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gc2006
March 13th, 2009, 12:31 PM
Hi all - I have an odd post for you to ponder :)

Recently I've decided enough is enough and it's time to shift some unwanted poundage. Over the past few months through exercise and eating much better I've dropped about 15% of my original body weight, going from 207lbs to 175lbs. At the same time I've been swimming a bit and making an effort to keep on some muscle too.

I know it's a very very hard question to answer but am looking for people's estimates on what this sort of weight loss would do to your swimming time over longer distances if I was able to keep everything else static (stroke, flexibility, strengtht etc). The only difference if possible would be there would be less body weight, and hopefully a better shape for moving through the water.

I know that due to water being denser it's not as easy to say as it would be in relation to running etc, but say over a 5km open water swim, what would people guess the % improvement would be as a result of this?

Cheers
GC

jim clemmons
March 13th, 2009, 05:26 PM
Hi all - I have an odd post for you to ponder :)

Recently I've decided enough is enough and it's time to shift some unwanted poundage. Over the past few months through exercise and eating much better I've dropped about 15% of my original body weight, going from 207lbs to 175lbs. At the same time I've been swimming a bit and making an effort to keep on some muscle too.

I know it's a very very hard question to answer but am looking for people's estimates on what this sort of weight loss would do to your swimming time over longer distances if I was able to keep everything else static (stroke, flexibility, strengtht etc). The only difference if possible would be there would be less body weight, and hopefully a better shape for moving through the water.

I know that due to water being denser it's not as easy to say as it would be in relation to running etc, but say over a 5km open water swim, what would people guess the % improvement would be as a result of this?

Cheers
GC

I dumped ten pounds last summer (202 to 192= ~5%) and saw about a 1.5-2% improvement in speed for the majority of the events I swam after the weight loss.

aztimm
March 13th, 2009, 05:32 PM
I also lost a bit of weight last year, but I didn't do any formal swim meets for several years before, and haven't done any since, so there's no true way to measure. But I do notice that I'm able to hold faster intervals in practice. Holding 1:15 per 100 used to be something I was capable of only on a good day, now I can do that on nearly any day (and below 1:10 on a good day). My faster swims in practice have also dropped somewhere around 5-7 sec per 100.

Some of those drops I'd place on improvements in technique and overall fitness levels too. One reason I dropped weight was increase in running, which probably helped my overall aerobic capacity. I also got more serious with weights, which also helps swimming. I've incorporated dolphin kicking into my freestyle, and my coach has also worked with me on many other corrections.

If I had to put a percentage to my improvements since weight loss, I'd estimate 5%. But those other factors also play into it.

jim clemmons
March 13th, 2009, 05:32 PM
If I'd thought that losing 3 times more weight would have equated to three times the time improvement, I would have kept at it but it was just too tough to maintain the discipline.

aquageek
March 13th, 2009, 05:49 PM
I lost almost exactly 15% and I can't say with any certainly the weight loss resulted in increased speed. I can say that the weight loss coupled with a better fitness routine resulted in much faster swimming.

The Fortress
March 13th, 2009, 05:55 PM
I dumped ten pounds last summer (202 to 192= ~5%) and saw about a 1.5-2% improvement in speed for the majority of the events I swam after the weight loss.

Weight or B70 there, Jim? lol That's very interesting actually. I would think a 10 pound drop would make some difference.

I find it very hard to pinpoint causation when assessing time drops ...

jim clemmons
March 13th, 2009, 06:15 PM
Weight or B70 there, Jim? lol That's very interesting actually. I would think a 10 pound drop would make some difference.

I find it very hard to pinpoint causation when assessing time drops ...

The weight loss did it. The B70 added no value. Technology's overrated anyway.

(At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.Think it'll help folks decide to allow continued usage of the suit? :agree:)

Jazz Hands
March 13th, 2009, 06:19 PM
Less mass to move during acceleration (starts and turns), less drag. You ought to swim faster, unless you also lost a lot of muscle. I won't guess a percentage. The only possible downside is that fat floats.

meldyck
March 13th, 2009, 06:22 PM
I was a very fit & fat swimmer for years. I dropped from 225 to 185 and noticed NO increase in speed with equal amounts of training. However, as Geek indicated above for himself, once I learned how to swim (this is true even though I competed in college 50 years ago) and started training better I got faster.

