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Ask the Swim Doctor: 2001

"Ask the Swim Doctor" is a popular column written by Dr. Paul Hutinger. This column appears regularly in the Florida LMSC quarterly newsletter, which is the recipient of the 1998 USMS Newsletter of the Year Award.

February 2001: Special Training for the 50/100/200 Events

Question: What training program would help me with my 50, 100 and 200 events?

Answer: the type of training you do will dictate which energy source is developed. Distance training (short rest sets of 10x200 or 4x500 will increase the aerobic energy system, and sprint training (20x25 on 30-45 sec) would train the anaerobic energy system, as would sets of 5x100 @ 8 min (95% effort and recommended only once a week).

To develop a specific energy system, swimmers must train as close to the speed and intensity of swimming that he/she will do in their competitive events or little or no benefit will be derived.

Immediate energy stored in the muscles will last for 35 sec, or for anaerobic stores, from 40 sec to 1 1/2 minutes. Overdistance and short rest repeats can result in a lowering of the anaerobic system within the muscle, thus your 50 and 100 sprints could be slower. You cannot expect an Indy formula car to perform well in a race designed for a top fuel dragster.

Glenn Woodsum, 53, Tallahassee, is an example of a swimmer who changed the standard distance workout his Masters group was doing to one that specifically trains him for sprints. Best times SCY--50 free/23.94; 100 free/52.53; 200 free/1:58.71, SCM--50 free/26.25; 100 free/58.40; 200 free/2:15, LCM--50 free/26.95; 100 free/1:00.20

Some of these are life time bests, including a drop of 2.2 seconds on a 100 free. He maximizes his training for freestyle events of 50, 100 and 200's. His workouts have the following basic design, for 3000 yards:

warm up: 600 swim & 200 kick (4x50)
M/W/F: race pace work; no pain and don't hurt
.....8-20x50 @ pace for the 200
.....20x15 yds @pace for the 100
.....20x12 yds @ pace for the 50
Tu/Th: pain and hurt
.....2x200 @ 20 min or 4x100 @ 8 min--ALL OUT, with easy swimming in between
Last year he did one meet on each course, with 8 weeks of conditioning at anaerobic threshold before starting his specificity program. Six weeks before a meet, he tapers with 200 yds less per week. Four weeks before the Orlando SCM meet, he did extra kicking (2x100, 2x75, 2x50) that he felt helped his performances.

Woodsum doesn't check his heart rate but uses perceived exertion and pace times for intensity of effort. He does not use fins or zoomers. In the past, he has used weight training, but now, he feels his speed work maintains a good strength level. He does work on efficiency of strokes by swimming 25's with the fewest strokes he can, applying maximum strength on each stroke (very exhausting, but looks easy). He does as few as 10 strokes/25 yards. Elite swimmers such as Jon Olsen, Biondi and Popov (26 strokes/50m) maximize distance per stroke, which gives the appearance of swimming easy and relaxed.

In summary, if you swim 50, 100, and 200 events (lasting up to 3 minutes), maximize your performance with a program that gives your anaerobic energy system specific training.

May 2001: Glycemic Index

Question: I have heard that diabetes is epidemic in the US. I train regularly in Masters swimming. Is that enough to prevent me from contacting this disease?

Answer: You are one step in the right direction with exercise. Number two, is to lose weight, if overweight. A general principle that must be followed is to have a planned nutrition program. The best is to prevent overloading the bloodstream with glucose, causing an increase in
insulin. If your diet causes levels of glucose to spike repeatedly for long periods of time, it can trigger diabetes. Your doctor can give you a test that will analyze your risk levels, but ultimately, you are responsible for your own health. Your nutrition is as important as your training in the pool, so put some time and research into a good program. The glycemic index is a major health finding that has been studied and reported in the nutrition journals since 1980. It is a ranking of foods, mostly carbohydrates, based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Contrary to popular
myths, sugar and pasta are not the culprits in Type II Diabetes (formerly, adult onset). The glycemic index is a scientific approach to control blood sugar levels that can prevent diabetes, manage weight loss and enhance athletic performances. If you routinely eat donuts, French fries, mashed potatoes, bagels, instant cereals, like rice and pretzels, you are eating the highest
glycemic index foods. This will spike your glucose and insulin, which is to be avoided as a health threat. A booklet on food ratings plus a nutrition book, will be good resources. Sources include American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995, Vol 62 and The Glucose Revolution, Miller and Wolever, Marlowe & Co, 1999. Dr. Glen Luepnitz, a nutritionist and immunologist, was an advisor to Richard Quick, the Olympic swim coach. The team followed their recommendations for the glycemic index in their food selection. His biggest supporters, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres had top performances. Low glycemic foods for between major meals include oatmeal, black beans, butter beans and dry roasted peanuts. Pre and post exercise foods to consider are high glycemic honey, carrots, mashed potatoes and red delicious apples. Years ago, swimmers would eat honey and candy at age group meets, for quick energy. These sweets work for a short period of time, but the rebound effect eventually causes a drop in glucose levels, with poor
performances as a result. The best approach is to maintain a balance with a slow release of glucose.

