Archive for Total Immersion Swimming
Here is some great multi-angle shots of Sun Yang’s freestyle swimming technique. He has a great vertical forearm position on his catch and pull, grabbing water with the hand and forearm, increasing the surface area, and utilizing the lats (larger back muscles) as opposed to the smaller shoulder muscles.
TI enthusiast TIm Ferris and fellow RKC (Tim and I went through the same RKC workshop in 2009) explains the kettlebell swing. Both the one arm and two arm swing is perhaps one of the greatest exercise for tight hipped endurance athletes!
Here is an email I received through one of my students that he received through someone else. I thought that I would like to share it:
i just wanted to share something with you guys about the man who died during the NYC ironman and my personal experience with the same medical condition he suffered from during the race. after a year of training and focusing my life on this race, i had to pull out around mile 56 of the bike ride. i had developed what i learned was a swimming induced pulmonary edema (SIPE), a form of high output heart failure. now we hear from people involved in the ironman medical circles that the man who died after the swim likely died from SIPE. luckily mine didn’t get to that pointbecause i pulled out, but from what I understand it doesnt take much at all to get from where i was to it being fatal. he was a 2.5 hr marathoner and extremely fit. (i note to you there’s no way of knowing for sure how he died but consensus among the medical folks is this is the most likely cause)
the physiology involves a pooling of the body’s blood into the core, and when there is an overload of blood circulation in the core, the weakest link is usually the lung’s capillaries so the blood leaks into the lungs. the risk then is of a deprivation of oxygen supply which at first is just exhausting to the person and ultimately causes cardiac arrest.
i developed chest congestion and a cough midway through the swim. it onset really rapidly and i even swam to a lifeguard and remember commenting to him about midway through “i wonder when i developed a chest cold?” i figured it was just my ingesting too much hudson river water although in retrospect i remember noting that it was pink. the coughing became more intense throughout the bike ride, and although i did not note this as a symptom at the time, i observed that i was much more tired than i thought i should be given how much i had exerted. i was concerned enough by mile 56 on the bike course that i had the medics call my fiance laura who is a pulmonary (lung) / critical care doctor. at that point i could no longer convince myself that what i was coughing up was just coloring from the powerade as it was too obvious that it was just bloody sputum. luckily i had white grips on my handlebars and used that to study the coloring and conclude it was bloody. when laura arrived EMS let her take over my medical examination and she immediately knew it was a pulmonary edema. she deemed it too dangerous for me to continue, having seen a patient in her ICU my age die of the same thing that past week.
so i really dejectedly pulled out of the race. i only pulled over because i was scared, not because i felt like i couldnt keep going. in fact i really felt fine enough to keep biking, although i noted that i was more exhausted than i expected to be relative to the exertion i had expended. what plagued me the most the remainder of that day and this past week was knowing that i felt like i could compete, and seeing the physical pain, exhaustion, depletion, that these 2200 athletes endured while i sat antsy and disappointed on the sidelines. im sure that most ironmen do not allow themselves to stop when they feel good enough to power forward, so i think this message is all the more important because this is a crowd of people who are likely to ignore important signs.
im sharing this because i think it’s really important for triathletes to understand this “high output heart failure” which has an unusual incidence in triathletes and results from this perfect storm of some or all of the following variables that are independent of your fitness/training.
- use of wetsuit – adds additional extrinsic compression to the extremities that shunts blood up to the core. here, i blame the NY ironman’s poor logistics as this was further exacerbated by the fact that we had to wear the wetsuit for 2 hours leading up to the swim.
- temperature of water – causes blood to pool into core and out of extremities to keep body warm (cold is anything below body temperature, so don’t think this only applies in freezing water)
- pressure of water – water exerts a much larger force on bodily tissues than air does, and the increased pressure forces blood from the skin, muscle, fat etc into the vessels/circulatory system
- pre-race adrenalin – increases cardiac output AND constricts blood vessels moving blood toward core
- hydration – increases the volume of blood cells
i am not sure what any of us can do with this information given that you can’t train to prevent it, but if you are swimming and feel the onset of chest congestion, etc, it should be taken seriously. it starts with just a congestion in your chest and coughing up of what quickly becomes copious amounts of frothy, pink, and occasionally very bloody, sputum, and with that you feel a crackling/rattling deep in your chest when you breathe, and over time shortness of breath disproportionate to the exertion. this is possible in warm water, without a wetsuit, etc, so don’t write it off. you must stop the exertion at that point, and it will resolve itself (mine did).
the point of my email is awareness – it’s too easy in a swim to dismiss a cough as from having swallowed water, or if you’re coughing up stuff to mistake its pink color as from a sports drink instead of blood, or to attribute above-average fatigue to the difficulty of the race, etc. none of the warning signs are debilitating enough to force you to quit so please just keep this knowledge in the back of your mind, and forward it to your friends as well.
obviously i dont know the specifics of the time leading up to the guy’s death in this race but if having this information could have enabled him to identify the warning signs and given his 3 little daughters their father back, then there’s really no reason for us not to disseminate this knowledge. it was a hard decision for me to both seek medical attention and then actually agree to quit and both of those are undoubtedly against the natural instincts of the fierce ironman attitude, but for obvious reasons i am happy that i made this decision.
Monitoring your heart rate is a great way for increasing your efficiency, your performance output or if you are overtraining and need to take a day or two off. The heart rate monitor is a very useful tool to monitor just about every endurance activity. However when it comes to swimming, you will have to make some modifications when you are doing your heart rate zone calculations.
Let’s say you calculate a number of heart rate zones for yourself using a formula (220-age, Karvorien, Maffetone’s MAF, Joe Friel, Hadd, etc.) and you have your “aerobic” and “anaerobic” zones. Whether you have 2 zones, 4 zones or 7 zones is irrelevant. Your goal is to perform at the highest level possible for your ability, be able to hold that indefinitely and in addition, have the ability to swim the later part of the swim faster than the first part (negative split). You want maximum output in the most comfortable zone possible. For longer endurance activities, that zone would be the upper level of your aerobic threshold. For most formulas and most people, that is at the high end of zone 2 to the low end of zone 3 or approximately 70 – 85% of your maximum heart rate.
I’ll use myself as an example. I like to use the MAF formula (180-age+5). I am 45 so my maximum aerobic heart rate is 140. My aerobic zone is 130-140. Once I go above 140 I am shifting from using primarily fat as a fuel source to glycogen. The byproduct of that is lactic acid. My goal is to get faster while remaining in this zone. If I were to use any other heart rate formula and calculate about 70 to 80 % of my maximum heart rate, it still falls in the 130-140ish range.
However, when you calculate these formulas, they are geared for running, not swimming. In running your body position is vertical and your blood pressure and the assistance of gravity are different than when you are horizontal, where your blood pressure is lower and there is no gravity assisting the blood to be pumped out of the heart and down to the lower extremities. Cycling falls in the middle where you have a horizontal upper body and a vertical lower body.
So, running at a heart rate of 140 feels very easy for me. In fact, 140 is so low, that most people would find it difficult to run at this heart rate because their heart rates would shoot up too high, well over 140. In swimming, if my heart rate went to 140, it would feel like I was suffocating and although I am still technically “aerobic”, I would feel like I am anaerobic. 140 in the pool to me feels like 160 at the end of a 10k road race.
I don’t want you to think something is wrong with you if you do a swim session and a run session at the same heart rate and they feel totally opposite in intensity.
If you plan on using a heart rate monitor take an additional 10 to 15 heart beats off your calculations for each zone and that will compensate for the horizontal position.