General Discussion Triathlon Talk » High Heart Rate while swimming Rss Feed  
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2019-06-24 8:18 AM


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Subject: High Heart Rate while swimming
I have been swimming now for 2.5 years. I had to hire a coach at first because I could not make it one lap in the pool without feeling like I was dying. I have progressed to do many Olympic distance triathlons and two half ironmans. I do feel like I have improved but I am not a fast swimmer. My pool time is normally around the 2 min per 100 yds with no flip kick. Open water in a lake is around 1:40- 1.45. I just did the Half Ironman in Chattanooga last month and the swim was shorted to just the down river portion. My pace was 1:29 per 100 (with help from wetsuit and downriver). My buddy did it with me and he normally has a higher heartrate at the same level of output while running and biking, for example he may be around 175bpm when I am around 165 and this has been very consistent the last few years, but when swimming, his is a good 15 beats lower than me and the same effort. He swam chattanooga at 1:30 pace and had an average heart rate of 152 and I had an average heart rate of 178. I recently read where most people do have a lower heart rate while in the water but mine has always been much higher than my normal run pace. Even my pool swims where I think I am going slow are in the 170s after about 500-1000 yds. I feel like I cannot go any slower or I will lose much of my streamline and start dragging my legs behind me. I have a full IM coming up later this year and now a little worried about the swim. Has anybody ever had a similar problem and were you able to overcome it? I have lately been really trying to focus on form and doing more drills. I tire quicker so I have just recently went from 2 swims per week to 3 but doing less yardage per session, but hoping to get more efficient in the water. Per my garmin, have been going a few seconds faster with about the same perceived effort, but heart rate still climbs fast.


2019-06-25 9:10 AM
in reply to: jparker0682

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

It's likely a combination of things, but I had the same issue that I was able to overcome.

Swimming has a few basic parts.  You have the stroke or pull that's providing propulsion, you have your body that's creating drag and your position/form drastically effects the amount of drag.  Another factor often overlooked is breathing itself which can have a big effect on drag and overall oxygen levels and such.

What I discovered very early on was that I had a big breathing problem where I wasn't exhaling enough air as I swam.  I basically would take little half or three quarters breaths and over time i'd get more and more depleted of oxygen and my heart rate would increase and then all kinds of meltdown would ensue.  My fix was to count to three as I exhaled to ensure I got all the air out and pulled in a full breath.  After I get in the zone, then I'm fine but almost every swim start I half to count my exhales for the first few minutes.

Now for stroke and form, the best tool besides getting a good instructor is to grab a gopro or other waterproof camera and video yourself swimming both above water and below water.  Try to catch yourself in the middle of the pool to get a good "normal" stroke to see what you really look like.  Even as a non instructor type I could see a bunch of flaws right away watching the video.  I noticed I tended to push down with my hands on my pull which caused my legs to sink.  I had a weird scissor kick, i lifted my head somewhat each time I breathed and pushed with my opposite hand sideways a bit to rotate for the breath, and about 5 other things.  In a nutshell I was extremely inefficient in the water because I had a ton of extra drag.  To address the issues I simply hit youtube and looked for drills to fix each respective thing and worked on them for several weeks at a time.  It takes a long time and a lot of work, but it's well worth it and your efficiency will increase noticeably. 

Good luck and stick with it.

2019-06-25 9:39 AM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

I don't understand how your open water 100 avg. is faster than your pool 100 avg.  That's not right.....and if it truly is,  then that's your answer to why your HR is faster is open water. (again, I doubt it)

Mostly, you are just not an efficient swimmer.....it's not complicated.  You are exerting more effort than your buddy.

You need more coaching to learn how to swim.



Edited by Left Brain 2019-06-25 9:43 AM
2019-06-25 9:46 AM
in reply to: Left Brain


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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming
My open water is faster than pool because I take a long time to turn around when I hit the wall. I am also not that great at accelerating, for example, racing a friend of about equal skill level, he always starts out faster than me. Once I get in sync with my stroke, I catch up to him. Also the Half Ironman I raced was down stream and I had a wetsuit which made me go faster. I have trends of long pool swims where I am up in the 170s with my heart rate, just like open water.
2019-06-25 9:50 AM
in reply to: tuwood


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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming
Thank you and good idea. I will try that count today when I swim and see if it helps my breathing. I have taken more lessons lately and even had a swim analysis done about a month ago....I was dragging bad with my legs and left arm was pushing down on the water every time I went to breathe. I have been doing drills the last couple of weeks to try to improve. Again than you.
2019-06-25 10:18 AM
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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

Originally posted by jparker0682 My open water is faster than pool because I take a long time to turn around when I hit the wall. I am also not that great at accelerating, for example, racing a friend of about equal skill level, he always starts out faster than me. Once I get in sync with my stroke, I catch up to him. Also the Half Ironman I raced was down stream and I had a wetsuit which made me go faster. I have trends of long pool swims where I am up in the 170s with my heart rate, just like open water.

The ONLY correct measurements of your swimming will come from a pool with exact distance and lane lines.  You CANNOT compare open water times, in any way, to pool times, swimming at your level.  You need more coaching.  Nobody wants to hear that, and I get why.....but most of the advice that comes on this board regarding swimming is from people who have never been around fast swimmers and don't really know what correct swimming entails, much less how to tell someone else how to do it.



