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Thread: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

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    Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    During our swimming careers we have all experienced the feeling of "being in-shape" and not quite "in-shape".

    My question is this; From a physiological or Kinesiological standpoint, what is happening in your body when you can so easily go from being in-shape to losing that in a matter of a week or two?

    I'm an old masters swimmer now but even swimming High School, Club or College whenever I would go on a vacation or get sick for a week, it took two - three weeks to get back to where I was before the vacation or sickness?

    What is happening in our body when we can swim a 1:07 BR and then two weeks later can't break 1:10???

    Thanks in advance for your answers and opinions...


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    Very Active Member pwb's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Muscle atrophy, I imagine.

    I went from swimming the fastest times in my Masters career (and one lifetime best) to being a pathetic excuse for a swimmer in just month of relative inactivity.

    The good news is this: I'm less concerned with "why this happened" because I know exactly what I need to do to get back in shape: get in the pool and train!

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    I'm not an expert in this at all... but when I ask people who should know, they tell me it is "neurological" as opposed to a muscle mass issue. If I am hearing them correctly, it may be connected with how our neurological system gets the muscles to contract, and how patterned this response is. Again, not an expert here, just relaying what I think I've heard.

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Try telling that to Emil Zatopek?

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by pwbrundage View Post
    Muscle atrophy, I imagine.
    Long term yeah, but not in a few weeks.

    It's several things. Some happen right away, some take longer. If you want to read the scientific literature on this, the term to search is "deconditioning." As in, the opposite of conditioning. Every adaptation that your body makes to training gets lost if you don't keep training. Off the top of my head:

    Skill memory
    Motor unit recruitment efficiency
    Enzymes in energy pathways
    Physical muscle changes (e.g., capillary density)

    If you're really interested in this stuff, read Maglischo.

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    The way I look at it, form will make me much faster without fitness than the opposite. A sudden increase in time would have me thinking along the lines of poor technique.

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    Love SWIMMING! Ahelee Sue Osborn's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by brett olson nads View Post
    My question is this; From a physiological or Kinesiological standpoint, what is happening in your body when you can so easily go from being in-shape to losing that in a matter of a week or two?
    What is happening in our body when we can swim a 1:07 BR and then two weeks later can't break 1:10???
    Since there are plenty of athletes out there dealing with a come-back from the flu just as the rest of the team is getting ready for the season championships.... the truth should be told if soliciting advice.

    Prior to illness - daily double workouts, consistent high level effort, few or no recovery breaks or competitions.

    Contracted Swine flu or at least a horrible sounding chest cold.

    Training through the illness.

    Birthday in the middle of everything.

    Prescribed antibiotic treatment by physician

    Still sick - still training... or did I already mention that?

    I'm not science minded, but sometimes it is plain obvious.
    More rest is needed.
    Intensive interval training while still sick is possibly going to land the athlete in bed during the championship weekend.

    We have had 3 athletes in this exact situation.
    Frustrating? Yes.
    But there are still nearly 2 weeks before the big meet.
    I don't think all is lost.

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    Wannabe Middle D. Swimmer qbrain's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahelee Sue Osborn View Post
    Since there are plenty of athletes out there dealing with a come-back from the flu just as the rest of the team is getting ready for the season championships.... the truth should be told if soliciting advice.

    Prior to illness - daily double workouts, consistent high level effort, few or no recovery breaks or competitions.

    Contracted Swine flu or at least a horrible sounding chest cold.

    Training through the illness.

    Birthday in the middle of everything.

    Prescribed antibiotic treatment by physician

    Still sick - still training... or did I already mention that?

    I'm not science minded, but sometimes it is plain obvious.
    More rest is needed.
    Intensive interval training while still sick is possibly going to land the athlete in bed during the championship weekend.

    We have had 3 athletes in this exact situation.
    Frustrating? Yes.
    But there are still nearly 2 weeks before the big meet.
    I don't think all is lost.
    Just in case one of these 3 is a night nadadore who listens to my advice over yours.

    You need more rest. Your focus should be getting well as fast as possible, so you can get back in the pool. Don't worry about deconditioning, worry getting well fast so you have time to get your feel back right before the meet.

