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  #11  
Old 03-07-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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Maybe we can get back to basics with breathing since it is the thing that causes the most mysteries in freestyle swimming. (if only snorkels or even hydrodynamic breathing helmets were permitted).

An average adult male has a lung capacity of about 5 litres of air. Of which 20% is oxygen so that means 1 litre of oxygen per breath.

the resulting questions for me then are:-

1. how much oxygen do we need to perform a set number of strokes at a given workload (any scientific info there?)

2. how much of your 5 litres do you fill up with when you take a breath?

3. what is the rate of exhale (answered by Terry 20% during stroke cycle, 80% clearout before breath?)

as an aside does anyone swim long distances on 6 stroke cycles or more?
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  #12  
Old 03-07-2012
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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At the top level all males, I think without exception but of course I may be wrong, breathe once every stroke cycle. Many females use alternate breathing. As far as I know nobody swims in competition with anything but a two or three-stroke pattern per breath. At my local pool there are several moderately fast swimmers who swim with a four strokes per breath pattern, while swimming continuously for 100 to 120 lengths of the 25 pool, which is about what they can fit in in the 55 minutes available. I was speaking to a young lady the other day who swims triathlons with her husband and she had just done a set of 200m warm up followed by 1600m continuous swim at her race pace in about half an hour. I think she breathes one side only but I will have to check next time I see her. She told me she swims faster in open water because her turns are poor. Her husband was beavering away in the next lane, probably on a somewhat similar set.
I can fairly easily swim sets of 25m repeats with five, seven, nine or eleven strokes per breath, but at a leisurely pace. I'm trying to improve my off-side breathing and I find this a good method. I think I need to add some superman glide to stroke and breath on the less good side, which I feel would be very beneficial.
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  #13  
Old 03-08-2012
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
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Breathign is one of your body's ways of getting rid of the acid created while muscles work. Lactic and other acids create Hydrogen ions that seep into the blood stream from active muscles. In the blood stream then combine with bicarbonate buffers and dissolved in the blood in a reaction creating CO2 & H2O. The CO2 is diffused into the lungs. Exhaling gets rid of them and keeps the level of diffused CO2 (acid) in the blood steady. Even TINY changes in blood acidity can cause side effects in the body...enzymes work best in a very tight range.

When you hold your breath, the acid (CO2) cannot diffuse into the lungs and the acid levels continue to rise...because you are always creating acidic byproducts.

Even slow exhalation vents Co2 and keeps levels steady. Breath holding repeatedly is similar to what COPD and Asthmatic patients must do to breath normally...which is exhaling against a partially closed glottis. This results in elevated CO2, which increases the acidity of the blood.

For COPD patients, the compromise is OK because it's life saving.

For swimmers it does nothing more than keep the muscles bathed in acid.

Breath. Air goes in and air goes out. Blood goes round and round. Pink = Good, Blue=Bad. Have you ever seen someone drilling or swimming with a blue face? Especially bald guys ... the top of their head turns blue when they hold their breath swimming
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  #14  
Old 03-08-2012
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyinnorway View Post
Maybe we can get back to basics with breathing since it is the thing that causes the most mysteries in freestyle swimming. (if only snorkels or even hydrodynamic breathing helmets were permitted).

An average adult male has a lung capacity of about 5 litres of air. Of which 20% is oxygen so that means 1 litre of oxygen per breath.

the resulting questions for me then are:-

1. how much oxygen do we need to perform a set number of strokes at a given workload (any scientific info there?)

2. how much of your 5 litres do you fill up with when you take a breath?

3. what is the rate of exhale (answered by Terry 20% during stroke cycle, 80% clearout before breath?)

as an aside does anyone swim long distances on 6 stroke cycles or more?
Andy, this is basic pulmonary phsyiology. Your questions get into issues such as total lung capacity (TLC), tidal volume (TV), minute ventilation(MV), EFFICIENCY, (No one can answer #1 for you), Intensity, Expiratory flow rates....

You could spend a couple years and still not get it all....I have to constantly review these things to manage ICU patients.

The best breathing pattern in swimming is one in which you do not hold air against a closed glottis (thing in your throat that blocks off the wind pipe), allows you to exchange Oxygen to meet the demands of your intensity and likewise exchnage CO2. Human lungs are not very well designed when you consider that that have a dual role in oxygenation and ventilation. The harder you swim the more O2 you need and the more CO2 you create and therefore must exhale. However, inhaled O2 is rarely the limiter since the urge to breath occurs long before your blood O2 levels dip.

I'm pretty sure Gary Hall, while he did go to medical school, promptly forgot his pulmonary physiology during his 3rd year in medical school.
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USA Paralympic Triathlon Coach
Coach of 5 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

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  #15  
Old 03-08-2012
swimmermike swimmermike is offline
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Andy

I agree with Suzanne and would just add a few things

Although we're talking about breathing, what is often the main limiting factor is of cardiac (heart) not pulmonary (lung) origin. The lungs have vast redundant capacity, absent lung disease (emphysema, bronchitis, lung surgery). And the heart is trainable, the lungs not.

A person's experience of breathlessness while exercising is mostly due to lack of cardiac fitness to the task demanded at that moment, not lack of pulmonary capacity. When we train, we train the heart, not the lungs. And good, mindful training, is based on more than more and faster reps, but on better technique. (If the technique is better, the reps will be more effective, and the conscious experience will be either greater ease or an interest in "more.")