Edited by Left Brain 2019-06-25 10:19 AM


2019-06-25 11:23 AM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

Originally posted by Left Brain

most of the advice that comes on this board regarding swimming is from people who have never been around fast swimmers and don't really know what correct swimming entails, much less how to tell someone else how to do it.

Hey, I swim with fast swimmers and watch them lap me over and over again 

2019-06-25 12:34 PM
in reply to: tuwood

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

Originally posted by tuwood

Originally posted by Left Brain

most of the advice that comes on this board regarding swimming is from people who have never been around fast swimmers and don't really know what correct swimming entails, much less how to tell someone else how to do it.

Hey, I swim with fast swimmers and watch them lap me over and over again 

They probably aren't that fast. LOL

2019-06-25 12:40 PM
in reply to: Left Brain


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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming
And this is why I do not post on forums often....I am asking for constructive feedback on if people have or had a similar experience. I know I am not that efficient...that is what I have been working on...do not need hear that in a forum when looking for something constructive. Also, my first coach is a former college swimmer...I share my data with him constantly. My swim analysis was performed by a former pro triathlete. I have also watched faster swimmers in the pool that I go to...becoming more efficient is something that I strive to do...and for somebody that just learned how to swim 2.5 years ago, it is complicated to me (maybe not to you but to me it is).

Also...see Tony's comment...I tried counting to ensure I constantly and completely exhaled during my lunch swim today and my average heart rate was ~15 bpm lower at my same pool pace(oh and I was not trying to compare my paces earlier, they are just data points from my garmin that I shared)...I still know I have room to improve which is why I practice and why I seek assistance...but wow, what an improvement from just one key thing that I was overlooking.

2019-06-25 12:43 PM
in reply to: tuwood


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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming
Thank you again Tony. I had a training swim during my lunch...I am fortunate enough to work close to an aquatic center...and I focused on ensuring I exhaled and got a good breath between strokes. I never felt winded or tired and kept the same pace that I normally have and was ~15 bpm lower when I analyzed my data after the swim. I will keep that a focus point along with the other drills I normally do.
2019-06-25 12:53 PM
in reply to: jparker0682

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

Originally posted by jparker0682 Thank you again Tony. I had a training swim during my lunch...I am fortunate enough to work close to an aquatic center...and I focused on ensuring I exhaled and got a good breath between strokes. I never felt winded or tired and kept the same pace that I normally have and was ~15 bpm lower when I analyzed my data after the swim. I will keep that a focus point along with the other drills I normally do.

Awesome, glad to hear it helped. 



2019-06-25 1:08 PM
in reply to: jparker0682

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming

Originally posted by jparker0682 And this is why I do not post on forums often....I am asking for constructive feedback on if people have or had a similar experience. I know I am not that efficient...that is what I have been working on...do not need hear that in a forum when looking for something constructive. Also, my first coach is a former college swimmer...I share my data with him constantly. My swim analysis was performed by a former pro triathlete. I have also watched faster swimmers in the pool that I go to...becoming more efficient is something that I strive to do...and for somebody that just learned how to swim 2.5 years ago, it is complicated to me (maybe not to you but to me it is). Also...see Tony's comment...I tried counting to ensure I constantly and completely exhaled during my lunch swim today and my average heart rate was ~15 bpm lower at my same pool pace(oh and I was not trying to compare my paces earlier, they are just data points from my garmin that I shared)...I still know I have room to improve which is why I practice and why I seek assistance...but wow, what an improvement from just one key thing that I was overlooking.

It IS constructive....and I already said you wouldn't want to hear it....nobody does.  You have to do two things to learn how to swim.  First, you have to have someone who actually knows how to swim work with you on a regular basis. ...IN PERSON.  Second, you have to swim A LOT. 

2019-06-25 1:40 PM
in reply to: Left Brain


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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming
Thank you for posting, but you might want to research constructive feedback. Giving examples about what to look for around being efficient or what kind of coach to look for are constructive (not every coach is created equal). Also giving examples on what one might work on would be considered constructive. Telling me that I am not an efficient swimmer and to get a coach (while it might be true) are not constructive based on what I asked for in my original post.

A quick google search on what is constructive feedback...
constructive feedback is a tool that is used to build things up, not break things down. It lets the other person know that you are on their side.

My post was out there for a good day before anybody responded so I do thank you for responding.

Have a great day.
2019-06-25 3:15 PM
in reply to: jparker0682

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Subject: RE: High Heart Rate while swimming
Besides what your HR reading is, how do you feel?
Do you feel like you are working extremely hard?
If you didn't have a HR reading for the swim, would you notice a difference.

Form counts for a lot. If you have to work harder to overcome form to keep pace, that will show up in HR data. What's your arm turnover rpm? If you have to run windmill action to keep speed, form needs a check. You should be able to glide on the water and adjust stroke rate, really reach out and get the max out of each stroke instead of having to up stroke rate to keep the same speed, if that makes sense.

Keep in mind that HR data, especially for the swim, isn't an exact science. Your HR strap may not be reading right and maybe off +/-10% from your friends readings. It's nice to have all the data, but not get hung up on it and comparing it to everyone else.
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