Physiological Testing & Marathon Swimmers

smithsmith Huntsville, AlabamaSenior Member
edited July 2013 in General Discussion
I haven't seen a lot of physiological testing data on marathon swimmers. In other sports, it seems as though we have a plethora of data. For instance, Lance Armstrong has unusually low lactic acid levels coupled with a resting heart rate of 32-34 bpm. Another example is VO2 max testing. Norwegian cross country skiers Espen Harald Bjerke & Bjørn Dæhlie are co-owners of the world record with a score of 96.0. Indeed, cross country and XC skiers from Nordic countries occupy over half of the top 10 scores in the history of VO2 max testing. By comparison, Armstrong scored an 84, which puts him in the latter half of the top 20, just behind Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, who scored an 84.4.

Needless to say, marathon swimmers are a special breed. I'd love to see some physiological testing data in this regard. We know that Lynne Cox possessed unusual physical attributes which made her perfectly suited for cold water swims, but I scratch my head when I see Petar Stoychev dominate in both very cold and dangerously hot temperatures, and seems to emerge unscathed.

If anyone has any data to share in this regard, I'd certainly appreciate it.

Keep moving forward.


  • gregocgregoc Charter Member
    I thought this discussion title read "Psychological Testing & Marathon Swimmers".
    Needless to say, marathon swimmers are a "special" breed. I'd love to see some psychological testing data in this regard.
  • smithsmith Huntsville, AlabamaSenior Member
    edited May 2012
    The mental component might be a given. Extreme pain tolerance, patience, fortitude, guts, the ability to overcome incredible obstacles---especially in water as opposed to land--- is fairly obvious. An individual just has to be wired a bit differently than most folks.

    Two examples of the mental component are Martin Strel & Penny Dean. Both had physiological problems they overcame with extreme mental toughness. Strel had dangerously high blood pressure during his Amazon swim and was advised to stop. He kept going....and going....and going....until he succeeded. Penny Dean lacked an anterior artery blood supply in her left arm, but is among the absolute greatest marathon swimmers in history. I'm somewhat certain she still holds the overall world record for the Catalina Channel, and I also believe she still holds the women's world record for the English Channel.

    What I'm looking for is something unusual from physiological standpoint. For example, is Petar Stoychev just a better trained athlete with superior technique who is also simply tougher than most, or is there something unusual about him from a physiological standpoint which sets him apart? What's more, is there something physiological about marathon swimmers compared to other sports as well which better suits them for this endeavor other than the psychological component?

    Keep moving forward.

  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    Christoph and I had a discussion after my channel swim which took more than 14 hours , when we at Varn Ridge, and he indicated that there would be no way he could swim for that amount of time and not get hypothermia...he indicated because of his very fast rotation (something like 88 per minute vs my 55...I watched in amusement when he was training in Dover Harbour while his pacer in a wet suit tried not to get run over my Christoph and I got lapped) he was able to go for 8 hrs max and then he was spent and cold...and then there are people like Jackie Corbel who swam for 28+ hours at a very slow turnover rate...I want to say that I admire both Christoph and Jackie...but the mental toughness of Jackie is something for me to admire.

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • smithsmith Huntsville, AlabamaSenior Member
    Quick note/correction: Penny Dean still holds the Catalina Channel record, but no longer holds the women's world record for the English Channel.

    Keep moving forward.

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