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amber pigman
December 12th, 2002, 11:47 PM
Are the way you stroke with your right arm supposed to be semetrical with the way you stroke with your left arm, because I stroke in a different pattern with my left arm than with my right, I suppose that's normal. Also is swimming considered an anerobic or aerobic sport or both?

jean sterling
December 13th, 2002, 10:24 AM
I think that your arm strokes should be symetrical, but I would guess that is a goal not achieved by many (not by me). I know that my left arm is different from my right arm in freestyle (I assume we are talking freestyle here) - one arm is more "correct" than the other. Obviously I want to improve the less correct arm. This is just my thoughts. In breaststroke and fly it is a requirement that both arms be symetrical and move in the same plane.

As for whether swimming is aerobic or anaerobic, it depends on your intensity. If you swim long and easy and get your heart rate in the training zone, swimming is aerobic. However, if you do sprints or intervals with a lot of intensity, such that get your heart rate close to max, then swimming is anaerobic. When you go to a meet, a 50 free is definitely anaerobic, while a 1500 would be mostly aerobic. Anaerobic is when you go into oxygen debt. Runners say that aerobic is when you can talk and carry on a conversation, and anaerobic is when you can't talk because you are too out of breath. Runners also say that if you can sing, you aren't putting forth enough effort to be in the training zone. So, no singing between sets. :)

By the way, thank you for the kind words. I haven't posted anything lately, so I will try to put something up in the near future (maybe tonight).

emmett
December 13th, 2002, 10:58 AM
"Runners also say that if you can sing, you aren't putting forth enough effort to be in the training zone."

Try telling that to Marines after an 8 mile training run where they have to sing loud enough to keep Sarge from adding distance to the run.

Shaky
December 13th, 2002, 01:06 PM
Originally posted by jean sterling
As for whether swimming is aerobic or anaerobic, it depends on your intensity. If you swim long and easy and get your heart rate in the training zone, swimming is aerobic. However, if you do sprints or intervals with a lot of intensity, such that get your heart rate close to max, then swimming is anaerobic. When you go to a meet, a 50 free is definitely anaerobic, while a 1500 would be mostly aerobic. Anaerobic is when you go into oxygen debt. Runners say that aerobic is when you can talk and carry on a conversation, and anaerobic is when you can't talk because you are too out of breath.

I'm no expert on this, but I don't believe that's quite an accurate explanation of the two terms.

To put it simply, aerobic exercise uses groups of muscles to work the cardiovascular system. Anaerobic exercise focuses on specific muscles and their size, endurance and strength.

Running is primarily an aerobic exercise, because the exercise is primarily working the heart and lungs. Even when you're out of breath, it's still an aerobic exercise, because you are still working the circulatory system. You may not be working the system as efficiently, but you are still working the system; and whether you go into oxygen debt has little to do with it.

Weightlifting is primarily an anaerobic exercise, because the exercise is focusing on individual muscles or muscle groups and NOT the circulatory system. You can get a good weightlifting workout without ever getting out of breath or going into oxygen debt.

Swimming is a hybrid of the two types of exercise. You use groups of muscles to elevate the heart rate and work the cardiovascular system. At the same time, the water provides resistance to work individual muscles to develop strength and endurance and to increase muscle mass.

Some types of swimming provide more or less of an aerobic workout than others, but they all provide some of both type of exercise. Sprinting is more anaerobic than distance swimming, because sprinting stresses the individual muscles more than distance. Distance swimming is more aerobic than sprinting, because sprinting elevates the heart rate and works the circulatory system for a shorter time than distance swimming. Yet both sprinting AND distance provide at least some aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Granted, a single 50m sprint won't provide much of an aerobic workout, but several sets of them on good intervals will.

There are also issues about how aerobic and anaerobic exercise trigger the burning of fat or carbs, and the behavior of "white" and "dark" muscle, but that's another discussion.

Yardbird
December 13th, 2002, 06:50 PM
It's been a looong time since I received my degree in Physical Education (that's how long, the degree is now called Kinesiolgy) and since I took a very sharp turn in my career path not long after graduating, I have forgotten most of what I learned. But as I recall, the terms aerobic and anaerobic describe the fuel the body uses to meet the demand put on it. Short bursts of activity, such as sprints or intervals are fueled by glycogen (and other fuels?) in the muscle. These are anaerobic (without oxygen) activities. Longer sustained efforts require oxygen as fuel and are therefore aerobic.

