Swimming - is this slow a pace actually beneficial?

Hi, I am focussed on running at the moment (rather than triathlon) but I have hurt my leg so I took to the pool. I am a newbie swimmer and so in order to be able to swim for any length of time i have to go relatively slowly (or i get out of breath and sink).

I swam 85 lengths of a 25m pool in 1hr 10 mins (front crawl). I know this is super slow. However, what I would like to know is whether this type of swimming actually has benefits in terms of fat burning and improving endurance, or was i going so slow that i might as well have gone for a long walk. I don't want to waste an hour of my time if i am going too slow for it to be good for me in any significant kind of way. 

Also, I used the swimming calorie calculator at http://www.swimmingcalculator.com/swim_calories_calculator.php to work out how many calories I burned. I know it is not precise, I am just looking for a guideline number to work out how much pizza I can eat tonight image It claims I burned 1218 calories (I am 168 lbs by the way). Now this number seems excessively high to me. What do you think?


  • If I swim that far I get hungry by the end, no idea on calories used but as the water is denser than air, more resistance means its likely to burn calories at a reasonable rate.

    If you want to get good at triathlon you need to be swimming weekly at least as it is such a technical sport. Practicising slowly but with good form is good for you. It will also give a good cardio workout so the lungs will not feel so unfit when you return to running.

    I swim slower than you and am quite happy that it is doing me some good, so take heart. Eat your normal size pizza tonight, not more.

  • i would take the calories burned with a large pinch of salt...........but yes you are going to burning a signifivant amount and would probably aid recovery more than a long walk

  • Thanks.

    I was thinking it is going to be more like 600 calories than 1200! I am going to work on that basis as far as calories consumed is concerned.

    I am glad to hear that swimming at this pace is still going to keep me fit while i can not run. I know it is not the same thing as running but i would hate to start slipping backwards. 

  • Khanivore - I think there's a glitch in that program. If you enter 85 lengths in a 25m pool, it equates to over 4500m, when it should be 2125m! If you enter the actual distance, it comes up with 557 calories. Which seems a bit more like it - I swam 2000m this morning and my Garmin measured that at 411 cals (I know this is not accurate either).

    So, sorry, you'll have to put that pizza slice back image

  • To late - already ate it image Thanks Rafiki for shattering my dreams and for correcting me too image Appreciate it bro.

  • K - if you can't run, can you bike??   you'll get a more intense session and ultimately burn more cals doing an hour's turbo, than an hour in the pool.   

  • FB - was thinking about that but when i air cycled at my office desk some bits in my leg did twinge. The swimming was a stop gap until i see the osteopath guy to get a second opinion on Thursday. I will update you via email to get some advice once I have seen him if you don't mind. I was going to mail you today but didn't want to waste your time. I figured with more info from the osteopath/physio chap I would be able to give you something to work with.

    One thing I can say for sure is that I have been regularly stretching and the side of calf muscle is feeling much less stiff. Now the knee is worrying me instead /sigh.

  • OK - ping me a mail over when you have some more info and let's see what we can do to keep you going

  • i use about 90 calories for every easyish 400m which takes about 8 minutes, my efficiency is low 40's if thats any use, as far as pizza eating goes - i eat as much as i can - even more if its a meaty one - and think about the consequences later image


  • DK - i like your style image No idea what the efficiency number is - will google it. 

  • I guess it depends on your stroke efficiency,  heart rate and HR zones as to whether you are burning fat. (you probably are). Zone 2 stuff is best for fat burning apparently. but it is not necessarily the fat burning per se, it is also that you are training your body to get better at burning fat as an additional fuel source - to make your carbs last longer.

    a contrary view would be that shorter faster intervals or gym work will build more muscle mass. Muscle mass burns MORE energy when inactive ie for LARGE parts of the day. so although you burn less in the exersie your burn MUCH more outside of the exercise.


    i reckon we should all do both image

  • If I try to go fast my lungs give up first - they are the weakest link. That's why i go slow - but now i'm not so sure there is any point in it. 


    FB - i cancelled the second physio appointment mate. I figured that the best he could do is tell me to rest my leg. So that is what i'm doing. I am stretching it regularly and now it feels a bit better although it does still feel like it's going to fall off as the whole knee area feels a bit dodgy. I just need to bite the bullet and rest it. 

  • CC82CC82 ✭✭✭

    Hi there - I posted this in the running forum, but this looks like a more appropriate place for the question...

    Apologies for diving into the Triathlete Forum but my fellow runners don't seem to know much about swimming!  (I am training solely for running - no aspirations on the triathlon front)

    At the moment, I run three times a week and cycle twice a week, plus one strength/stretching session.  So I work out 6 times a week, but only 3 are running sessions.

    In the winter, when it was too dark to run in the morning before work, I was running at lunchtime and going to the swimming pool close to work twice a week (in the place of the two cycling sessions).

    I'm thinking about going back to swimming a couple of times a week (it's logistically easier for getting to work a bit earlier and missing traffic etc.) and running at lunchtimes again.

    So - the question I have is in relation to swimming.  The three running sessions I do are based on the Run Less, Run Faster book - so on a very basic level, 1 x speed session, 1 x lactate threshold session and 1 x long run.  All quality workouts.  The cross training is kind of in the place of recovery runs.  I tried a recovery run recently and landed up injuring my leg... so I'm keen to stick to the 3 x per week for now!  So, the question is - what should the effort be like when I'm swimming?  I am currently a very slow swimmer.  I can swim and swim for ages but at a slow pace.  When I was swimming previously, I did introduce some slightly tougher workouts - something like (25m lengths) 1x fast, 1x slow, 2x fast, 1 x slow, 3 x fast, 1 x slow, 4x fast, 1 x slow.  "Fast" for me is still very slow, but it was tough going and meant I was out of breath.  What would be of the most benefit for running?  Just slow and steady for aerobic base building?

    Same question really goes for cycling - I now have the benefit of a heart rate monitor I could use when cycling to keep the effort in the right zone if necessary - I generally find cycling (at the speed I'm going at - about average 12mph (mountain bike mainly on the road)) pretty easy - I need to be going up a steep hill before I feel any difference in breathing and even then, if I just select a low gear I can cruise up fairly easily.  I think my cycling would almost always be in an "aerobic" zone heart rate wise (although I haven't measured yet).

    So - I went for my morning swim this morning.  40 lengths of a 25m pool in about 30 minutes and didn't feel at all out of breath - could have gone on for ages at that rate.  I'm going to gradually up the number of lengths but try to stick to 30 minutes, so gradually getting quicker.  So, the question really is, will that do my aerobic fitness any good just sticking at one pace for 30 minutes or should I be pushing it a bit more and working in some different workouts?

    Hope that all makes sense!?

    Cheers image

  • fat buddhafat buddha ✭✭✭

    you can't compare HR zones for running, cycling and swimming - they all use different muscle groups and have differeing oxygen demands

    for example, if looking at perceived effort, then HR for biking will be in the order of 10-20 beats lower as there is no impact involved.  to an extent the same goes for swimming but there you introduce a breathing issue which can effect HR enormously, but less muscular fatigue (assuming good technique)

    so for us triathletes, we train for each discipline differently and there is no "one size fits all" approach.

Sign In or Register to comment.