Swimming - low cal burn but exhausted/breathless?

Hi there,

I went swimming today, 15mins, burned 65cal. Seems very low as I was breathless (almost gasping for air after each lap) and it was hard on my arms and legs.

Is this more my muscles and lungs working hard since im so unfit, which is why the cal loss seems so low for how much hard work it felt?

I hope this isnt a stupid question, but I was pretty shocked, I saw my HR not far above resting after pushing it on a lap!

- I use Fitbit Charge 2, and it tracked my swimming, HR etc in the water not just manually adding it myself afterwards.

Thanks!

Replies

  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 6,093 Member
    Are you sure your heart rate was registered correctly? It seems highly unlikely that your HR stayed near resting rate if you were working that hard.
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,811 Member
    Suggest you check your HR manually next time you swim to confirm your tracker is registering correctly. Doesn't sound like it is.

    "Muscles and lungs working hard" would drive your HR up for sure, especially if unfit.
  • SchweddyGirl
    SchweddyGirl Posts: 244 Member
    Without knowing your swimming form, it cant really be said if your breathlessness is due to lack of breathing from your head underwater or due to the physical exertion itself.

    Also, is this after each lap? Or after the whole swim? If you were pausing after each lap, this is allowing your heart rate to fall back down. So, your heart might be highly adequate at returning to resting rate.

    Also, even the slightest rest to allow the heart rate to drop will be taken into account with your heart rate monitor. So, 65 calories could be an accurate reading.
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,885 Member
    Heart rate isn't really a good way to measure calorie burn anyway. You'd probably be better off by looking at distance and time and estimating based on that. (This is also why it's going to be distorting in some cases to choose "hard effort" just because it feels hard if it objectively isn't especially fast.)
  • Joanna2012B
    Joanna2012B Posts: 1,448 Member
    I just started swimming lessons and let me tell you, I was completely breathless half way across a 25m lap at the beginning of my lesson. The instructor taught me how to breath properly and by the end of the first lesson I made the whole lap. I burn more calories swimming efficiently and properly over being completely out of breath. That is not a good gauge. Also, I'm guessing your heart rate monitor malfunctioned during your swim, it was likely higher than your resting heart rate by more than just a little.
  • hansep0012
    hansep0012 Posts: 385 Member
    According to the oracle of google search, the FitBit2 Charge is not water proof (it is water resistant). This may explain the inaccurate reading.
  • gearhead426hemi
    gearhead426hemi Posts: 919 Member
    Another thing to consider is compound movements or full body type movements require a lot more energy so you will naturally be more out of breath while performing them. Definitely make sure your heart rate monitor is waterproof and working properly for better accuracy. Swimming is a great workout without the stress on your joints. Keep up the good work!!
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,866 Member
    xDaynie wrote: »
    Hi there,

    I went swimming today, 15mins, burned 65cal. Seems very low as I was breathless (almost gasping for air after each lap) and it was hard on my arms and legs.

    Is this more my muscles and lungs working hard since im so unfit, which is why the cal loss seems so low for how much hard work it felt?

    I hope this isnt a stupid question, but I was pretty shocked, I saw my HR not far above resting after pushing it on a lap!

    - I use Fitbit Charge 2, and it tracked my swimming, HR etc in the water not just manually adding it myself afterwards.

    Thanks!

    I'm pretty sure the Charge can't measure HR in the water. The opical sensor doesn't work.
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,464 Member
    Get into some adult swim lessons which will help you improve your technique. You are most likely exhausted due to using poor technique. Swimming is all about technique and it takes awhile to master.
  • gothchiq
    gothchiq Posts: 4,598 Member
    When you are just getting started and unused to working out, everything feels horrible. I agree that learning technique will help you a lot. Soon you will be able to do twice as much, just keep plugging and learning.
  • Bari_Tone
    Bari_Tone Posts: 45 Member
    I use an Apple Watch and checked my last swim workout. I swim a lot and for distance, so not a fair comparison, but I averaged about 680 active calories per hour. My guess is you burned more than than your Fitbit measured.
  • xDaynie
    xDaynie Posts: 35 Member
    Hehehe so I feel terrible, but I did some looking into it and my heartrate was around 118 WHILE swimming, I guess when I was resting before going on next lap I was really relaxed really fast, (completely mindless, calming, floating without a weight in the world) which is why I see it as close to my resting HR. My rests were a minute or two when I had them.
  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 6,093 Member
    Your heart rate doesn't go down that quickly when you rest :smile:

    For a real resting heart rate, according to the Harvard Health Blog:
    "Tips for measuring your resting heart rate
    - Do not take your RHR within one to two hours after exercise or a stressful event. Your heart rate can stay elevated after strenuous activities.
    - Wait at least an hour after consuming caffeine, which can cause heart palpitations and make your heart rate rise.
    - The American Heart Association recommends checking your resting heart rate first thing in the morning (but before you get out of bed)."
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,811 Member
    "I'm so unfit" and a fast HR recovery gon't go together.

    Don't rely on poor data and your data is really poor.
  • vollkornbloedchen
    vollkornbloedchen Posts: 2,243 Member
    xDaynie wrote: »
    Hi there,

    I went swimming today, 15mins, burned 65cal. Seems very low as I was breathless (almost gasping for air after each lap) and it was hard on my arms and legs.

    Is this more my muscles and lungs working hard since im so unfit, which is why the cal loss seems so low for how much hard work it felt?