Bottom line here is that, yes, swimming is both!

jean sterling
December 13th, 2002, 07:18 PM
Intensity is what determines whether swimming is aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic activity is activity that can be maintained for a long period of time as there isn't oxygen debt and the muscles don't accumulate excess lactic acid. Runners' World uses the "talk test" as a simplified, not scientific, explanation of aerobic vs. anaerobic running. Basically aerobics has to do with oxygen - what happens to the muscles is a result of oxygen intake and use of the oxygen by working muscles. Assuming one is in reasonably good shape, aerobic activity can be sustained for a long period of time, while anaerobic activity cannot.

I found something on the web from Runners' World, which is another simplified, not scientific, explanation of aerobics and anaerobics.

aerobic
Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that's sufficiently easy for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and slow enough that lactic acid doesn't appreciably build up in your muscles. Generally, you can sustain a slow aerobic pace for long periods of time, provided you have the endurance to go long distances.

anaerobic
Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that makes it impossible for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and fast enough that lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, thus producing a tired, heavy feeling. The pace associated with anaerobic running cannot be sustained very long.

Shaky
December 13th, 2002, 09:55 PM
Originally posted by jean sterling
anaerobic
Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that makes it impossible for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and fast enough that lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, thus producing a tired, heavy feeling. The pace associated with anaerobic running cannot be sustained very long.

But that definition does not adequately describe an activity like weightlifting, which is usually considered an anaerobic exercise.

jean sterling
December 13th, 2002, 10:02 PM
Originally posted by Shaky


But that definition does not adequately describe an activity like weightlifting, which is usually considered an anaerobic exercise.

Probably because this was from Runners' World and they were discussing how running cna be aerobic and anaerobic, which also applies to swimming

jean sterling
December 13th, 2002, 10:05 PM
Originally posted by Shaky


But that definition does not adequately describe an activity like weightlifting, which is usually considered an anaerobic exercise.

This was from Runners' World and they were discussing how running can be aerobic and anaerobic depending on intensity, which also applies to swimming. They weren't interested in weighlifting, just running. And in our case, we are interested in how swimming can be aerobic (most of the time) and anaerobic.

Shaky
December 14th, 2002, 01:11 AM
Jean,

I realize that my explanation is too simple. However, I have the same problem with your description of aerobic and anaerobic swimming.

As I understand it, whenever a muscle contracts it initially gets its energy anaerobically from stored glycogen. As exercise is prolonged, the muscle takes energy aerobically from oxygen in the bloodstream, provided by the cardiovascular system. As the intensity of the workout increases, the muscles begin using more of their stored glycogen for energy, working anaerobically. The anaerobic process produce lactic acid, which is continually removed between contractions and the muscles recharged for the next burst of energy.

At some point more lactic acid is produced than can be removed, and it begins to build in the bloodstream. The point that lactic acid is present in the bloodstream is called the anaerobic threshold. My understanding of the term "oxygen debt" is that it usually refers to exceeding the AT.

Now, the problem I have with your explanation is that it seems to imply an "either/or" situation: that a swimmer's muscles are powered exclusively aerobically until the AT, then exclusively anaerobically afterwards; that the anaerobic system doesn't kick in until the AT. That is simply not the case. The muscles are always getting some energy from oxygen in the bloodstream (aerobically), even after the AT; and any exertion at all of a muscle will call upon the stored glycogen to power the muscle anaerobically, before the body reaches the anaerobic threshold.

We characterize different exercises as "aerobic" or "anaerobic" based upon the predominant method called upon to power the muscles. Running is predominantly aerobic, although there's an anaerobic component. Weightlifting is predominantly anaerobic, long before one reaches the AT, although there is a very small aerobic component.

Nearly all kinds of swimming, however, are both aerobic and anaerobic. Sprinting may be more anaerobic than a distance workout, but a sprinter's workout has a large aerobic component none the less. Distance swimming may be more aerobic than sprinting, but it likewise has a large anaerobic component, before one ever reaches the AT, as the muscles are exerted on each stroke.

To tie all this into my first, oversimplified explanation, exercise that is characterized as "aerobic" uses large groups of muscles at an intensity below the AT to tax the cardiovascular system by making it supply the muscles with oxygen. Exercise that is characterized as "anaerobic" usually places stress against individual muscles to make them burn the glycogen out of them, helping to build strength and size.

Swimming does both, throughout the intensity range.

jean sterling
December 14th, 2002, 01:30 PM
Originally posted by amber pigman
Also is swimming considered an anerobic or aerobic sport or both?

Back to the original question. The answer is both.

To elaborate just a bit without using a lot of scientific terminology which I learned in anatomy class: swimming is generally an aerobic sport, but at high intensity swimming becomes anaerobic. That is not to say that there isn't some overlap - swimming does not instantly go from aerobic to anaerobic in an all or nothing fashion. When I swim intervals I may exceed the aerobic zone while swimming, but my heart rate will most often return to the aerobic zone before each repeat.

