View Full Version : Heart Rate Training.

December 1st, 2004, 04:52 PM
Does anyone have any links or articles regarding heart rate training for Master Swimmers? I am interested in the medical recommendations for max heart rate for masters, especially for those over 50.
I know the 'general' guidelines, but was wondering if a fit but aging athlete has to abide by the same beats per minute.
I would appreciate any links about this topic.

Kevin in MD
December 2nd, 2004, 03:31 PM
I've not seen anything credible about heart rate training that suggested different heart rates based on age. I have heard of restrictions on pregnant women and some folks with heart problems, even those seem dubious as they put ceilings on heart rate values not % max hr or %lactate threshold.

I suppose you have been looking at an age based chart or some such thing that says different age folks have different training zones. You can take those charts and throw them away. The original coach that came up with them has admitted he was just swagging it, the forumlas used to derive those charts have been shown to have very high standard devitations. That is they predict that max hr of a population OK, but any given person will be very different from the formulaic max hr.

The entire coaching world besides swimming uses %max hr or % functional threshold as defining training zones. Both of these things need to be tested in the water if you plan on using the training zones in water. I can't think of a good way to test max hr in the pool. But you can get functional threshold by a 30 minute time trial swim and get the average heart rate for the last 20 minutes.

On to swimming. I still see coaching articles written that say that your swimmers should have hr over X number to be getting a good workout. This is unfortunate. Most unfortunate is the article from USA Swimming that does this. Your exertion is only relative you one's max hr and lactate threshold and percentages thereof. Your max hr and my max hr are likely to be VERY different even if we are exactly the same age. Swimming along at 150 hr may be fine to me (it is) and swimming along at 150 hr may be murder to you. Mind you that this has nothing to do with the paces. One of us may be swimming faster than the other one, but it has little to do with relative heart rates.

Now, a bit about why heart rate training hasn't taken off in the pool. 1 is the difficulty with measurement, those darn straps keep falling off when you do your turn unless you have substantial errmmm girth. Not that I would know anything about that. 2. The other is that te utility isn't tha clear. Your pool is the same length every time you go, probably very little wind affecting your swim speed; so swim pace is a very good way to measure exertion for a swimmer. You see the biggest reason for a runner to have a heart rate monitor is that when outside, there are no mile markers, there are also hills, both of these things make pace a poor measure of running intensity. On the other hand in the pool we can do a threshold test define zones in terms of pace and be pretty well set to go.

The most common way to do it is to do a 3000 yard swim and then calculate training zones from there. You can use this chart (http://www.tropicalpenguin.com/fitness/swimming/icar.html) to find the paces corresponding to the zones. For more info on when to do which zones, you shold check out the usa swimming pages that turn up when you google for en1

December 9th, 2004, 05:19 PM
Thanks for the great response.
I do train and coach swimmers using heart rate. We simply take our pulse for 6 secs in between reps. We don't use high tech stuff!
I find it more encouraging to take a pulse rather than focusing entirely on time. What I am seeing is that if a person has added stresses, didn't get enough sleep, family issues etc, then achieving a pulse rate will have the desired training effect and they will enjoy the session more. They also work well through out the set as they check in between reps and feel great for hitting the target rate for that set.
I do move the pulse around during the workout and I am very pleased with my results as well as my swimmers. My swimmers are becoming fitter at the different rates, but most importantly are getting better at understanding negative split. By knowing what a too fast rate for them feels like, but say 15 beats slower is comfortable, then they are better able to pace and hold a pace. Then increase the pace to negative split.
I call it "dial a pulse". Being able to swim at a speed/strength and length while holding a certain pulse. Lots of my swimmers are getting really good at this.
Everyone has a different response and comfort pace, but by training in these zones their fitness and focus definitely improves. They feel great and come to training with added enthusiasm.
Seems to work for my team!

Kevin in MD
December 9th, 2004, 09:03 PM
I'm glad it works for you. I'll post a couple of more comments.

You mention checking hr for 6 seconds. That means peak resolution is +- 10 BPM. Take into account the fact that you could start timing just after or just before a beat at both the end or the beginning of the six seconds and that means on average you'll probably be off by another +- 10 and can be off as much +-20 bpm.