    I hope this isnt a stupid question, but I was pretty shocked, I saw my HR not far above resting after pushing it on a lap!

    - I use Fitbit Charge 2, and it tracked my swimming, HR etc in the water not just manually adding it myself afterwards.

    Thanks!

    I'm pretty sure the Charge can't measure HR in the water. The opical sensor doesn't work.

    Correct.
    AFAIK only Garmin has two HRM-belts that can measure under water.
    Since neither ANT+ nor Bluetooth work very well under water data gets transmitted to the device after workout has finished.

    Fitbit estimates (NOT measures) the calorie-burn by comparing your speed to that of an average-trained swimmer.
  • dmkoenig
    dmkoenig Posts: 299 Member
    I found breathing to be one of the most challenging things when I started swimming. I would hyperventilate after just swimming 25 yards. My technique was poor which didn't help but I was just not able to control my breathing. It took a few weeks but slowly I was able to manage the breathing part better. Learning to swim requires patience and I highly recommend getting instruction if at all possible. Next best is to check out Youtube to get some ideas on technique. In particular check out Total Immersion swimming videos. They break down swimming to the basics and are a good way to learn to relax and develop balance in the water. All these things will help your breathing difficulties. On the calorie side, don't get too wrapped up with burning calories. Swimming is great for toning your body and clearing your head. Whatever calories you are burning will likely be fairly low early on until you develop endurance where you can swim for the better part of an hour. Another alternative to try is water walking/running, using a flotation belt to keep you upright. Same benefits of no joint impacts and something you can do immediately without learning swim technique.
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    xDaynie wrote: »
    Hi there,

    I went swimming today, 15mins, burned 65cal. Seems very low as I was breathless (almost gasping for air after each lap) and it was hard on my arms and legs.

    Is this more my muscles and lungs working hard since im so unfit, which is why the cal loss seems so low for how much hard work it felt?

    I hope this isnt a stupid question, but I was pretty shocked, I saw my HR not far above resting after pushing it on a lap!

    - I use Fitbit Charge 2, and it tracked my swimming, HR etc in the water not just manually adding it myself afterwards.

    Thanks!

    I'm pretty sure the Charge can't measure HR in the water. The opical sensor doesn't work.

    Correct.
    AFAIK only Garmin has two HRM-belts that can measure under water.
    Since neither ANT+ nor Bluetooth work very well under water data gets transmitted to the device after workout has finished.

    Fitbit estimates (NOT measures) the calorie-burn by comparing your speed to that of an average-trained swimmer.

    The Polar H10 also works with swimming, but I'm almost positive it will only sync swim HR data back to their app (it certainly won't to a Garmin in terms of HR data taken while swimming) and maybe some of their older watches. That said, there are a number of watches that will their inbuilt optical HR sensor for HR data collection while swimming. How accurate they are is another question, but it's becoming more and more common.
  • LookingBusy
    LookingBusy Posts: 72 Member
    Lap swimming is not about holding your breath. Exhale when you face goes underwater (i.e. blow some bubbles) and only inhale when your face comes out of the water. It is the same regardless of which stroke you are doing. Face in = only exhale. Face out = only inhale. Once you can figure out that rhythmic breathing pattern you will notice a significant reduction in "breathlessness."

    When you hold your breath during your stroke, you don't give yourself enough time to completely exhale AND inhale when your face emerges from the water. So either your stroke technique suffers (throws off your pattern/rhythm) or you end up taking inefficient breaths - most likely a combination of both. Spend a couple lengths thinking about "blowing your bubbles" and watch the progress you make.
  • vollkornbloedchen
    vollkornbloedchen Posts: 2,243 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    xDaynie wrote: »
    Hi there,

    I went swimming today, 15mins, burned 65cal. Seems very low as I was breathless (almost gasping for air after each lap) and it was hard on my arms and legs.

    Is this more my muscles and lungs working hard since im so unfit, which is why the cal loss seems so low for how much hard work it felt?

    I hope this isnt a stupid question, but I was pretty shocked, I saw my HR not far above resting after pushing it on a lap!

    - I use Fitbit Charge 2, and it tracked my swimming, HR etc in the water not just manually adding it myself afterwards.

    Thanks!

    I'm pretty sure the Charge can't measure HR in the water. The opical sensor doesn't work.

    Correct.
    AFAIK only Garmin has two HRM-belts that can measure under water.
    Since neither ANT+ nor Bluetooth work very well under water data gets transmitted to the device after workout has finished.

    Fitbit estimates (NOT measures) the calorie-burn by comparing your speed to that of an average-trained swimmer.

    The Polar H10 also works with swimming, but I'm almost positive it will only sync swim HR data back to their app (it certainly won't to a Garmin in terms of HR data taken while swimming) and maybe some of their older watches. That said, there are a number of watches that will their inbuilt optical HR sensor for HR data collection while swimming. How accurate they are is another question, but it's becoming more and more common.

    Thanks for the info about the H10.
  • earlnabby
    earlnabby Posts: 8,171 Member
    lorrpb wrote: »
    Get into some adult swim lessons which will help you improve your technique. You are most likely exhausted due to using poor technique. Swimming is all about technique and it takes awhile to master.

    I agree with this. Another option would be to change your stroke to one that feels more comfortable for you. It is actually a good idea to swim with a variety of strokes anyway since each one works different muscles. Many very fit swimmers rotate between 3 or 4 strokes during their workouts.