I probably won't intentionally regain the weight but I think the weight loss among really fit people is overrated (much like Jim's statement for the high tech suits). And there are a few recent medical studies to back up my point.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Besides all the witnesses have been moved to other locations.

Rykno
March 13th, 2009, 06:23 PM
I know that due to water being denser it's not as easy to say as it would be in relation to running etc, but say over a 5km open water swim, what would people guess the % improvement would be as a result of this?


I lost 22% of my weight over 12 months and started my weight lose program just 4 weeks before a 3km race and ended my weight lose with the same 3km race.

I went from 45:15 to 38:02. over 7 minutes faster, but it's really hard to say that all of that was weigh lose. I also started swimming 3 times a week instead of just two, about 3 months before the race I started biking to work (~8km each way). but I can say that the weight lose made it possible to train harder.

I've been at 184lbs for the past 8 months now and only plan in getting down to 180-182 before next summer (2010). but I have a big meet in 7 days, so we'll see how much the weight lose events my 800m as well.

pwolf66
March 13th, 2009, 08:43 PM
Well, I guess I can provide some empirical data in the next several months.

for 50y I was at 23.10 at approx 254 at the end of Jan.

Goal is to be near 240 by April.

The Fortress
March 13th, 2009, 08:59 PM
Well, I guess I can provide some empirical data in the next several months.

for 50y I was at 23.10 at approx 254 at the end of Jan.

Goal is to be near 240 by April.

Nope. Increased weight lifting is a confounding factor in the analysis. You've been lifting like a fiend. That could have more impact on your 50 free than weight loss. Causation is difficult.

Methinks, Mel may have nailed Jim on the "weight loss among fit people is overrated & B70s are fast" points. But I'm sure Jim looks much more handsome and there is a nice placebo effect. :)

Paul Smith
March 13th, 2009, 09:04 PM
So lets see...in my case losing 15% would equal one Geek. Not quit sure but am guessing even with 70lbs less mass would make a big differance...but I also have to think that simply not having a Geek would provide some pretty substanial increases in ones speed from a mental standpoint.

ande
March 13th, 2009, 09:27 PM
Tip 08 is Lug Less Lard


Tip 165 Build a Better Boat


there's many factors that contribute to time improvements
if a swimmer is over weight they'll greatly benefit from losing weight
but it's important to maintain strength and conditioning while losing weight

Eddie Reese talks about how large of a cross section a swimmer has to drag through the water.

If you read through my blog you'll see one season I went from 215 ish to 199 but I swam faster when I lifted weights and did sprints before 2008 masters nationals

elise526
March 13th, 2009, 10:33 PM
Hi all - I have an odd post for you to ponder :)

Recently I've decided enough is enough and it's time to shift some unwanted poundage. Over the past few months through exercise and eating much better I've dropped about 15% of my original body weight, going from 207lbs to 175lbs. At the same time I've been swimming a bit and making an effort to keep on some muscle too.

I know it's a very very hard question to answer but am looking for people's estimates on what this sort of weight loss would do to your swimming time over longer distances if I was able to keep everything else static (stroke, flexibility, strengtht etc). The only difference if possible would be there would be less body weight, and hopefully a better shape for moving through the water.

I know that due to water being denser it's not as easy to say as it would be in relation to running etc, but say over a 5km open water swim, what would people guess the % improvement would be as a result of this?

Cheers
GC

I don't know that one can put a percentage on improvement due to weight loss because so many factors come into play when weight loss occurs such as good nutrition and low stress outside of the pool. Perhaps these things might have come about without a weight drop and one would see an improvement.

When talking about strength being static, did you start your weight lifting when you started losing weight or had you been lifting weights for a bit of time? If you had been lifting regularly before you started losing weight, were you able to maintain the same amount of strength?