    I got sick right before my first USAS meet in Oct. I immediately stopped swimming, took a day off work, stopped lifting, ate even healthier than usual and focused on getting well. I was better about 3 days before the meet, and when I got back in the water, I didn't worry about conditioning, I worried about making sure my technique was as good as it was going to be. I couldn't regain what little conditioning I lost in 7 days out of the water and 9 days out of the gym, but I could regain my feel for the water and make sure my starts and turns were solid going into the meet.

    Also, start paying more attention to Ahelee's advice and less to my drivel.

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Following 5 months of competitive training (approximately 9,000 yards.d-1, 6 d.wk-1), three groups of eight male swimmers performed 4 wk of either reduced training (3,000 yard.session-1) or inactivity. Two groups reduced their training to either 3 sessions.wk-1 (RT3) or 1 session.wk-1 (RT1), whereas the third group (IA) did no training. Measurement of muscular strength (biokinetic swim bench) showed no decrement in any group over the 4 wk. In contrast, swim power (tethered swim) was significantly decreased (P less than 0.05) in all groups, reaching a mean change of -13.6% by week 4. Blood lactate measured after a standard 200-yard (183 m) front crawl swim increased by 1.8, 3.5, and 5.5 mM over the 4 wk in groups RT3, RT1 and IA, respectively. In group RT1, stroke rate measured during the 200-yard swim significantly increased (P less than 0.05) from 0.54 +/- 0.03 to 0.59 +/- 0.03 strokes.-1 while stroke distance significantly decreased (P less than 0.05) from 2.50 +/- 0.08 to 2.29 +/- 0.13 m.stroke-1 during the 4-wk period. Both stroke rate and stroke distance were maintained in group RT3 over the 4 wk of reduced training. Group IA was not tested for stroke mechanics. Whereas maximal oxygen uptake decreases significantly (P less than 0.05) over the 4 wk in group RT1 (4.75 to 4.62 l.min-1), no change in maximal oxygen uptake was observed in group RT3. These results suggest that aerobic capacity is maintained over 4 wk of moderately reduced training (3 sessions.wk-1) in well-trained swimmers. Muscular strength was not diminished over 4 wk of reduced training or inactivity, but the ability to generate power during swimming was significantly reduced in all groups.

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    Very Active Member 3strokes's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by dsyphers View Post
    I'm not an expert in this at all... but when I ask people who should know, they tell me it is "neurological" as opposed to a muscle mass issue. If I am hearing them correctly, it may be connected with how our neurological system gets the muscles to contract, and how patterned this response is. Again, not an expert here, just relaying what I think I've heard.
    I've attended seminars that examined Biorhythms in details.
    There are coaches who believe in them and will either train
    their charges according to them or scratch them from an event.

    ¿Quién sabe?
    ..... Where, Oh, where did I last see my swimming suit? Oh well!

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by 3strokes View Post
    I've attended seminars that examined Biorhythms in details.
    There are coaches who believe in them and will either train
    their charges according to them or scratch them from an event.

    ¿Quién sabe?
    This has nothing to do with whatever the hell "biorhythms" are.

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz Hands View Post
    This has nothing to do with whatever the hell "biorhythms" are.
    You might want to work on your social skills just a wee bit.

    Chronobiology may, indeed, be somewhat off topic, but it's neither pseudoscience (as your comment and use of quotes seems to imply), nor is it entirely irrelevant to this discussion.

    Most swimmers swear by some sort of taper before a big meet. What is this difference between such allegedly beneficial rest and refueling of substrates or whatever exactly happens, and the deconditioning that occurs when you have to stop training because of being sick?

    Both involve taking time off, so why should one be so great and the other so deleterious?

    Ditto for diurnal and weekly rhythms and training cycles--I suspect you are a fan of periodization in weight training. Is this not, in some sense, a cyclical matter, that is to say, a matter of rhythms to optimize biology?

    Tact, Mr. Hands! Do not let your social skills atrophy from lack of practice!

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Yes, Jim, the number one activity of people with excellent social skills is telling other people how bad their social skills are.