And good swimming technique (here I mean TI) allows us to do more with any given effort (movement, stroke) than we could without such technique.

Your questions about how much oxygen do we need, how much of our 5 liters do we exhale, and so on seem to arise from a desire to breathe correctly to get the most oxygen.

My guess is that what you are pursuing is maximum efficiency. Training that is grounded in good hydrodynamically efficient technique will bring you there. That means TI. The "answers" to your three questions will be provided unconsciously by your heart (mainly) as you patiently adjust the load for which it is ready, based on your beginning (current) state of fitness.

The repeated lesson of TI is, that as you refine and work on technique, you will coincidently improve fitness. This follows from the fact that, as you improve your hydrodynamic efficiency, each stroke will result in more ease, speed, or both. Your heart's efficiency at delivering a blood supply during exercise will improve.

Your conscious experience will be less breathlessness per given workout, and [likely] an improving appetite for a more vigorous workout over time. This is called improving fitness.
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Last edited by swimmermike : 03-08-2012 at 04:08 AM.
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  #16  
Old 03-08-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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interesting reading, I will look for some blue faced men today in the pool, very ready for some swimming today as have been starting on painting over the first of 6 varnished pine tongue and groove ceilings in my house. Must be almost the worst combination available.


what about question 2 of my post below though, how much of your lungs are you filling up when you grab a bite of air, should it be the minimum needed to keep bubbling out during the stroke cycle
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  #17  
Old 03-08-2012
swimmermike swimmermike is offline
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Really two questions, and answers:

1. A typical breath at rest will be 300-500 cc. That's 6-10% of total lung volume for a 70kg person.

2. Whether it should be "the minimum needed to keep bubbling out during the stroke cycle" is a question I would defer to the coaches, but that is exactly what most of them say, to my reading on this forum.

Personally, I find that making sure I get most of my breath out before I begin the next breath really helps me. My guess is that it has to do with better CO2 clearance in my case--CO2 clearance [and hence, blood levels] being more sensitive to respiratory rate and volume than is oxygen intake [and its blood level]. In other words, high CO2 levels may be the factor that causes breathlessness more for me, and so may explain why a full exhalation usually works for me in terms of comfort. This is possibly a vastly incomplete analysis, but it makes a kind of sense to me.

Both oxygen intake and CO2 clearance are obviously very important pulmonary functions.
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Last edited by swimmermike : 03-08-2012 at 05:01 PM.
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  #18  
Old 03-09-2012
swim2Bfree swim2Bfree is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swimmermike View Post
When we train, we train the heart, not the lungs.
This is fascinating. I remember many years ago in a high school biology class I had the single highest TLC (total lung capacity) out of my 30 or so classmates, despite being a decidedly average-sized person. I always assumed it was because of swimming, but perhaps I had the direction of causality reversed?

Last edited by swim2Bfree : 03-09-2012 at 04:41 AM. Reason: typo
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  #19  
Old 03-09-2012
Rupertdacat Rupertdacat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swimmermike View Post
Andy
A person's experience of breathlessness while exercising is mostly due to lack of cardiac fitness to the task demanded at that moment, not lack of pulmonary capacity. When we train, we train the heart, not the lungs.
That is incorrect. Consider: it is rather common for quite 'fit' runners, who have well adapted hearts that can generate high cardiac output, to find themselves breathless and exhausted with swimming short distances. It is not their heart (nor their lungs) that is the limiting factor(s).

Training involves much more than the development of cardio-pulmonary fitness. As many students of TI know, training helps to develop and optimize:
- soft tissue flexibility,
- neuro-muscular co-ordination/efficiency (i.e. efficient movement/effort),
- muscular cell hypertrophy (i.e. strength),
- muscle cell substrate utilization and oxidative capacity (cellular respiration)
------ capillary density
------ oxidative enzyme activity
- lactate clearance
- minimization of waste (anaerobic metabolism, unneeded energy stores (fat), unproductive effort/energy/substrate consumption.

In individuals with healthy cardio-pulmonary systems, it is the above that will determine VO2 max and performance for a given task.

In addition to inadequate 'fitness', the sensation of breathlessness/fatigue +/- anxiety/panic can be caused by overstimulated mechanoreceptors in the lungs (e.g. with over-stretching lung tissue at either end expiration or inhilation) and/or alveolar hypoventilation with consequent elevated partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the blood.

Being conversant with the above considerations (unfortunately) helps me not a jot in my swimming efforts.


Rupe, M.D. (Cardiovascular Diseases)
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  #20  
Old 03-09-2012
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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I googled around a bit and I can read everywhere that sport activities enlarge the lung volume, particular swimming gets mentioned. Since the lungs ability to expand is somewhat limited by the space it has inside the ribcage it might have more to do with flexibility of related muscles, granularity of capillaries and so on.
When I was at school I was rowing - which is the most strenuous cardiovascular activity that I ever came across - and I would breath out 6.5 litres of air at tests. Which seemed to be a lot because there where people who at the most could breathe out something like 2.5 litres only. That is obviously not the lung volume itself but the so called vital capacity. The lung volume should be larger because of the aspirative 'deadroom'.

So, are the lungs trainable or not? What about staying in the mountains?
Did anyone monitor his/her lung vital capacity?
And, if, are there differences in training the lungs or the heart? Or is it irrelevant anyway, just go for it and enjoy?
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