Recent activities, and holding your breath whilst swimming

Posted on July 30, 2010

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Exercise Science at UCNISS

I haven’t posted much recently, partly because, as well as normal work, I have been getting our work website up to speed. We have both a UCNISS site, for the whole National Institute of Sport Studies at the University of Canberra as well as an Exercise Science specific site.

However, the posts that relate more specifically to me I will post here too. Here’s the first one, one of my student’s work.

Courtney McGowan
Bachelor of Sport Studies (Honours) student

Supervisors: Ben Rattray and Keith Lyons

Abstract: The use of controlled frequency breathing (CFB) or ‘hypoxic’ breathing is a common training method used by competitive swimmers. CFB is not simply breath holding; it involves the swimmer restricting voluntarily the frequency of their breathing for a set number of strokes. The reduction in frequency of breathing has implications for both the physiological and mechanical components of swimming performance. Physiologically, a reduction in breathing frequency can induce a state of hypoxia, and subsequently an increase in blood lactate. This added

physiological stress on the swimmer may simulate that experienced during competition. Mechanically, changes in breathing pattern may contribute also to improvements in stroke coordination/mechanics and subsequent performance. This study will examine the effects of CFB on a swimmer’s physiological responses, stroke mechanics and performance under conditions of maximum effort. Stroke characteristics such as stroke rate and stroke length, and the physiological parameters of blood lactate, pH, gas concentrations, and heart rate and performance times will be monitored and analysed. It is anticipated that the outcomes of this research will allow for an improvement in the understanding of elite swimmers’ responses to CFB and how CFB could be used in elite training programs and competitive racing to improve performance.

Plain English: A variety of different training methods are employed by those who coach elite swimming; however a method that has been utilised continuously over the past few decades and recently has gained more support is controlled frequency breathing (CFB) or ‘hypoxic’ breathing. This method involves the swimmer restricting the number of breaths from their normal breathing pattern of 1 breath every 2 or 3 strokes to a pattern of 1 breath every 5+ strokes. In theory, CFB limits the air exchange in the lungs, therefore reducing the oxygen concentrations in pulmonary circulation and decreasing the oxygen supply to working skeletal muscles. This study will examine the physiological and stroke mechanic responses to the use of this training method. The characteristics of stroke rate and stroke length along with the blood based parameters of lactate, heart rate, pH and gas concentrations and performance times will be analysed. As this method is used commonly in training with the belief that it will elicit an improvement in performance, the primary focus of the report will be to demonstrate the positive and negative effects of the method on athletic achievements.

Image is Cold Steel Triathlon by UNC – CFC – USFK.

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