Also, much depends on your height and your build. I've always heard that generally, a woman should take 100 pounds and add 5 pounds for each inch she is over five feet. For example, a woman who is 5'8" should generally weigh around 140 (100 + (8 x 5) = 140). For men, I've heard it to be generally 100 pounds and add 6.5 pounds for each inch over five feet.

So, without knowing your height, I wouldn't know if weighing 175 is a good weight for you in which you would see improvement or if you have gotten a little thin and perhaps lost your power. If you are 5'11" and male, I would imagine that you would see an improvement in your swimming times. If on the other hand, you are 6'5", I would imagine that your times might actually suffer.

I learned the hard way in high school that what works well for distance running does not work for well for swimming. My junior year of high school, at 5'9", I weighed 128, down from my weight of 140 as a sophmore. My running times were my best that year, never to be matched again, but my swimming times suffered terribly, including my 200 and 500 free.

Except for CreamPuff, most ultradistance swimmers I've known are not usually skinny. So, I'm not sure a weight loss assessment is applicable like it is in running ( In running, each pound lost is supposed to result in a 3 second improvement per mile).

Good luck to you!! I hope you achieve the goals you have set your heart on. Sometimes I think motivation and desire are more important than any amount of weight loss.

Karen Duggan
March 13th, 2009, 11:44 PM
This is interesting to me. I've been swimming a ton, doing bands, and "other" dryland activities. I'm fitting into HS jeans again! Those haven't fit since 1999! And I haven't lost an ounce although I know I've lost a lot of inches.

I know I still need to lose about 20 pounds (of fat, I would guess, it's mostly in the middle), but I still struggle with what the scale says. I don't like the number. So even though I'm much stronger and swimming well, that rotten scale "shows" no improvement.

pwolf66
March 14th, 2009, 07:50 AM
I know I still need to lose about 20 pounds (of fat, I would guess, it's mostly in the middle), but I still struggle with what the scale says. I don't like the number. So even though I'm much stronger and swimming well, that rotten scale "shows" no improvement.

Don't fall into that trap. It's just a number!!!!! It's only one part of your over all fitness.

gc2006
March 14th, 2009, 08:36 AM
WOW! First off this was my first post on this board and I am amazed at the quantity and quality of responses. Thank you all so much for your feedback!

Just a few things of more info which people wanted and some responses to the comments:

1) Yeah I was quite overweight, but in the overweight and fit category which people mentioned. I've been doing long distance swims for the last few years, and swam the Channel in 2007. Doing the channel I was 205 lbs. Whilst this helped me with the cold and buoyancy etc, I probably could have got away with being quite a bit less. Really though, it didn't really bother me too much carrying the weight (was at about 33% body fat I think, standing @ 5'7). The reason I started loosing it was I was having some stomach pains and the doc reckoned it could have been a food intolerance. As part of isolating this (which I think I've managed to do), I had to try quite a few different diets without dairy, yeast, wheat, sugars etc. During this 4 month process I started to loose some weight and liked the feeling of being a bit lighter. So thats what triggered the weight loss.

2) I totally get what people are saying hard to maintain things constant as weight changes etc, and very hard to get a number on the increase in speed as a result of weighing less. Hard to see how it wouldn't help though, even allowing for a loss of buoyancy. Mind you I'm still probably 20-25% body fat so far from skinny :) so I should be ok.

3) The mental side of things - there is of course this too. Am a real believer in performing to how you believe you will. So is natural that if I think I'm going to be quicker, and if I "feel" better in the water then I probably will train harder and swim quicker! Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy I suppose whereby feeling better makes you swim harder, which makes you swim better, which makes you feel even better and so on.

On another note the 3rd point (the mental stuff) is sort of a hobby of mine - have done lots of research and reading up on it in the past and found it so helpful to get through some of the longer swims and also the boring winter training!!! I've compiled my notes into a document which summarises a lot of this side of things (goal setting, keeping motivated, dealing with set backs, dealing with injuries, visualisation, relaxion techniques, focusing etc) which if people are interested in I can post up on the net somewhere and point to it on a thread.

Again thanks for the comments are much appreciated!