    Anyway, regarding "biorhythms." It's in quotes because it came up with no context or explanation. It is literally meaningless in this conversation. I see "bio" in there, along with "rhythm." I'll grant you that if we want to foster acceptance and harmony here, we can indeed agree that the original question raises issues of how biology changes over time. However, I don't think stating the most obvious thing possible is a very harmonious way to respond to a valid comment about the importance of the nervous system in deconditioning. Especially when the most obvious thing possible is restated as, yes, pseudoscience.
    Last edited by Jazz Hands; November 18th, 2009 at 11:36 PM.

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    Very Active Member SolarEnergy's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by brett olson nads View Post
    My question is this; From a physiological or Kinesiological standpoint, what is happening in your body when you can so easily go from being in-shape to losing that in a matter of a week or two?
    First let's agree that not everything is being lost in a matter of a week or two.

    The loss in fitness that occurs in such a small period of time is mainly due to a drop in cardiac output (caused by a drop of plasma volume) as well as a drop of intramitochondrial enzyme efficiency.

    Think of those enzymes as being the employees that process a large portion of metabolic functions within the mitochondria. With fitness, these employees are capable of processing more metabolic at a higher rate. With a two week brake, they just need a week or two to regain this loss efficiency.

    Also, some hormones tend to overreact a bit after this sort of break. Drop in cardiac output along with increased activity of adrenalin for instance tend to increase the heart rate (sometimes considerably).

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Jazz Hands wasn't around in the '70s, so he hasn't heard about biorhythms like us older folks have. The biorhythm fad seems to have gone the way of earth shoes and pet rocks.

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by knelson View Post
    Jazz Hands wasn't around in the '70s, so he hasn't heard about biorhythms like us older folks have. The biorhythm fad seems to have gone the way of earth shoes and pet rocks.
    Remember the biorhythm calculators? A college roommate had a graphing one that would print out little 4" wide colored charts of what in retrospect was probably total nonsense. The TI (Texas Instruments, not Total Immersion) programmers were probably giggling like mad when they wrote the code.
    At this point in the development of our society, there is virtually no writing which has not been plagiarized at least in part from another. I read that somewhere.

    This was no boating accident.


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    Very Active Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by BillS View Post
    Remember the biorhythm calculators?
    Hey, I lived in California at the time...we were all over biorhythms! I am pretty sure we owned a calculator and (I was 8 at the time) I would be worried whenever a meet occured near a double- or (shudder!) triple-critical day.

    It has indeed gone the way of the dodo; more info is in (of course!) wikipedia:

    [ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biorhythms[/ame]


    Early in my academic career -- maybe in the mid-90s -- I tried to illustrate the phenomenon of interference to a class using biorhythms. That was the first of a string of gaffes over the years by which I illustrated my cultural ignorance: not a single student knew what biorhythms were. (But they know all about I Love Lucy or 70s music. Go figure.)

    Quote Originally Posted by ehoch View Post
    Following 5 months of competitive training (approximately 9,000 yards.d-1, 6 d.wk-1), three groups of eight male swimmers performed 4 wk of either reduced training (3,000 yard.session-1) or inactivity

    ...

    These results suggest that aerobic capacity is maintained over 4 wk of moderately reduced training (3 sessions.wk-1) in well-trained swimmers. Muscular strength was not diminished over 4 wk of reduced training or inactivity, but the ability to generate power during swimming was significantly reduced in all groups.
    Thank you for posting this, Erik. I remembered that study (or a similar one) but you saved me the trouble of finding it. To me, the explanation is what Jazz and others have stated: you lose, essentially, the "muscle memory" of efficient swimming. It also suggests that the effects can be slowed simply by easy swimming.

    Our college coaches always told us to just jump in and do some easy laps a couple times per week during the break, for exactly this reason.

    Rule of thumb: the conditioning and other physical adaptations to training that took months or even years to acquire will not completely disappear in a matter of weeks.

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post
    First let's agree that not everything is being lost in a matter of a week or two.

    The loss in fitness that occurs in such a small period of time is mainly due to a drop in cardiac output (caused by a drop of plasma volume) as well as a drop of intramitochondrial enzyme efficiency.

    Think of those enzymes as being the employees that process a large portion of metabolic functions within the mitochondria. With fitness, these employees are capable of processing more metabolic at a higher rate. With a two week brake, they just need a week or two to regain this loss efficiency.