Anyone wanting a copy of the glycemic index, please send a large SASE to: Dr. Paul Hutinger; 1755 Georgia Ave. NE; St. Petersburg, FL 33703.

August 2001: Components of a Successful Program

Question: What are the components of a successful program for Masters swimmers?

Answer: The first answer by many, would be the training program. Many highly competitive swimmers use their coach's own workouts or computer generated workouts, like Hy Tek. Non competetive swimmers, will modify these workouts or find another workout that applies to their goals and time restraints. Scott Rabalais, 1996 Masters Coach of the Year and Chair of the Masters Coach's Ass'n, lists an all inclusive combination of nine items: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, technique, flexibility, kinesthetic ability, nutrition, rest, knowledge of swimming and psychology and motivation. Swimmers, such as Jean Troy, 74, says she uses every technique available to beat highly talented swimmers, such as June Krauser. Troy has frequently beaten Krauser in the 50, 100 and 200 free. Many Masters do not have the time or motivation to follow Rabalais' guidelines. However, many items can be part of a healthy lifestyle, like training (at whatever level satisfies you), nutrition and rest. There are many benefits from these basic principles, which are known by most who have been in the program. One area unknown to many, is the benefit to the brain. Many of you know about endomorphs and the runner or swimmer's high. Many sufferers of depression take drugs, like prozac to normalize the serotonin in the
brain. Research has demonstrated that aerobic exercise, like swim training, increases serotonin levels which combat depression. The potential dangers of mood altering drugs neurotoxicity can also be avoided. Talk during your intervals is also important for an overall positive therapy and improvement in neurogenesis.

NOTE: I was pleased with the response to last months' topic, glycemic index. This is an important principle to follow, without making drastic changes to your regular nutrition.


November 2001: Pace Clocks

Question: The pool where I train, doesn't have a pace clock. What are my options? My pool has pace clocks, but I can't see them without my glasses. What are my options?

Answer: Pace clocks are a valuable asset to your total Masters program as it adds variety and motivation to your personal training. Therefore, in both instances, the solution is a personal pace clock. A commercial 15 inch pace clock can cost $130 and a programmable one, $1275. My teammate, Elmer Luke, high school swim coach for 30 years, came up with an inexpensive alternative, for under $10. Basic 9" black and white kitchen clock, with second hand, at Target or
Walmart--$5-7. 5 inch diameter PVC pipe, 3 to 4 inches long, at Home Depot--under $2.
1 AA battery--$1 With a hacksaw, cut a grove the width of the clock and approx. 2 inches
deep, at one end of the pipe.

You now have your own portable pace clock. It is light enough (1 lb.) and small enough (two pieces) to fit in your swim bag. When you get to the pool, set the clock in the pipe and position it on the deck where you can see it from your lane.

If you swim in an end lane, set it on the side of the pool, so you will be able to see it at each turn. Luke used this technique for his hour swim. He checked his 50 splits and knew he was on the pace he wanted.

If you set it at the end of your lane, use it for your intervals. With open turns, you can see the hands on each turn. If you do flip turns, do occasional open turns to check your pace on longer swims.

You now have the means to include timed pace swims and sprints in your workouts, and evaluate your training progress throughout the season.

In a future article, I will include suggestions for using the pace clock.


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