Assessing cardiopulmonary function during swimming is a complex and cumbersome procedure. Backward extrapolation is often used to predict peak oxygen uptake (V̇O2peak) during unimpeded swimming, but error can derive from a delay at the onset of V̇O2 recovery. The authors assessed the validity of a mathematical model based on heart rate (HR) and postexercise V̇O2 kinetics for the estimation of V̇O2peak during exercise.
34 elite swimmers performed a maximal front-crawl 200-m swim. V̇O2 was measured breath by breath and HR from beat-to-beat intervals. Data were time-aligned and 1-s-interpolated. Exercise V̇O2peak was the average of the last 20 s of exercise. Postexercise V̇O2 was the first 20-s average during the immediate recovery. Predicted V̇O2 values (pV̇O2) were computed using the equation: pV̇O2(t) = V̇O2(t) HRend-exercise/HR(t). Average values were calculated for different time intervals and compared with measured exercise V̇O2peak.
Postexercise V̇O2 (0–20 s) underestimated V̇O2peak by 3.3% (95% CI = 9.8% underestimation to 3.2% overestimation, mean difference = –116 mL/min, SEE = 4.2%, P = .001). The best V̇O2peak estimates were offered by pV̇O2peak from 0 to 20 s (r2 = .96, mean difference = 17 mL/min, SEE = 3.8%).
The high correlation (r2 = .86–.96) and agreement between exercise and predicted V̇O2 support the validity of the model, which provides accurate V̇O2peak estimations after a single maximal swim while avoiding the error of backward extrapolation and allowing the subject to swim completely unimpeded.