Rykno
March 14th, 2009, 09:47 AM
For men, I've heard it to be generally 100 pounds and add 6.5 pounds for each inch over five feet.


wow! I've been 5'10" since I was 16/17. I haven't been under 165lbs since my junior yr in HS. was 179 when I stopped swimming and 184 now.

jordangregory
March 14th, 2009, 10:13 AM
This is an interesting discussion that I have thought a lot about before. I can remember a exercise science teacher of mine proposing that having some extra fat would be beneficial in swimming, as it would make one more buoyant. This professor also liked to present most topics in exercise science on a continuum. On one side of the continuum would be being too skinny (loss of buoyancy would have to be countered by more work being done swimming) would be detrimental, and being overly fat would as well (less streamline body shape, too much weight to pull). He believed there was a happy medium. At some point, as one moves from the extreme of skinny to the extreme of obesity, there would be a weight (individual for each person) where the extra buoyancy that fat provided would be counteracted by a disadvantageous shape and/or extra weight to pull.
Also, think about training with added weight vs. training without the added weight. If you lose 10 lbs, you will train with 10 lbs less to pull. I personally believe that pulling that much weight is negligible, but for those of you who believe that it is a big deal, think about the loss in training stimulus. It may be similar to doing squats with 220 lbs and then deciding to train with 210 lbs in the hopes of getting stronger (I realize there are differences).
And as many have demonstrated here, it is nearly impossible to quantify how much help you would get from losing weight. There are so many factors aside from the ones presented above. Did you swim more to lose weight? Did the weight you lost change the shape of your body significantly (loss of a round belly to a flat belly), or did you just lose weight everywhere. Did your eating habits change for the better?
I personally feel that the emphasis on weight is a waste of time. The key is to swimming faster is to train as smart as possible. Ande does a great job of laying out what that looks like on these message boards, especially for the sprinter.
Once you put in the training, it is important to eat the correct feul at the correct times. For the most part, I have found that if I am forcing myself to eat the type of meals I need for before and after workouts, I don't have much of an appetite left for junk.
As far as anecdotal evidence goes:
Since I started swimming seriously in October, I have lost about 15lbs. I have gotten much faster, but I honestly don't equate any of that to weight reduction. It might have played a factor, but I honestly don't care if it did or not. The bottom line is, if I want to get faster, I have to train more. If I do, I will most likely lose weight. I think it would be a mistake to try and eat less while training hard as our body needs to correct type and amount of fuel to adapt to serious training. If fact, the problem for world class swimmers is not being able to eat enough food! (most likely the reason why there are not any serious scientific type studies on if weight reductions enhances swim performance)
Further anecdotal evidence to lead me to believe that weight loss really does not help is how my swim season went my junior year in high school. My junior year started out without my swimming at all. I didn’t join my team until about half way through the season. I had gained about 20 lbs, yet I still out swam my teammates. My times were not far off from the year before. My coach would sit in amassment how I could still swim so fast while looking like I did (much bigger belly). In my final meet of the year, a fellow swimmer next to me was flabbergasted that I could still out swim him looking the way I did.

Karen Duggan
March 14th, 2009, 10:37 AM
I am doing a nutrition program that knocked off 15 pounds in about a month. But it is so perfectly balanced that there were no ill effects of losing so much weight so fast. (My mom, who does not work out at all, lost 10 pounds in 10 days.)

So my nutrition is there.

I'm wondering now if I am eating enough? Maybe my body is wondering, "Um, if you are working out 3 hours a day, how come you're not taking in more calories?"

I will try adding some calories for a week and let you know if more weight (fat) comes off.

elise526
March 14th, 2009, 10:44 AM
wow! I've been 5'10" since I was 16/17. I haven't been under 165lbs since my junior yr in HS. was 179 when I stopped swimming and 184 now.

As I mentioned, the formula is very general, and it is probably based on a medium build. It probably should only be used as a reference point.

I personally believe that each person has a unique ideal weight at which he/she best races at. What may be too light for one person, may be ideal for another. What may be too heavy for one person, may be ideal for another. For example, I knew a gal that was the same height and build as I and she performed best in swimming at a weight that is 10 to 15 pounds heavier than where I felt I raced the best. When she lost weight and weighed what I did, she lost all of her strength and her times suffered.

