Lactate’s Role in Anaerobic vs Aerobic Swimming

swim paddles open water

For a greater understanding of this phenomenon, let’s first look at the perception of anaerobic vs aerobic swimming.

Anaerobic swimming involves fast bursts of sprinting or swimming for certain distances while in a state of oxygen deprivation. It is designed to be high in intensity as one can build muscle strength while burning a lot of calories. 

Aerobic swimming places an emphasis on distance and duration.  Your body is under less immediate stress as opposed to anaerobic swimming. Aerobic swimmers have increased endurance because of the sustained metabolic stressors that accompany continuous training. 

The role of Lactate vs Lactic Acid

In order to better understand the relationship of lactate vs lactic acid, both terms need to be defined. 

Lactate is an organic molecule that is produced by most of the human body’s tissues.  It is a chemical byproduct of anaerobic respiration.  It is a substance that allows energy production to continue when our oxygen is limited. 

Lactic acid can be defined as lactate with one additional proton.  Thus, there is a chemical difference. However, lactate can be produced by the body during exercise, lactic acid cannot. 

As a result, the body will produce a lot of lactate and experience a greater buildup of lactic acid.  The athlete will benefit from learning to build muscle with increased efficiency. He will have the oxygen and energy necessary to complete the workout. 

Understanding the Lactate Threshold

The lactate threshold is the maximum effort or intensity that an athlete can sustain for a long period of time with little to zero increase in lactate within the blood. 

Sometimes, the lactate threshold can be measured or described in terms of speed and pace. For speed, it can be measured in meters per second. With regards to pace in terms of running, this can be measured in minutes per mile or kilometer.

Although there are many, some workouts to consider for understanding the lactate threshold are below.  A quick internet search will yield hundreds more.

You can perform an air squat, alternating forward lunge, plank shoulder taps and squat thrust for 1 minute each with no rest in between.  Repeat this action three times. 

In addition, you can do a combination of squats and deadlifts. After starting with 10 reps, begin to decrease your number of reps in succession. The aim is to do 50 reps in 3 minutes. 

Challenge OBLA “Onset Blood Lactate Accumulation”

Typically aerobic swimming will fall below OBLA and the lactate threshold. Or challenge the speeds we can manage at each level with interval training.

Onset Blood Lactate Accumulation occurs when there is such an accumulation of lactate that one’s exercise intensity goes into a forced decline. A sign of this is when there is a burning sensation in the muscles. An athlete will generally call this scenario “hitting a wall”. 

A person can determine their OBLA by going for a jog and testing how their body feels at different intensity levels by checking their heart rate with a Fitbit Charge HR.

Note the heart rate in which you begin to feel pain and discomfort. Once you are aware of that heart rate, you will want to plan workouts just below that number.