View Full Version : Internals

March 7th, 2003, 11:03 AM
I'm back in the water training for the first time since college -- 20+ years ago. It took a little while but I'm up to 3k/work-out, but predictably a lot slower than when I was a kid. I'm trying to get some sense of what intervals to set/keep during sets. Right now it's pretty much a survival thing: 50's on a minute, 100's on 1:45 and 200's on 3:30. That's as fast as I can go and still do 5-10 to a set. What kind of intervals are we "more mature" swimmers doing?

March 7th, 2003, 10:27 PM
I tried this method of fast intervals myself for the last couple of years before finding this site. Speed is not the goal initially, as I have learned from this web site. I was able to ramp up the yardage and the speed to a certain level but could not improve past a certain point. read that as very slow. I also was accumulating a series of annoying injuries and aches and pains.

It is much better to make intervals that YOUR body can make and work on YOUR stroke each and every length. It is much better to lengthen YOUR stoke and listen to YOUR body than try to hammer out the yardage. I do not know how long you have returned to swimming but if you are working so hard that you are huffing and puffing it will be very diificult to improve your speed as your stroke is invariably going to suffer. A slow steady course also will improve your level of fitness which could be a long term goal anyway.

Read all of the posts that you have time to read. This is a great site for master swimmers and if you will follow the advice you will get better. Support USMS it is just a couple of bucks a year, I do.

After reading this site my stroke counts have gone way down, my effort out has decreased for a given stroke and distance, all of my assorted injuries have healed, my speed has increased, induranced has improved, strength has improved, knowledge has increased, and finally happiness is way up.

You have the rest of your life to swim so make the most of it and have a great time. Be consistant and it will pay off for you.

Have a great day


May 8th, 2003, 05:41 AM
It may help to think in terms of "rest" vice "intervals." If you want anaerobic training, shorten the rest period (i.e. 10x100 R: :10; for aerobic try something like 5x250 R: 45).

May 8th, 2003, 07:00 AM
Originally posted by ejj
If you want anaerobic training, shorten the rest period (i.e. 10x100 R: :10; for aerobic try something like 5x250 R: 45).

Morning, everyone... what's the difference between 'anaerobic' and 'aerobic' (besides the 'n' and the extra 'a'!)?


May 8th, 2003, 08:21 PM
The following describes how I think of these terms, and I am clearly not an expert and would welcome meaningful input:

Anaerobic ("without air") Oxygen demand exceeds intake. Anaerobic sets are generally used to train for races by creating demands on the cardiovascular system and muscles that mimic those of a race. Heart and respiration rates are high. Lactic acid builds up giving you that wonderful feeling similar to finishing a 200 meter fly.

Aerobic (air) Intake exceeds demand. Seems to be commonly used by coaches for strength, endurance, pace and stroke sets. This could be a long swim at moderate pace (endurance and pace), or some sprint sets with long rest periods (strength). Once you start gasping for air you've gone anaerobic.

There are sites that will let you sign up to recieve free workouts. I use www.swim2000.com. These workouts are based on 25yard pool, and in my opinion, younger swimmers (I'm 46). I modify to fit about 3500 meters into an hour. After doing a few weeks of these workouts focusing on rest instead of intervals, you will begin to get a sense of what your aerobic and anaerobic intervals are for your current training level.

I also think that "intervals" is a group concept that represents the best approach to train a group of similar level athletes and not as valuable to a swimmer who trains individually. Focusing on rest is much more individualized and will maximize your personal training.

A comparison of other similar aged swimmers intervals would not mean much. An ex-Olympic/ex-college swimmer my age would make my intervals look pathetic. However, an average high school swimmer would probably be on similar intervals.

I've looked for good publications on training, especially energy levels, heart rates and distance, without much success. If any of you serious coaches out there could put something together using the KIS strategy (keep it simple . . . ) without all the math, I know I'd buy a copy.

May 9th, 2003, 02:47 AM
I'm' also 46 but can't do 3,500 in an hour. I did 3,650 in about 1:25 mintues. It depends upon your speed and if you just want to do just freestyle or other strokes. I'm a woman which means that my speed is usually slower. I consider myself middle aged and yes compared to the age groups over 55, I'm younger but compared to those under 40 years old, I'm older. So, a middle age person should want something in between the other age groups and a lot of sprinting sometimes hurts someone middle aged. So some moderation swimming with the speed works helps.

May 12th, 2003, 12:08 PM
"I am clearly not an expert and would welcome meaningful input"

OK here's the crash course:

All work of muscle fibers is done utilizing an energy source called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) available in limited quantities (enough for only a couple seconds of work) in each muscle cell. When a molecule of ATP is broken down it looses one of the phosphate molecules. This breakdown yields energy used to power the contraction of the fibre and create heat. The molecule of ATP must be recycled (rebuilt by using energy from another source to reattach that wandering phosphate molecule) before it can be used again to power more muscle contractions. The different types of muscle metabolism are really just different ways derive energy needed to recycle those ATP molecules.