Crissy Ahmann-Leighton held the American record in 100 fly (SCY) at 5'8" and 115. Natalie Coughlin later broke the American record in 100 fly (SCY) at the same height and weighed 140.

In looking at weight and athletic performance what I think it boils down to is your power to weight ratio and the medium you are moving through. And of course, we can't forget that good technique can trump a superior power to weight ratio!

Jazz Hands
March 14th, 2009, 11:53 AM
there's many factors that contribute to time improvements
if a swimmer is over weight they'll greatly benefit from losing weight
but it's important to maintain strength and conditioning while losing weight

This is important. Maintaining strength and conditioning while losing weight can be hard, especially as body fat gets lower.

aquageek
March 14th, 2009, 11:59 AM
Simply cutting calories or starving yourself for weight loss is pretty much a losing proposition. Combining diet with exercise is really the only proven, tried and true method for long term weight loss. I think for this reason it is impossible to isolate speed improvements based on weight loss alone, as Fort said.

elise526
March 14th, 2009, 12:11 PM
I'm with Mel - I think weight loss in fit people is overrated. While I might be tempted to weigh under 135 again (I'm between 5'9" and 5'10"), time and experience has shown I would pretty much have to stop exercising and starve. Losing muscle and starving is a horrible way to live. I'll stick with my 140 to 150 range, enjoy my Girl Scout cookies, lift strong, run terribly, and be content with being a size 6 or even an 8.

pwolf66
March 14th, 2009, 12:43 PM
Marilyn Monroe was a size 12.

elise526
March 14th, 2009, 12:50 PM
Marilyn Monroe was a size 12.

Would she be a modern-day 12 or was she a 12 in the fifties? I've noticed that a size 6 sure is a lot bigger than it was 25 years ago. If she was a size 12 in the fifties/early sixties, I bet that today, she would be a size 8 or even a size 6.

My mom told me she was a size 12 in the fifties and her measurements were 36-24-36. Wonder what size this would be now.

jim thornton
March 14th, 2009, 01:26 PM
USA Swimming has an interesting round up of some of the studies on this topic. http://www.usaswimming.org/USASWeb/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=395&Alias=rainbow&Lang=en&mid=614&ItemId=530

I will excerpt on these, which may every so gingerly explain why skinny CremePuff's recent 24.99 in the 50 SCY freestyle may have depended more on her svelteness, and Jim Clemmon's recent No. 1 in the World times may have depended more on his B70...



4. Sprint performance may be affected more in females than in males.
Siders, W.A., H.C. Lukaski and W.W. Bolonchuk. (1993). Relationships among swimming performance, body composition and somatotype in competitive collegiate swimmers. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 33:166-171.
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between body composition and sprint swimming performance. Seventy-four collegiate-level male and female sprinters were weighed underwater and tested on a single 100-y time trial of the swimmer’s main competitive stroke.
Results


Sprint performance was significantly related to height, weight in water, fat-free weight and body fatness in females.
The taller, heavier in water, the more fat-free tissue and the less body fat (within 25+5.3%), the faster they swam.
These trends were also present for the males (¿=14.1+2.9%), but the relationships were not significant.

Implications


Percent body fat can impact performance, but it doesn’t have to be extremely low for a swimmer to perform well.
The effects of body composition changes on sprint performance may be more pronounced in females than in males.


One final thought: a couple years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight (from 180 to 159; I am 6' 1") and it didn't seem to correlate with any improvements in my swimming (though I did seem to bonk from exercise induced hypglycemia more often at practice.)

My friend Glenn Battle, who has multiple Top 10 times and one No. 1 time sometime in yesteryear, told me that he has tried losing weight in the hopes of seeing improvements in his swimming times, and he has seen no effect, positive or negative.

Neither of us were obese or even borderline overweight to begin with, so perhaps this small sample of two doesn't add anything useful to the discussion.

