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View Full Version : Caps, suits, shaving - what about body weight?



Surferboy
October 5th, 2009, 02:17 PM
I'm a rookie in the pool, and am surprised that keeping one's weight down appears to be less important than I thought. After decades of running with the knowledge that every pound over my running weight added 20 secs to my p/m pace, am I ok being a little chunky? I do aspire to be competitive in my age class. Thanks, Steve

jim clemmons
October 5th, 2009, 03:21 PM
I'm a rookie in the pool, and am surprised that keeping one's weight down appears to be less important than I thought. After decades of running with the knowledge that every pound over my running weight added 20 secs to my p/m pace, am I ok being a little chunky? I do aspire to be competitive in my age class. Thanks, Steve

Fortunately, fat floats but you still have to lug it around. Slimmer's mo' betta.

qbrain
October 5th, 2009, 03:40 PM
am I ok being a little chunky? I do aspire to be competitive in my age class. Thanks, Steve

Yes, you can be competitive and "chunky". Skill is more important than weight. Fat old swimmers swim faster than fit young swimmers all the time because they are technically better swimmers.

FindingMyInnerFish
October 5th, 2009, 03:42 PM
Some research I did on marathon swimming/swimmers (the marathon swimmers here should feel free to correct me) seems to suggest that higher body fat is an advantage, especially in cold water. Witness swimmers such as Lynne Cox who has mentioned in her book that her body type is ideally suited to cold water swimming. And in an article I read about Alison Streeter, record holder for the most the English Channel crossings, Streeter said, "you can't be a skinny minny." Both of these women are strong swimmers and have done some pretty fast swims.

So if you're considering long-distance open water swims, especially cold-water swims, you might want that body fat.

Also noticed that among the fastest people in my masters' swim groups seem to be heavier-set.

But there were pretty lean people who are also among the fastest in my masters' group, so I guess it also comes down to other factors--like swim caps, ;) talent, and training.

ande
October 5th, 2009, 03:49 PM
If you want to swim faster, lugging less lard can definitely help.
Lug Less Lard

Though there are some chunky swimmers who are deceptively fast.

Not sure how much of a difference weight loss will make for a chunky swimmer,
but it can be significant. There's no hard & fast formula saying:

if you lose X pounds
you'll swim Y 10ths of a second faster

As you lose weight, you have less mass to drag through the water
you reduce your cross sectional proportions

Elite swimmers tend to be lean. Look at great IMer & WR holder in the 200 bk, like Kirsty Coventry (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/08/13/sports/olympics/13rings_zim.531.jpg)

back start (http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0aaV09S12U4O3/610x.jpg)

Leaner swimmers don't need as much force to slice through the water.

Swimming technique, strength & conditioning play an important part to swimming faster faster & some swimmers despite having a little junk in their trunks can manage to swim fast.

ande

joel schmaltz
October 5th, 2009, 03:51 PM
I have been humbled on more than one occasion by people that did not fit the "swimmers physique." I have since stopped looking at anyone in the lanes next to me and tried to concentrate on my own race.

__steve__
October 5th, 2009, 05:28 PM
169lbs
6% body fat
Strength from weight training
6'1"

I look fast... but I'm slow because I'm still learning basics.

But I have never seen a fat world class swimmer though, so weight/shape must play an important part. Nevertheless, I get lapped by chubby swimmers all the time - lol

Jazz Hands
October 5th, 2009, 06:13 PM
Lower body fat is generally correlated with faster swimming. That's the gist of the research I've read, but there's not much research. Also, the studies are all correlational. Swimmers who have less fat tend to be faster. What this doesn't necessarily mean is that any individual will swim faster from making an effort to lose body fat. If you go on a diet or a cardio bender to lose weight, you'll lose not only fat but muscle.

In swimming, body weight is supported and not a huge issue (I'd be more concerned about body shape as it affects drag), but muscle is a huge issue because it's what you use to swim. If the benefit from lost fat doesn't overcome the detriment from lost muscle, you'll swim slower by losing weight, even when the ratio might lead to faster running. It's just due to the differences between the two sports in how weight affects performance. In studies of elite athletes across sports, swimmers and other weight-supported athletes (like kayakers) tend to have slightly higher body fat than runners.

Ahelee Sue Osborn
October 5th, 2009, 06:46 PM
Lower body fat is generally correlated with faster swimming. That's the gist of the research I've read, but there's not much research. Also, the studies are all correlational. Swimmers who have less fat tend to be faster. What this doesn't necessarily mean is that any individual will swim faster from making an effort to lose body fat. If you go on a diet or a cardio bender to lose weight, you'll lose not only fat but muscle.

In swimming, body weight is supported and not a huge issue (I'd be more concerned about body shape as it affects drag), but muscle is a huge issue because it's what you use to swim. If the benefit from lost fat doesn't overcome the detriment from lost muscle, you'll swim slower by losing weight, even when the ratio might lead to faster running. It's just due to the differences between the two sports in how weight affects performance. In studies of elite athletes across sports, swimmers and other weight-supported athletes (like kayakers) tend to have slightly higher body fat than runners.

This is such a good post for masters swimmers - thank you Jazz!

And readers, please decide if you are trying to swim faster times or if you are trying to last longer swimming in the cold open water.