Nonaerobic Metabolism - Creatine Phosphate (CP), also present in each muscle cell, is the front-line energy source for recycling ATP. The chemical reaction that does this is simple (one step) and fast, generating lots of energy in a very short time - it can recycle ATP molecules as fast as the athlete can break them down. No oxygen is required for CP/ATP reactions and no nasty byproducts (lactic acid) are created. But a muscle cell can only store enough CP for 10-15 seconds of work.

All energy required to recycle ATP for work beyond that first 10-15 seconds must be supplied by metabolizing glucose stored in or transported to the muscle cell (glycogen), fats or protein.

Glycogen metabolism - There are hundreds of steps in the complete metabolism of glycogen. The first eleven steps are referred to as glycolysis, more commonly referred to as anaerobic metabolism. The remaining steps are what is commonly referred to as aerobic metabolism.

Anaerobic Metabolism - The 11-step chemical reaction, glycolysis, can provide energy at close to the same rate as the CP/ATP reaction. Anaerobic metabolism of one molecule of glycogen provides enough energy to recycle 2 molecules of ATP. The near-end products of glycolysis are pyruvic acid and hydrogen ions (H+). If these are not metabolized immediately (see Aerobic Metabolism below) they meet to form lactic acid (LA). As LA accumulates, muscle pH goes down, which impedes the ATP recycling process (acidosis), reducing the muscle's ability to contract (which you experience as muscle fatigue and slowing of motions). At high rates of exertion pH drops to the acidosis point in 60 seconds or less. LA is removed from muscles via several mechanisms which are beyond the scope of this post.

Aerobic Metabolism - During glycolysis, when the first pyruvic acid and H+ are formed, they are immediately funneled into two, more complex (hundreds of steps), slower systems called the Krebs Cycle and the Electron Transport Chain (ETC). These are the two major phases of aerobic metabolism. Aerobic metabolism of one molecule of glycogen releases enough energy to recycle 36 ATP molecules.

The Krebs Cycle metabolizes pyruvic acid to carbon dioxide and the ETC combines hydrogen ions (H+) with available oxygen to produce H2O, releasing energy in the process to fuel the recycling of ATP. The ETC can only accept new H+ for processing at the front end as quickly as it can combine H+ with oxygen and dump it as water out the other end.

Because oxygen is required at the endpoint of the ETC, its supply is one of many bottlenecks to aerobic metabolism. If there is not a sufficient quantity of oxygen available at the endpoint of the reaction then H+ concentration increases at the front end. This allows the pyruvic acid and H+ generated by glycolysis to form LA. Only to the extent that oxygen is freely available at the end of the ETC can aerobic metabolism prevent or reduce the formation and accumulation of LA.

If you followed the flow of chemicals and energy in the above description you will understand that aerobic and anaerobic metabolism are active at all points of the exercise continuum beyond the first 2 or 3 seconds. What changes is the relative energy contribution of each system. At the beginning, it is all nonaerobic, then shortly it becomes predominantly anaerobic and eventually, in prolonged exercise, predominantly aerobic. In endurance activities the ETC provides around 90% of total exercise energy. The more oxygen your cells are able to 1) get and 2) process, the greater will be the energy contribution of the aerobic system at any point in exercise past the first 10 or 15 seconds.

Different types of training are intended to stress the different systems in hopes of eliciting a desirable training response. There are MANY different desirable metabolic training responses and each type of training can elicit only a subset of those responses. Hence, various types of training are required to maximize performance.

Can you do work that is 100% aerobic? No, because you cannot stop glycolysis (anaerobic metabolism). In fact glycolysis is required in order to provide the pyruvic acid and H+ that feed the aerobic processes.

Can you do work that is 100% anaerobic? Not beyond the first few seconds, as soon as ANY glycolysis takes place, aerobic processes are sure to follow, albeit later and at a slower rate.

Anaerobic Threshold - If you are swimming along at precisely the fastest rate at which the muscles you are using can process oxygen (at the end of the ETC) you are said to be working at Anaerobic Threshold (AT). If you speed up a bit, H+ will begin to backup, LA will be produced and soon accumulate to a concentration that will slow you down again. AT is the highest intensity you can maintain for a long duration. This is considered to be the most effective type of training for the aerobic systems.

Doing intervals with large work/rest ratios (10/1, 6/1 - i.e. lots of work and very short rests as in swimming 100s on 5-10 seconds rest) is predominantly aerobic work.

Doing intervals with smaller work/rest ratios (1/1, 1/3, 1/6 etc - work followed by rest in equal or multiple amounts - say, swimming all-out 100s with 5-10 minutes rest between) is more anaerobic in nature.

