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J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1997 Mar;37(1):78-85.

Applying physiological principles and assessment techniques to swimming the English Channel. A case study.

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Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond 70402, USA.



This study presents the use of physiological principles and assessment techniques in addressing four objectives that can enhance a swimmer's likelihood of successfully swimming the English Channel. The four objective were: (1) to prescribe training intensities and determine ideal swimming pace; (2) to determine the amount of insulation needed, relative to heat produced, to diminish the likelihood of the swimmer suffering from hypothermia; (3) to calculate the caloric expenditure for the swim and the necessary glucose replacement required to prevent glycogen depletion; and (4) to determine the rate of acclimatization to cold water (15.56 C/60 F).


The subject participated in several pool swimming data collection sessions including a tethered swim incremental protocol to determine peak oxygen consumption and onset of lactate accumulation and several steady state swims to determine ideal swimming pace at 4.0 mM/L of lactate. Additionally, these swims provided information on oxygen consumption, which in combination with ultrasound assessment of subcutaneous fat was used to assess heat production and insulation capabilities. Finally, the subject participated in 18 cold water immersions to document acclimatization rate.


The data demonstrated the high fitness level of this subject and indicated that at a stroke rate of 63 stokes/min, HR was 130 heats/min and lactate was 4 mM/L. At this swimming pace the swimmer would need to consume 470 kcal of glucose/hr. In addition, the energy produced at this swim pace was 13.25 kcal/min while the energy lost at the present subcutaneous fat quantity was 13.40 kcal/min, requiring a fat weight gain of 6,363.03 g (13.88 lbs) to resist heat loss.


Finally, the data from the cold water immersions suggested that acclimatization occurred following two weeks of immersions. There results were provided to the swimmer and utilized in making decisions in preparation for the swim.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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