I've had much experience with hr training for run and bike and feel pretty confident saying that a hr number + 20 bpm is pretty well useless as far as being able to nail a particular set of training adaptations.

I've used hr in other gorup settings and getting useful numbers is very difficult. ven the simplest of tests take substantial time to establish to establish the functional threshold hrs. Then helping everyone calculate their training zones from the functional threshold numbers, they forget what they are, etc etc.

For reasons already metnioned, just using a blanket number for the whole group will also miss any set of training adaptations.

My own view is that it may be a neat trick to use so that people can see what their heart rate does at different intensities, I don't feel in its current poolside incarnation that hr is a very valuable tool for masters swimming.

Now if everyone gets a christmas dinner gut and can wear the hrm strap, maybe we'll be in business.

December 9th, 2004, 11:44 PM
I am sorry if I negelected a couple of assumptions.

I am well connected in the medical fields, and with our 'team' of medical specialists who swim with us, I did my homework a few months ago. Together, some of my teammates attended the latest 'medical hands on seminar' where they, the 'disciples of this field' exposed themselves to the gammet of tests. Given we were not 'runners' yet had to be tested on a treadmill, we were a little bit anxious. However, we 'swimmers' out did our 'competition, ie 10km, 13 mile and 26 mile runners'. Those in our community who chose to also participate in this evening. (It was a medical educational evening, I am always a willing participant).
As we train heart rate, and we all know our own rates we shone.
Our ages spanned a few decades!

While a 6 sec count is less than ideal, my community is dealing with high unemployement. So a simple count, that doesn't cost, is good for all. It is fairly consistent. WE do have a couple who have monitors, however, the pulse count seems to be as reliable as the monitor. We ask the monitor wearers to count before they look down!

The up side of all this is, my community is reaching a very healthy lifestyle. They are regular enthusiastic members of the masters swimming.
They are improving, times are dropping, and they feel great.
Attending, being enthusiastic, caring about team members, and achieving personal bests, even reaching out and setting 'unfathomable goals' is what determines how well we are all doing.

I do not have a blanket number across the board. Combining my medical training with the broad spectrum of ages and knowledge of thier health, I offer suggestions for age vs hr.

A simple, yet consistent pulse count, is keeping my team's spirit up. Despite the hardships of unemployement.
We feel good, we are improving and looking forward to achieving great goals in 2005.

This was more to inspire other coaches who work out in the 'sticks' . My members can't afford a lot, yet our local community pool is keeping us healthy.

And introducing all kinds of horizons.

I look forward to more discussions on this.
thanks to all who read and those who contribute.

December 11th, 2004, 09:04 PM
My shortened artcile on Heart Rate Monitor Training can be found at www.breaststroke.info.

Email me if you want the whole article, it is much longer.

November 14th, 2009, 10:29 AM
I did some studying about heart rate training and, after reading Dave Salo's "Sprint Salo" book, put my team through a pulse test set that Salo credits Coach Larry Lack with developing. I plan to run this set every 4 to 6 weeks to monitor their progress.

It works like this. After a healthy warm up (1000 yards or so - not straight, mix of strokes, kick, etc), the swimmers do 8 x 100 freestyles on 4:30. This allows most swimmers around a 3 minute rest. The 8 swims are at 70%-80%-90%-100%-100%-90%-80%-70% in that order.

After each swim, the swimmer obtains their swim time and takes their pulse (10 sec check) immediately following the swim, 30 seconds after the swim and 60 seconds after the swim. Because I am recording their data on deck, I found it a bit too challenging to record all 3 heart rates, so I wound up just having them get their rate immediately after the swim and 60 seconds later.

A well trained swimmer should recover to a resting level from a challenging swim more rapidly than the untrained swimmer. So as the athlete gets in better shape, not only should their time drop on the 100 swims, their recovery rate should also improve. I provide my swimmers with the results along with a 2-page Word doc I created on Understanding Target Heart Rates. I'm finding that they are taking and monitoring their pulse throughout workouts and we are all learning about how heart rates work with swim training.

Salo's piece on the "pulse plot test" goes into greater detail on how to plot the sum-total heart rate versus the swimming speed and use a linear regression line for successive testing. Not sure I'm up to that level just yet!