Summing up:
easy, long, heart rate in the training zone - aerobic
short, hard. heart rate above the training zone (closer to max) - anaerobic

This is applied to swimming (or running). Weightlilfting is another matter.

amber pigman
December 15th, 2002, 08:45 AM
Thanks for the info. I was pretty sure it was both but I thought you could lable a sport as one or the other whether it was both or not according to what it was more, but now I relize that sports should not be labled anerobic or aerobic but simply workouts; whereas aerobic and anerobic depend on the intensity not the sport.

Shaky
December 15th, 2002, 11:41 AM
Originally posted by amber pigman
... whereas aerobic and anerobic depend on the intensity not the sport.

That's still not a very good way to look at it.

The anaerobic component is normally more reliant on resistance against the muscles than intensity. In swimming, it is true that you normally get more anaerobic exercise from a higher intensity workout. However, I have to bring up weightlifting again, which doesn't have to be an intense, fast workout to be highly anaerobic. To understand how aerobic and anaerobic exercise works, you can't just dismiss an entire type of exercise from the discussion just because it doesn't fit your argument. A good explanation of the two processes will cover all types of exercise.

Consider that if you were to swim in a substance with more resistance than water, your workout would become more anaerobic without any attempt to swim faster. If you were to swim in a pool of molasses, your workout would be anaerobic regardless of the intensity, because your muscles would have to strain against the drag in that muck. The exertion during each stroke would use stored glycogen in the muscles for power, anaerobically, even if you were to swim at a very slow pace. Likewise, if you were to swim in normal water wearing a suit or some device that creates a significant amount of drag, your muscles would use more anaerobic power to work against it.

Also, comparing swimming with running is a bit misleading. Running does not involve the amount of resistance against the muscles that swimming does. Runners do not get the same anaerobic benefits that swimmers get, because they are not pushing directly against something. The closest they get is when they run uphill or up stairs.

Running also does not use the same muscles as swimming, and that difference is important. The upper body muscles have evolved differently from those in the lower body. Upper body muscles have developed for quick bursts of controlled activity, relying on the stored glycogen to power these quick bursts. Any activity with them will be highly anaerobic by their very evolution. Even with prolonged, repeated action, these muscles will try to power themselves anaerobically.

Lower body muscles, in contrast, have developed to use less glycogen and rely more on oxygen from the bloodstream. These muscles very quickly switch over from their initial reliance on anaerobic power to aerobic power. It makes sense, if you think about early humans having to walk for transportation: if your lower body muscles had to rely on anaerobic power, you wouldn't be able to go very far before you'd run out of energy and have to rest. As we stand, a human in reasonably good shape can walk, or even run, pretty large distances.

To get back to a predominantly anaerobic exercise when running, you have to run hard enough that the muscles require more oxygen than the bloodstream can provide, so that they pull glycogen from the muscles, as Jean described. While we often do the same thing with swimming, you don't have to push that far to get a significant anaerobic workout, simply because the upper body muscles are already trying to power themselves anaerobically and already pushing against resistance that is minimal in running or walking.

There are two big pieces of physical evidence readily available to most of us that point out this difference between swimming and running. First is hunger. When you burn glycogen out of your muscles, the body wants to replace it as quickly as possible in case you need another burst of energy soon, so signals are sent to the stomach to contract with hunger pangs. You'll probably crave carbohydrates, which the body will convert to glycogen and store in the muscles. Even distance swimmers often feel that hunger after a workout.

Exercise that is primarily aerobic, in contrast, does not burn as much glycogen. Instead, the body taps into its fat reserves. As long as it is actively drawing on body fat, the body thinks it is has its energy needs satisfied and doesn't ask for food. This is why runners usually do not feel hungry after a run; their bodies don't think they need food.

The second big piece of evidence is muscle mass. Anaerobic activity builds muscle, where aerobic activity does not. You can look at runners and swimmers and see that very phenomenon. How often do you see avid swimmers with arms as skinny, in comparison, as runners' legs?

The two activities are only really similar in their aerobic component. Drawing parallels between them to explain the aerobic and anaerobic components of swimming is really not that useful without a better understanding of the entire process.

amber pigman
December 20th, 2002, 07:16 PM
There was obviously more to the answer to this question than I anticipated but I think I understand a lot more about anearobic and aerobic activity now and I appreciate all your help in adding to my understanding of the whole subject. Because it does get kind of complex and in depth and I can see why I was so confused. I hope this has helped dispell some incorrect definitions of the two activities for others as well. If I got what you said strait then anearobic and aerobic activity are defined by the way muscles power themselves: its aerobic activity if the muscles are pulling oxygen from the bloodstream, its anearobic if the muscles pull glycogen out of muscles. That would mean that wrestling would be mostly an anearobic sport, correct?