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View Full Version : Swimming for fitness, long way to go



robrecht
January 30th, 2015, 11:07 AM
Hi!

I swam competitively Freshman year in high school and got in shape for the first time in my life! Since then I've sometimes been in good condition as a long-distance runner (13 miles) and occasionally swimming regularly, but mostly I've let myself go and gained weight till I reached 35 BMI at 55 years of age. Now I'm serious about getting back in shape. On account of major foot surgery I can't run anymore so swimming is my main exercise, with some strength training and leg aerobics on off days. For the first time in my life, I am eating healthy and keeping track of all my calories, carbs, essential fatty acids, etc.

Starting in November, I've been increasing my endurance to the point where I am now doing 1.5 miles in a little over an hour (7 x 350 yards freestyle plus a few cool down laps). I've lost 29 lbs but still have a long way to go. Planning on losing another 47 lbs to no longer be 'overweight' on the BMI scale.

I plan on working my way up to 3 miles for long-distance work-outs once a week (Saturday or Sunday) and then doing interval training with some sprints during the weekdays, augmented by strength training.

I'm looking for advice, encouragement, and others who are working to achieve fitness goals through swimming. Anyone else doing something similar? Success stories?

Thanks, robrecht!

swimark
February 8th, 2015, 01:25 PM
Just stumble across this thread as I usually do not look in the workout forum. You might get more responses from the main swimming forum. http://forums.usms.org/forumdisplay.php?5-General-Swimming-Related-Discussions

As far as;

"I'm looking for advice, encouragement, and others who are working to achieve fitness goals through swimming. Anyone else doing something similar? Success stories? "

Sure, here is my story. I swam 3 years in high school in the 80's. Forgot about swimming and recently came back to it almost 30 years later. After high school I was somewhat active but definitely became overweight. A few years ago I got serious and got back on track. Started slowly, swimming a couple days a week and built up distances and swims per week. Over time I lost a lot of fat and gained some muscle and am now teetering on between "normal weight" and "overweight" on the BMI scale. However you should note that the BMI scale does NOT take into account athletes with higher amounts of muscle mass. Currently I swim alone, but am considering joining a masters team. I don't mind swimming alone as I can make up my own workouts and go to the pool on my schedule. However some people need more structure and want a social part to their workout. Finding what works for you is most important. If you enjoy what you do, then you are more likely to stick with it. For example I am very goal oriented, trying to hit a certain amount of yardage per week\month\year helped me get to the pool. I started using the FLOG (http://www.usms.org/myusms/flog/) and charted my swims, but you can do that with any spreadsheet or even writing it down in a notebook. Now I have other goals and started competing in swim meets. Meets can seem intimidating to some, but my main focus is reaching my goal time in a certain event. There is a nice social part to meets as well. Meeting people and possibly hooking up with a workout group or team that has similar goals as you.

Keep swimming!
-Mark

robrecht
April 10th, 2015, 04:33 PM
Thanks, swimark. I will look into moving this thread. Can a moderator do this? Or should I just make a duplicate thread perhaps? I have exciting progress to report!

swimark
April 11th, 2015, 10:37 AM
Thanks, swimark. I will look into moving this thread. Can a moderator do this? Or should I just make a duplicate thread perhaps? I have exciting progress to report!

I'm sure a moderator could easily move this thread. Or you could start a new one... which ever you prefer.
Glad you are making progress.

robrecht
April 26th, 2015, 09:00 AM
OK, so now that this thread is in the proper place (thanks, anonymous moderator!), I thought I would update it, not just with the progress I've been making but with a few posts from another thread, in order to encourage others to take up swimming or keep at it in their health and fitness journeys:


I got back into swimming to loose weight and through a combination of changing what I ate and swimming I was able to drop 55lbs in about 6 months. I have been a consistent 180lbs for about 2 years. I heard a guy I swim with saying you should never ask a skinny guy for advice on loosing weight so take this for what it is. I am a skinny guy now but at 235lbs I was not. I lost weight primarily by changing what I eat. I gave up alcohol, I don't eat deserts and I watch my quantity of food in a single sitting but I genuinely eat what I want and snack between meals. I swim 6 days a week for about 90mins a session. I have done both high yardage aerobic training and also race pace high intensity training. Swimming is a great form of exercise and I honestly love it but I don't believe I would have lost the weight just by swimming alone. I used myfitnesspal as a way of adjusting my quantities of food. Like I said I eat a lot of food but not at any one single sitting. I hope my advice helps. I also documented my journey on my blog on these forums and if you want to use any of my workouts feel free.

