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Thread: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out why?

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    Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out why?

    I have been swimming for 40 years (I'm now 52). I regularly attend masters swim practice (3 X week). Recently, I have been struggling a lot in practice when I try to push myself at 90% or on harder efforts. I feel incredibly fatigued even in a short sprint like a 100 I.M. I feel very comfortable swimming at 80% effort for a really long time but as soon as I push myself a little more the wheels fall off in a big way, and I don't recover very well. I have been to the doctor to get checked out and had my blood work...everything is great. I'm wondering if this is just age or maybe my diet is affecting me?? I have not made any changes. Has anyone else around my age experienced this? Thanks.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    What you describe sounds similar to what I experienced a while back: swimming 3X a week, lifting 2X. I could swim at a moderate effort all day, but going all out was a quick way to gasping for air at the wall (quicker than normal). I mentioned this to my GP, and had a "physical" and blood work. Doc told me everything was good. Two months later I had a heart attack. Clogged arteries. Three stents later I was back at it, and 5 years down the road I just had a stress test, and everything's still good. Swimming helped minimize the damage.

    The typical blood test won't catch it, but there are markers in the blood they can look for, or a stress test; ECG will show it, or tracer dye in the blood. Do you get short of breath climbing a flight or two of stairs, excess saliva production when you warm up, any angina? Pain is not always a symptom.

    It may not be, but it sounds like what I went through. The point is, challenge your doc to help you figure it out. Even if it's something simple like overtraining, you'll know, and can act accordingly.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    Thank you. I appreciate the response. Although, it is kind of scary. I don't have any issues going up and down stairs (in fact, I run a few days a week and feel okay) or angina or the other symptoms you mentioned. However, I'm going to see my doctor anyway just in case. Do you remember what the "markers" you mentioned were?

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    Swim_McG,

    I share your "pain" - literally. A little background - plenty of Top Tens in my 40s and still swim 4500 yds/day. A few comments that I hope will be helpful:

    a) When I was around 50, I started to experience intense chest discomfort after 75 yards of swimming hard. I had no idea why until I was rejected for donating blood. Turned out I was severely anemic (unusual for a man). After alot of tests and no colon cancer, no idea why I was anemic, I started taking an iron supplement and the issues disappeared in 90 days. So, was your iron, hemoglobin, red blood cell shape all good?

    b) The markers that Froderick mentioned are only done in the ER when someone comes in complaining/experiencing a cardiac event. I know that because last year, at age 65, I experienced atrial flutter, and went to the ER. No elevated enzymes indicating heart attack and all the subsequent tests and stress tests were A-OK. The tests you need/want are beyond the normal ones they will do - unfortunately. You need something more like a nuclear stress test which are not done without good reason.

    c) But, now at 66, if I push hard longer that 75-100 yards, I get a strong discomfort right below my sternum. If I go at 80%, no issues and swim forever. BUT, push hard beyond 100 yards, I cannot do so without extreme discomfort. I passed the routine stress test with flying colors - because my knees are bad, I could not get my heart rate up high enough to trigger any episodes.

    While I would want to think that my discomfort is lack of hard training for 15 years, I suspect it is result of a slight blockage (hereditary with Dad and grandpa). For me though, I am just fine with cruising along at 80% instead of spending alot of time and appts figuring out what it might be.

    Don't know if this is helpful - just my experience and approach to it.

    Good Luck - hope it helps.

    Paul

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    How often do you work out?

    My impression in my 20's and 30's, was that, if I wanted to ramp up my workouts for a distance swim, I could do that by moving up from 3X per week to 4 or 5X a week.

    In my 50's I found that ramp-ups worked better (much better) by switchimg from 4 or 5X a week down to 3X a week.

    I'm not sure that I was correct about workouts in my 20's and 30's. It may have been working out 5 days a week gave me the warm fuzzies, but wasn't helping much.

    But I'm totally sure that since turning 50, I'm better off with max 3X a week.

    Now, in my late 60's, I'm starting to think that slightly less than 3X a week might be optimum. Like, 2 workouts for 5 days or something.

    This is definately a YMMV thing -people age WAY differentfy.

    In my late 50's I lost consciousness and fell down twice one evening and they've never been able to figure out why even with serious workup. In the cardiac stress test, the senior cardiologist watched and listened carefully on the stethescope for the first half or so, kind of snorted in disgust "There's nothing wrong with his heart," and left the room. The residents finished up the test.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    Thanks Paul. This is very helpful. When I think about it, I had pneumonia about 6-7 months ago and they did a full EKG, blood work at the hospital to make sure my heart was okay...they said my heart/arteries were in great shape. I'm wondering about Iron, or maybe some other type of vitamin deficiency. I'm also experimenting with not going hard in the pool on certain days - maybe just do all out efforts on 1 or 2 days a week. Thanks again.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    I go 3 times a week. I really don't do well with more than 3 days/week. I'm thinking about having 1 day be my "easy" day and really lay off the hard efforts and just work on technique those days. Thanks for the feedback.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    I go to swim practice 3 x a week and to the gym 3 x a week with sat. off. At almost 74 this seems to work for me. I also need a "bit" more on the intervals in fast sets.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    Quote Originally Posted by Froderick View Post

    Do you get short of breath climbing a flight or two of stairs, excess saliva production when you warm up, any angina? Pain is not always a symptom
    .
    Did you get these symptoms gradually, and how long were you experiencing them? Did you take low-dose aspirin?

    Thanks for the information

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    its been relatively gradual.

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    Re: Lately swimming is a lot more painful - cant figure out

    It was gradual enough that I didn't really notice until shortly before the actual heart attack. I thought I was just out of shape. No severe pain. Thursday I actually got out of our masters' workout early (angina, as it turned out), then Friday drove about 6 hours to Milwaukee for my daughter's synchro meet no problem. Woke up feeling out of sorts Saturday - cold and clammy mostly, as I recall. Bad enough that I went to the urgent care place there. They took an EEG, EKG, or whatever, and called the ambulance. Never made it to the synchro meet. That was five years and three stents ago. Fortunately, damage to my heart was minimal, and I had a treadmill stress test earlier this year, which turned out very well.

    Family history for me is a big driver. Dad had a quadruple bypass, an older sister had a heart attack, and an older brother had issues as well. I learned too, that everyone does not experience the same symptoms. I am on the aspirin, atorvastatin for cholesterol, and a couple others.

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