My sense, however, is that there are probably some people who will be helped by losing weight, some that will be hurt, and many who will see no significant change. As the above study indicates, there may also be a gender effect whereby women conceivably benefit from weight losss more than men.

As many have already noted, land sports exert a toll of gravity upon their participants from which we swimmers are largely exculpated. It is, like golfing on the moon, a very forgiving sport in at least this one sense.

gigi
March 14th, 2009, 01:27 PM
it totally depends on the clothing brand, but someone with those measurements today would wear somewhere between a 4 and a 6. Over the years clothing manufacturers, catering to women's tendency to want to be smaller, started changing the sizing on their garments. This practice is called "vanity sizing" and lets a large-ish woman claim that she wears a size 10. THis practice has led to preposterous sizing at the lower end of the scale. Sizes for the truly tiny are now 0 and 00. People haven;t gotten smaller over the years, yet now we have size 0 and 00 where they never existed before just because the upper-end numbers are now labeled with lower size designations.

While MM's weight fluctuated widely, one look at her pics will show that there's no way that woman was EVER a "Modern" size 12. Even I don't wear that size, and at 5'5 and 150 pounds, I'm no Marilyn Monroe!

gc2006
March 14th, 2009, 03:02 PM
get what people are saying - to be honest I didn't plan to loose weight just happened as result of food intolerance diets to isolate problem etc. Totally agree best plan is simultaneously eat well and exercise more.

However, back to the original item - I still think if you could keep everything constant (and again i know it's hard to ensure this), how weighing less wouldn't lead to an increase in speed. I know the gains won't be as obvious as they are with running, where if you weigh 12 stonne you are making 12 stonne run, as in water the buoyancy and density affects this and it isn't 1 to 1 anymore. I think for the most part people are saying the same - that things change, but that weighing a bit less should help the swimming speed if I can keep the strength and stroke going.

Again thank you all for the comments and replies - am blown away by the amount of them! Thanks

meldyck
March 14th, 2009, 05:14 PM
One final thought: a couple years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight (from 180 to 159; I am 6' 1") and it didn't seem to correlate with any improvements in my swimming (though I did seem to bonk from exercise induced hypglycemia more often at practice.)


This is something that I had also noticed in my other sport - cross country ski racing. This is a high endurance activity and I noticed a couple of years ago that I started to bonk in 10 K races (30-40 minutes) and often couldn't frinish the 25 & 50 K races. This was never a problem when I weighed over 200 lbs but became one for weights below that level. I was really puzzled until I realized that I was no longer carrying around the food stores needed for races of 40 min to 4 hours in duration. I have now figured out how to compensate for the food shortage but it was pretty discouraging for a while.
Especially after all the hype from the weight-loss Nazis...

Karen Duggan
March 15th, 2009, 12:01 AM
If I think about it, I have yet to see even an overweight fast sprinter...

Most female, fast sprinters are really skinny.

Ripple
March 15th, 2009, 03:48 PM
Would she be a modern-day 12 or was she a 12 in the fifties? I've noticed that a size 6 sure is a lot bigger than it was 25 years ago. If she was a size 12 in the fifties/early sixties, I bet that today, she would be a size 8 or even a size 6.

My mom told me she was a size 12 in the fifties and her measurements were 36-24-36. Wonder what size this would be now.

I thought Marilyn was a fifties size 16? Retail (vanity) clothing sizes are all over the map, with no consistency any more. They used to be the same as sewing pattern sizes, which have remained unchanged since the 70's. I think 36-28-38 is still a pattern size 12, but more like an 8 in modern ready-to-wear. The numbering of "Misses" sizing was originally meant to reflect the approximate age of the wearer, and by age 20 you were supposed to be an old married lady and into "Womens" sizing. (What would they have thought about size 0? Newborn baby?) Hence the small dimensions of a 1950's size 14:
http://cemetarian.com/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=2339&=SID#MOREINFO
When I was a skinny runner back in the eighties, I caught every cold and flu that came along and felt tired most of the time. Probably overtraining, I know, but now that I'm large I never seem to get sick any more and feel much more energetic. The sciatic pain has gone as well.