer events using a more steady but less intense energy expenditure should train by performing more aerobic exercise at a lower intensity.
You can determine which energy system you’re using by monitoring your heart rate. Basic endurance training involves working at between 65 percent and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) by swimming 100 to 400 meters with only a few seconds of recovery time between sessions. As you begin to train at your anaerobic threshold, you should take this up to between 80 percent and 85 percent of your MHR by swimming about 200 meters at a time with only a few seconds of recovery time. Training for lactic acid tolerance involves swimming only 50 to 100 meters at 90 percent to 95 percent of the MHR, with about a minute between sets.
Train For Your Event
If your event requires you to finish strong with a buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, you need to train for it. During your training session, you should train your anaerobic energy system several times a week by performing shorter, high-intensity swims with only short breaks between exercises. As competition approaches, you should begin tapering off your workout to prepare for the event. The most important thing is to listen to your body and slow down a bit if you think you’re overdoing it, since too much lactic acid buildup can hamper your performance at the meet.

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