View Full Version : Heart rate and swimming?

May 22nd, 2003, 05:11 PM
Here's a question that makes my brain cook...

I recently started swimming again after a long layoff, combining swimming with other forms of aerobic exercise. Given my age, my target heart rate should be around 141-155. Yet when I swim at the pace I think I should go and check my pulse, it's always over 160. I don't feel chest pains or anything, and swimming slower feels next to impossible (not that I'm that speedy these days, anyway).

How much should I be concerned about this? Will my heart rate drop as I get in better shape?


May 22nd, 2003, 05:28 PM
Hey Adam,

If you used the 220 minus your age method to find your target workout heart rate, this is only a generalization. Every person is different as is each sport, the 141 to 155 range might work well for running (or may not) but swimming, cycling, rowing whatever you may have a different range because of the different muscle groups you are using. The best way to find out your max is to do a sport specific stress test. For swimming, swim a couple of all out 50's with a minute or so rest in between each and see where your heart rate is after 3 or 4 swims you should be just about pegged, once there then you can figure out your work loads (70%-80%). Hope this helps, good luck.


Courteous Swimmer
May 23rd, 2003, 12:30 AM
I notice the same thing.

When I swim, my heart rate is usually high-aerobic(85%) capacity. Freestyle and backstroke always put me there. If I do breaststroke, I have to work a little harder to maintain that level.

Compared to my speed walking workouts, my heart rate is 140 beats per minute, or about 75% of my maximum heart rate. When I jog, it's always 85%.

Your target heart rate will vary depending on your goals. If you are trying to burn fat, 60%-75% should be your goal. If your trying to give your heart a strenuous workout(aerobic), your target zone would be 85%.

I'm trying to lose about 15 vanity pounds. I've added circuit-training with weights to my routine. You do about 45-minutes with weights, hitting each body part with the basics. I'm going to increase it to two times per week. I seems to be working already. I'm down a waist size.

May 23rd, 2003, 05:33 PM
My heart rate is always much higher for swimming. I think the people who came up with that target heart rate stuff didn't take into account sports like swimming. I wouldn't worry about it.

May 23rd, 2003, 06:13 PM
I want to address this question in a more personal way:

Originally posted by Sparky
Will my heart rate drop as I get in better shape?

Probably, if my own experience is any indication.

Your story sounds familiar. When I first returned to the pool, my heart rate would jump up to at least 160 and stay there throughout my workout. As I grew stronger and gained endurance, however, my heart rate dropped. Now it stays consistently in the 140s during my normal workout. I can get it to go higher, but it feels as though I have to work a helluva lot harder to get there than when I first started.

I too wondered whether I should worry about the high heart rate and whether I might damage my heart by working it so hard. A triathlete friend laughed about that and said that I would most likely pass out before exceeding what my heart could handle. Since I never felt as though I would pass out, I dismissed those concerns.

I'm guessing yours will drop as you improve. You might also keep track of your resting heart rate, blood pressure and how quickly you recover from your workout. My resting heart rate and blood pressure have both dropped considerably. I think as long as you keep swimming consistently, at least three or four times a week and at least 45 minutes, you'll see results. Just be patient and diligent.