    Also, some hormones tend to overreact a bit after this sort of break. Drop in cardiac output along with increased activity of adrenalin for instance tend to increase the heart rate (sometimes considerably).
    Following 5 months of competitive training (approximately 9,000 yards.d-1, 6 d.wk-1), three groups of eight male swimmers performed 4 wk of either reduced training (3,000 yard.session-1) or inactivity. Two groups reduced their training to either 3 sessions.wk-1 (RT3) or 1 session.wk-1 (RT1), whereas the third group (IA) did no training. Measurement of muscular strength (biokinetic swim bench) showed no decrement in any group over the 4 wk. In contrast, swim power (tethered swim) was significantly decreased (P less than 0.05) in all groups, reaching a mean change of -13.6% by week 4. Blood lactate measured after a standard 200-yard (183 m) front crawl swim increased by 1.8, 3.5, and 5.5 mM over the 4 wk in groups RT3, RT1 and IA, respectively. In group RT1, stroke rate measured during the 200-yard swim significantly increased (P less than 0.05) from 0.54 +/- 0.03 to 0.59 +/- 0.03 strokes.-1 while stroke distance significantly decreased (P less than 0.05) from 2.50 +/- 0.08 to 2.29 +/- 0.13 m.stroke-1 during the 4-wk period. Both stroke rate and stroke distance were maintained in group RT3 over the 4 wk of reduced training. Group IA was not tested for stroke mechanics. Whereas maximal oxygen uptake decreases significantly (P less than 0.05) over the 4 wk in group RT1 (4.75 to 4.62 l.min-1), no change in maximal oxygen uptake was observed in group RT3. These results suggest that aerobic capacity is maintained over 4 wk of moderately reduced training (3 sessions.wk-1) in well-trained swimmers. Muscular strength was not diminished over 4 wk of reduced training or inactivity, but the ability to generate power during swimming was significantly reduced in all groups.

    It's several things. Some happen right away, some take longer. If you want to read the scientific literature on this, the term to search is "deconditioning." As in, the opposite of conditioning. Every adaptation that your body makes to training gets lost if you don't keep training. Off the top of my head:

    Skill memory
    Motor unit recruitment efficiency
    Enzymes in energy pathways
    Physical muscle changes (e.g., capillary density)

    If you're really interested in this stuff, read Maglischo.


    Fantastic explanation! I was looking for this type of answer. I should have not put in my original question any reference to being "sick". I should have used an example of a world class athlete (ie- Ryan Lochte) who is otherwise healthy that takes a 2 week vacation and his first day back in the pool he is not swimming the same workout splits that he was swimming prior to "Worlds" or the "Olympics"

    Thank you everyone for your answers!!

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahelee Sue Osborn View Post
    Since there are plenty of athletes out there dealing with a come-back from the flu just as the rest of the team is getting ready for the season championships.... the truth should be told if soliciting advice.

    Prior to illness - daily double workouts, consistent high level effort, few or no recovery breaks or competitions.

    Contracted Swine flu or at least a horrible sounding chest cold.

    Training through the illness.

    Birthday in the middle of everything.

    Prescribed antibiotic treatment by physician

    Still sick - still training... or did I already mention that?

    I'm not science minded, but sometimes it is plain obvious.
    More rest is needed.
    Intensive interval training while still sick is possibly going to land the athlete in bed during the championship weekend.

    We have had 3 athletes in this exact situation.
    Frustrating? Yes.
    But there are still nearly 2 weeks before the big meet.
    I don't think all is lost.
    Thank you coach, for the smack-down, lol !!!

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    Re: Question for Science-minded swimmers...

    Quote Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post
    First let's agree that not everything is being lost in a matter of a week or two.

    The loss in fitness that occurs in such a small period of time is mainly due to a drop in cardiac output (caused by a drop of plasma volume) as well as a drop of intramitochondrial enzyme efficiency.
    Hypothetical question:

    I wonder if you can retrieve plasma from your body while in shape, sufficiently store it and then put it back into your body prior to a big meet to increase plasma volume? Would Michael Phelps' plasma help me?

    Sorry if these questions are odd but i love the science behind swimming!

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