Beta Blockers and OW swimming

BillBill Member
edited May 2014 in General Discussion
My doctor has suggested I start taking beta blockers due to a possible genetic heart disorder I may have (testing has not been done yet) and some odd symptoms I have been experiencing. Does anyone here have experience with marathon swim training on beta blockers and what I can expect? I'm currently training about 43k / week with my long days hitting 12k.


  • slowmoslowmo Member
    I had issues when it came to this and it took a bit to figure out how and when the drug was working its hardest. I know if you take it in the morning and then you try to workout you will have this feeling as though your arms and legs are really heavy. The drug is meant to slow you down and it does. I found working out about 8hrs after taking it really helped but it will be a learning curve.
  • BillBill Member
    Did you notice any decrease in speed / stamina while racing?
  • slowmoslowmo Member
    Yes, I was getting ready for the sears stair climb ended up on a beta blocker and went from running 2,000 to 3,000 steps down to 700 during my workouts. The drug acts like a throttle so what I learned was to take my meds after my workouts, this way I hit the 23hr mark of it being in my system which let me workout at higher rate if that makes sense.
  • i'm glad i'm not alone. sometimes taking it after works better for me. how long have you been on the medicine? sometimes the symptoms go away after a few weeks to a month or more. i have had to play with when to take it to figure out what works.
  • BillBill Member
    It's been a month now for me and everything seems to be working out. I noticed my resting HR and max HR have dropped slightly (50 to 40 and 190 to 175). However, it seems the increased stroke volume has compensated for this and my speed and endurance are pretty much unchanged.

    I take my pill after workout to have the least amount in my system when I swim. So far, so good.
  • Chris_ODChris_OD Oceanside, CAMember
    edited September 2012
    I know a bit about beta blockers (I'm a pharmacist), and slowmo has hit the nail on the head here. The beta blockers put a "governor" of sorts, like in a go-cart accelerator pedal, on one's heart rate. When you take the beta blocker, your maximum heart rate is reduced and limited by the drug's onset of action, duration of action, and dosage. This is a side effect called 'decreased exercise tolerance.'
    Personally, I have hypertension and have taken beta blockers for years many years ago. I now take a combination of three drugs that keep my blood pressure in a high-normal range, but have no effect on my heart rate and my exercise ability.
    However, many folks, you for example, are on beta blockers because their physicians deem them necessary for their cardiac conditions. This is quite legitimate.
    Take the medicine after the workouts so the exercise performance is least affected. If one takes a beta blocker before an exercise session (especially a short-acting beta blocker), one will feel like one's heart is pumping so hard it wants to beat right out of one's chest. The pulse will be slower than normal, and will not rise accordingly to allow for the body's need for the heart to provide more oxygen to the muscles.
    A sports physician would be a good professional with whom to discuss the medication choices. Personally, if I were taking a beta blocker, I would take a long-acting, once daily dosage form, after my workout each daily: atenolol.
  • What about beta blockers affect on potentially lowering the heat generated from being able to maintain stroke rates for say 60f EC swims?
  • TheoTheo Oxnard, CAMember
    Not scientific here but I have been taking beta blockers for years. I still experience the heavy arms and inability to swim the sets I want if I take the medicine prior to the workout. I followed the advice here on this site and take the medicine immediately after my morning workout to give the maximum time prior to the next swim. It has made a huge difference.

    I will admit that I notice the effects much less when swimming a long distance ocean swim and a solid pace. It is the workouts with the team in the morning that kills me when I take the medicine too close to workout time.

    I take all four different types of blood pressure medicine to keep mine in the normal/high range. I have been on meds for more than 25 years since I was 22 and Its effect on my stamina has not gone away it still effects me. So for me not taking beta blocker is not an option and while it would bother me if I was still worried about my 500 or 1650 time in the pool. I have not noticed a big difference in open water swimming even with varying when I take the medicine prior to open water swims.
  • Thanks all, anyone having experience in 60f water for 6-14 hours (salt water) would be keen to learn temperature experiences.

    As for myself, i have switched to taking in morning so this is a good test. Getting back on am practices so we will see. Did anyone consider or use certain foods or supplements to balance affects?
  • SullySully Member
    I was on Beta Blockers for 2 years and never noticed a downside during swim training or races. Actually - maybe even an improvement. Less jittery, more calm. The alternative was a resting heart rate near 100 though, so the Beta Blockers put me closer to normal. Once my thyroid problems were diagnosed and corrected, I was able to get off the medication and once again saw no improvement or diminish.
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