One last thing to consider on the swimming front is to join a masters team. The cost is not much more than swimming at a pool, but there are two big advantages I have found; first the coach can give you some great stroke advice, second having people to workout with is much easier than swimming on your own.


Congrats to Stewart for his success! I'm in a similar situation but not nearly so far down the road. I switched from 35 minutes of swimming 4-5 times a week to 60 minutes (not counting rests) about 4 months ago. I've lost 18 pounds and have ten to go. Here's a good site for measuring calories burned: http://www.swimmingcalculator.com/swim_calories_calculator.php
At 210 pounds and swimming at about 55 seconds per 50 yard lap, I burn about 850 calories in an hour.

I also recommend mynetdiary for tracking calories burned and consumed. I hear you on not dieting, but you can eat pretty much a normal diet and lose a pound a week as long as your diet truly is "normal." And honestly you don't know the answer to that question without tracking intake. A Quarter Pounder and fries, for example, would erase an hour of swimming.

Good luck!


There was a time when I could eat all I wanted and not gain an ounce. Like 5000 calories a day worth of "all I wanted." That was when I was a teenager with a teenager's base metabolism and I was in the pool or weight room 20-25 hours a week. Sometime in my late 20's, early 30's, father time started catching up to me. I wasn't a teenager, and I wasn't working out like I did as a teenager, but I was still eating a lot like a teenager. The pounds started accumulating. By 45, I was 230+. (For reference, I graduated at ~155).

My story from there is similar to Stewart's. I dropped 60 lbs in 9 months with a combination of swimming and diet. Yeah, unfortunately diet was a necessary part of the equation. Honestly, it was probably a bigger part of the success than swimming. I used a specific plan that kept the calorie count in check and kept the allocation of the various food groups in balance. The biggest change has been a complete avoidance of sweets and foods with processed sugars. Also, the total amount starchy carbs is reduced dramatically from what I ate previously. Conversely, I eat more fruit, vegetables, and lean protein than before. I didn't give up alcohol completely, but I did cut back. (When you only get 3 or 4 "carb servings" a day and a light beer or glass of wine counts as one, you tend to think "do I really want this?" before opening a bottle or pouring a glass :)).

For almost everyone, there comes a time where you have to watch what you eat in order to avoid getting fatter. There is no technique advice or magic workout set that anyone can give you that will burn enough calories in three 1-1.5 hour swim workouts a week so that you can eat what you want without gaining weight/body fat. At this point, you probably don't have to make the wholesale changes I did. But you might want to start tracking calories at a minimum, just to see how much you're really consuming. Then compare that to how many your burning. revchris is right, it only takes one poor choice to offset an entire workout's worth of work.

Lastly I would suggest you increase the frequency of your workouts. You said "Id rather live in the pool 24/7 than waste time on dieting." Well, there's a pretty big gulf between 3 times a week, 1-1.5 hours a workout (my guess as to how long it takes you based on the sample workout you provided) and "24/7." I saw a noticeable increase in my base metabolism when I went from swimming 3 times to 4, then 5 or 6 times a week.


My experience has been pretty much the same as Stewart's RevChris and Gary P. metabolism slows especially at about 50 yrs and your appetite stays as it was when you were 20 working hard and burning calories like an incinerator. I cut out most of all of the extra carbs (crackers, cookies, ice cream, alcohol etc.) except on special occasions and limited my alcohol intake to 2 beers/day on weekends. I never really counted calories but ate more veggies, fruit and lean protein when I was hungry instead of carbs and only weighed myself once per week (same day same time). I dropped about 2-3 lbs per month swimming about 12k+ per week, but then began spinning and running too and that really accelerated the weight loss. Running burns calories the fastest and I think spinning burns them slightly faster than and equivalent time length of swimming - long runs (or fast walks) are the best as speed isn't really much of factor. I got rid of about 40 pounds in about 10 months, but put some back on each time I fell off the wagon. The pounds come off much faster and with less work when you are young!


Swimming alone is not necessarily going to lead to immediate weight loss and viewing swimming from a weight-loss perspective could lead to frustration. Lauren Trocchio, who is a nutritionist in the northern Virginia area, wrote a great article on swimming and weight loss - perhaps it will be of some help! http://www.swimspire.com/swimming-weight-loss-activity-exercise-futility/


Thanks for the link to that article, Swimspire. Also, to underscore what Gary P said, in addition to increasing the swim time, I also upped the frequency to 6 days a week in order to lose the weight.


It is not about the exercise it is about the eating and drinking.

I cannot agree more with Stewart....get that myfitnesspal app and get on the website and start tracking your intake of food and drink. If you drink beer like I did it will end immediately when you see the wasted calories you are putting down. I lost 10 pounds in a year exercising like a freaking animal and it drove me nuts why. I cook all my meals, but when I added the steaks, potatoes, fruit, eggs, toast, etc and then toss in 5 beers a day I was at 3500 calories per day easy.

