The 2016 TURKEY TROT with TRACK DAYS 5K Beginner Training Plan calls for days of cross training to save your legs the excessive pounding from daily running. Check out this article from US Master’s Swimming on MyFitnessPal.com “Try This 30-Minute Swimming Workout That Burns Big Calories”. It’s discussed here not so much for the calories-burning benefit but for it’s potential as a cross-training routine.
Moving forward in the water for 30 minutes seems like a piece of cake workout at first glance. However if the middle portion of the session consists of swimming laps at a relatively hard-for-you speed interspersed with short periods of rest, be assured it will leave you tired.
This workout could interest those of you who like the idea of swimming to run better, especially on days in the colder months of the year when exercises must move indoors. It’s do-able if you have access to a lap pool.
In the article's HIIT routine, a minimum 15 total minutes is spent in warm-up and cool-down periods and the actual higher intensity effort is a minimum of 15 minutes = total 30 minutes.
As an individual you determine how long it takes for you to swim a lap; those a bit slower will swim fewer laps initially in 15 minutes; more later if you become stronger and pick up speed. There is flexibility to stay in the water longer in the higher intensity mode and an extra BONUS period to keep the burn going.
Warm-up: 5-10 minutes
KICKING laps: 5-10 minutes
SPRINT interval (swim 1-2 laps fast and hard, rest 10 seconds, then repeat until your intended exercise time is up): 10-15 minutes
BONUS: up to 15 minutes
Cool down: 10-15 minutes
Read the article to get the best directions on performing this workout.
NOTE: It may not be necessary to swim such tough intervals to get a health benefit from HIIT swimming. In a study of 62 inactive, pre-menopausal middle-aged (44-46 years old) women who were mildly hypertensive, researchers found that that low-volume high-intensity swimming had a larger impact on improving insulin sensitivity and glucose control (factors involved in the development of diabetes) than high-volume low-intensity swimming. In other words the best effect was seen with shorter intervals of swimming harder than with a prolonged session of less intense effort.
High intensity-low volume HIT group participants completed a total of about 45 training sessions over the 15-week intervention period, corresponding to roughly 3 sessions per week. Each session lasted ~15–25 minutes (3–5 total MINUTES of effective swimming) and consisted of six to ten, 30-SECOND all-out free-style swimming (front crawl) intervals interspersed by 2 MINUTES of passive recovery.
“In the first 6 weeks of training each comprised 6 intervals, the following 6 weeks comprised 8 intervals and the final 3 weeks comprised 10 intervals.”
The low intensity-high volume (1 hour) LIT group completed the same in training sessions that lasted 1 HOUR and consisted of continuous “front-crawl swimming, with the participants encouraged to swim as far as possible in every session”. A control group, CON, performed no swimming but was non-specifically said to be involved in "football" (soccer).
In HIT women, insulin levels were lowered by about 17%, but in LIT and CON women remained unchanged. Following HIT the women’s 60-minute Oral Glucose Tolerance Test insulin and glucose levels were lowered ~24 % and ~10 % respectively “but remained similar after LIT and CON”. Other markers of blood vessel health (plasma soluble intracellular cell adhesion molecule-1 and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1) had decreased significantly after HIT.
The take-home message is that if you find a rest of only 10 seconds between intervals in the swimming HIIT workout is too difficult, don’t give up. Resting for as much as 2 minutes may still have a significant health benefit that is worth the effort. Perhaps aim to decrease the rest time as you keep training, realizing it may take many weeks to show improvement.
One more note: the study cited other research that showed all HIIT may not have the same beneficial effect in this demographic. Others “found no change in” fasting insulin and glucose levels or insulin sensitivity “following 8–16 weeks of cycling interval training in overweight females (27–40 years)”. A reason given for the discrepancy between this and the cycling studies may be that the swimming study utilized “front-crawl training” that primarily had women use “upper-body muscles which have a lower baseline training status than the legs and, hence, a higher improvement potential”.
I think this is GREAT INCENTIVE TO CROSS TRAIN periodically with swimming, if you tend to exercise the lower body more than the upper body. The research study does not address the issue of burning calories, but a personal trial should be able to tell you if it helps with weight loss. Also beware that swimming is not weight bearing and won’t help as much as other exercise with bone health. It's also another plug for upper body strength training!
RUN AND SWIM HAPPY!
Connolly LJ, Nordsberg NB, Nyberg M, Weihe P, Krustrup P, Mohr M.
“Low‑volume high‑intensity swim training is superior to high‑volume low‑intensity training in relation to insulin sensitivity and glucose control in inactive middle‑aged women. Eur Appl J Physiol published online July 29, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27473445
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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