Note that ANY significant anaerobic exercise bout requires the involvement of the aerobic system to clear the H+ of LA accumulation (recovery). This is why low-level aerobic intensity swimming allows you to recover from highly anaerobic exercise more rapidly than by simply sitting still.

That's all I've got time for. I left out loads of detail but hit most of the basics needed to understand what kind of work is going on during workouts.

Matt S
May 12th, 2003, 04:02 PM

Thanks, this is an excellent nutshell. I've printed out a copy for my fellow summer league coaches. Because I am a little thick today, could you connect the dots for me on one last issue. Why do sprinters do a lot of work at higher rest intervals, and distance people lower?

I did a double take on your 3rd and 4th paragraphs from the bottom. I always thought that distance people did aerobic work (low rest intervals), and sprinters anaerobic work (high rest intervals).


May 12th, 2003, 04:53 PM

You are talking rest INTERVALS (and are correct) and I'm talking work/rest RATIOS (and am correct, too).

A 10/1 W/R ratio is lots of Work and little Rest, say, 150 seconds of Work followed by 15 seconds Rest. This would be a HIGH W/R ratio as 10 / 1 = 10.0

A 1/6 W/R ratio is little Work followed by lots of Rest, say 15 seconds of Work followed by 90 seconds Rest. This would be a LOW W/R ratio as 1 / 6 = 0.16

If you were talking "Rest/Work" ratios then the words "high" and "low" in the above would be reversed. But I rarely if ever hear these ratios addressed as "R/W", only as "W/R", perhaps because most people think "work" first, then "rest".

May 12th, 2003, 07:41 PM
And the reasons sprinters do high intensity work with lots of rest are many and varied - like I said, I'm having to leave out a lot of details. In general rest allow the body to recover sufficiently from the previous bout to be able to stress the CP/ATP and/or anaerobic system maximally in each bout. Trying to sprint with too many H+ ions floating around doesn't result in actual sprinting and doesn't stress the non- or anaerobic systems a lot. Actually, the sprinter shouldn't really need much static rest - instead he should do lots of LOW intensity swimming as active rest.

May 12th, 2003, 08:02 PM

I agree with Matt, this is great stuff and thank you for taking the time to post. Now, do you have any tips on how to put this together into a training regime? For kids I coach, stroke work is the highest priority, followed by strength training and then speed work. For myself, as a masters swimmer, I have no time for 2-2.5 hour workouts and want to maximize the benefit from 1 hour workouts, 4-5 days a week. It would seem logical that there must be a different approach to kids (developmental vice higher end competitive) and Masters (competitive). How do I translate your aerobic/anaerobic discussion into a plan over days, weeks and months? Is it just mix and match or is there a generally accepted aerobic/anaerobic blend to look for?

Matt S
May 13th, 2003, 09:53 AM

Since the webmaster frowns on shilling your own products in the discussions, let me shill for Emmett. Buy his book, Fitness Swimming. He has several chapters that provide sample workouts, explain the primary objective of the workout (skills, aerobic endurance, lactate endurance, or lactate tolerance), AND tell you how to fit together a workout plan for a given season. There is so much in such a small package! I bought the book over a year ago, and I am still working on getting my head around all of the good stuff, and using it in my own training, and for the training of our summer youth league team.

PS: if you'd like to correspond on this subject, I coached a summer league team for the first time last year and I'm doing it again this summer. Having to respond to your email would probably stimulate me to (get off my duff &) write down some of my random thoughts. Please make contact using the personal message feature of this discussion board.

Emmett: thanks for providing such a lucid 2-page summary of the cell chemistry aspect. (You should consider submitting it as an article to Swim or some other swimmers' magazine.) I'd love to link this up with your previous contribution to a discussion of pacing 100's; I think your post there and this one would compliment each other.


May 13th, 2003, 01:36 PM

As always, thanks for your kind remarks and for shilling for my book - I must buy you a beer sometime!


As Matt indicated, my book (which Matt forgot to mention can be purchased at my web site www.h2oustonswims.org :) ) does include a fairly complete package for organizing swimming training, from individual practices up to entire seasons. What it DOESN'T do is go into any of the metabolic detail. The idea was to make the technical or scientific aspect of training as transparent as possible. Kinda like you not really knowing what's going on inside your TV set but being able to point the remote and watch Seinfeld reruns nonetheless.

For those who WANT the nitty-gritty of metabolism and precisely how it relates to set, practice, microcycle, mesocycle and macrocycle training, then I'd recommend Ernie Maglischo's "Swimming Even Faster".

Now Ernie owes me a beer... or maybe two, cuz his book is a lot thicker than mine.

May 13th, 2003, 09:57 PM
Check's in the mail (almost).