Alison Streeter and Lynne Cox are not "fast" swimmers. But they can stand the cold water for long periods of time. The very fast open water swimmers are more lean in shape than either Alison or Lynne.
The King of The Channel, Kevin Murphy, is currently recovering from bypass surgery... so who is to say this is all healthy.

My "big masters swimmers" who swim pretty fast in workout and faster in a tight tech-suit, would definitely swim fastest without dragging along a large belly and or behind.

Personally? I plan to loose a little jiggle to balance out the loss of my beautiful B70. Or heck maybe even before.

pwolf66
October 5th, 2009, 07:56 PM
Personally? I plan to loose a little jiggle to balance out the loss of my beautiful B70. Or heck maybe even before.

I call shenanigans on this statement. having met you, there's nothing there to lose, you look perfect.

rtodd
October 5th, 2009, 08:34 PM
In swimming, body weight is supported and not a huge issue

The body floats but swimming is like climbing a horizontal ladder. Extra weight is a HUGE issue. You must pull harder due to the extra mass. Pulling harder can create more slip for a fixed hand/forearm size.

qbrain
October 5th, 2009, 08:43 PM
The body floats but swimming is like climbing a horizontal ladder. Extra weight is a HUGE issue. You must pull harder due to the extra mass. Pulling harder can create more slip for a fixed hand/forearm size.

Carry a surfboard into the ocean, then paddle out. Huge weight difference, but you should be able to paddle yourself on that big heavy surfboard pretty fast.

Swimming is more about drag and thus surface area when it comes to buoyant materials. Weight matters, but not as much as being shaped like a cube vs a speed boat.

I am really just disagreeing with the use of HUGE :)

Jazz Hands
October 5th, 2009, 09:00 PM
Carry a surfboard into the ocean, then paddle out. Huge weight difference, but you should be able to paddle yourself on that big heavy surfboard pretty fast.

Swimming is more about drag and thus surface area when it comes to buoyant materials. Weight matters, but not as much as being shaped like a cube vs a speed boat.

I am really just disagreeing with the use of HUGE :)

To add a little to this, the relevant equation is F=ma. Holding force (net force, or propulsion minus drag) constant, acceleration is inversely related to mass. Swimming is a series of accelerations and decelerations. If I remember the graphs from Maglischo, velocity versus time is wavy. During acceleration, the goal is to get up to a higher speed more quickly while propulsion is greater than drag, so in this phase greater mass will be a hindrance. But during deceleration, the goal is to hold on to speed while drag is greater than propulsion. In this case, you actually want to be heavier, because that makes the net drag force work harder to slow you down. I don't really want to get into the calculus enough to prove this (read: I'm not that good at calculus), but I'm pretty sure it's a wash overall.

elise526
October 5th, 2009, 10:53 PM
Added muscle weight can help you in the water but it can definitely slow you down on land. On the other hand, losing weight, including muscle, can make you run longer distances faster, but lost muscle weight will usually result in slower times in the water, especially in sprint events.

I have found over the years that there is a 15 pound difference between my ideal swimming weight and my ideal running weight. This usually correlated to a difference of only 2% in body fat.

FindingMyInnerFish
October 5th, 2009, 11:11 PM
I want to swim fast and look good in a suit. Currently, I look tolerable in a suit (haven't scared anyone out of the pool lately) and swim slowly. But I'm a work in progress. :D

orca1946
October 6th, 2009, 11:06 AM
How about weight groups in swimming?! Over 200 lbs for men & 160 for women ?! They do this in tri & running races !

funkyfish
October 6th, 2009, 02:38 PM
How about weight groups in swimming?! Over 200 lbs for men & 160 for women ?! They do this in tri & running races !
If this goes through, I definitely want to see height groups as well. :D

elise526
October 6th, 2009, 02:39 PM
How about weight groups in swimming?! Over 200 lbs for men & 160 for women ?! They do this in tri & running races !

Sounds good, but the weights you mention are actually the norm for world class swimmers. Jenny Thompson was 160. How about a division for adult men that weigh less than 140 and adult women that weigh less than 105? As Clydesdales are a little disadvantaged in running and tris, adults that weigh less than what I mention will be slightly disadvantaged in swimming.

bamueller
October 8th, 2009, 05:08 PM
I will just tell people that I am a cold water marathon swimmer then.

orca1946
October 8th, 2009, 07:50 PM
:agree: I am a clidesdale in running but am state ranked in swimming !

Surferboy
October 8th, 2009, 07:55 PM
Hey Oz, I'll give you some running secrets that will be quite helpful, if you'll give me some swimming tips. I recently turned 63 and live in Batavia. Steve

tjrpatt
October 8th, 2009, 08:03 PM
I call shenanigans on this statement. having met you, there's nothing there to lose, you look perfect.


I second that. I have jiggles beyond belief!

tjrpatt
October 8th, 2009, 08:13 PM
I'm a rookie in the pool, and am surprised that keeping one's weight down appears to be less important than I thought. After decades of running with the knowledge that every pound over my running weight added 20 secs to my p/m pace, am I ok being a little chunky? I do aspire to be competitive in my age class. Thanks, Steve


I am more than chunky and I am pretty competitive in my age class. I am sure that some people are baffled that I can do in the pool with my non-swimming looking body. But, there are other big guys in Masters swimming who are pretty competitive and ranked pretty high in their age groups.