I learned the body is a machine and it is predictable. I started tracking my intake on excel b/c I was sick of hoping I would lose a pound this week after the weekend wine or scotch. I decided I was going to 'predict' my weight. Immediately I saw I was spinning my wheels. I ran into that app by accident and it is much easier than building your own excel sheet. It will hold you accountable. I just made a massive pizza for dinner with my own non-salt, non-sugar, tomato sauce and an entire package of cheese. 1300 calories. I threw in a 7 hour intermittent fast today so I could do this. Two coffees during the fast...Easy. I am woddling around the house I am so full right now and I only put down 2000 calories today and burned 1000. So my caloric deficit is around 1800 today. I'll lose just over .5 pounds today alone and I would wager on that. It is a fun science for me now, the hope game is over now. I prefer to have a prediction and be almost dead nuts accurate. Predicting my weight loss before it occurs is like having skin in the game of a business venture. You just work harder when you have skin in the game.

After a year of non-discipline and thinking I could work out harder than my eating and drinking I finally got smart. The good thing is for every wasted step there are experiences had. I'm looking forward to figuring out how I am going to be able to eat 3000 calories without drinking beer....maybe I'll have a couple once I hit 190....20 more pounds to go :)


I also recommend the MyFitnessPal app and community (with a forum for swimmers, too). They have a huge database of branded and generic foods and exercises, which makes it very easy to track your calories in and calories out (CICO). By combining killer work-outs and a very low calorie but variable diet, I lost 60 lbs in 3 months and increased my swimming endurance from 3 laps to 3 miles continuous. The variable part of the diet is important as is getting proper rest. I tend to eat much more, especially protein, AFTER my work-outs and get PLENTY of rest so that my body can rebuild itself stronger than it was before. I've also been doing some strength-training in the gym to keep from losing muscle. Good luck to you!

I practiced with the swim team yesterday for the first time since Freshman year of high school, some 41 years ago. On my own I've been focusing on increasing distance and stamina, but I also know that I will benefit from drills and interval work. I worked up to swimming 3 miles continuous three times in a week, but now I intend to practice regularly (but 6am is not so easy) and do the long, boring (but endorphin filled) distances once a week. After four months of being back in the pool, my current best time for a mile is 29:15 and I do 3 miles in about 95 minutes.

Weight loss was the original goal for taking up swimming again, but that is now secondary. Once I was back in decent shape again, I remembered how wonderful it feels to be in good condition again. I'm now in the middle of my 'ideal weight range for my age', according to the BMI app on my phone, but I intend to lose some more, mostly for appearance's sake. I've signed up to do a 3.1 mile (5k) open-water lake swim in July and getting a good time for that is my current performance goal. After that I will be working on doing a 10k, which is supposedly the equivalent of running a 26.2 mile marathon. But since health and fitness is my main goal now, I'd like to get back to a resting heart rate (RHR) in the mid-40s, which is what I had as a long-distance runner. RHR seems to be a pretty good marker for conditioning and heart health. I'm currently in the mid 50s.

swimark
April 27th, 2015, 06:16 PM
...I've signed up to do a 3.1 mile (5k) open-water lake swim in July and getting a good time for that is my current performance goal. After that I will be working on doing a 10k, which is supposedly the equivalent of running a 26.2 mile marathon. But since health and fitness is my main goal now, I'd like to get back to a resting heart rate (RHR) in the mid-40s, which is what I had as a long-distance runner. RHR seems to be a pretty good marker for conditioning and heart health. I'm currently in the mid 50s.

Way to set your goals! As I mentioned I am very goal oriented. Which 5K OW swim?

robrecht
April 27th, 2015, 07:31 PM
Way to set your goals! As I mentioned I am very goal oriented. Which 5K OW swim?Sun, July 12th at Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. They also have a 1.5 mile event and a 3-mile relay, where each person on the relay team swims 1 mile. Here's the website for the event:

http://www.steelmantriathlon.com/ows/scheduleInfo.php

Looks like fun!

revchris
April 27th, 2015, 09:38 PM
Congratulations on your progress! I've lost upwards of 20 pounds through regular swimming and watching intake. My blood pressure was edging toward unhealthy and is now in a healthy range. Make sure your calorie counter adjusts calories burned as you lose weight. I now burn 100 fewer calories per workout.

robrecht
April 28th, 2015, 12:32 AM
Congratulations on your progress! I've lost upwards of 20 pounds through regular swimming and watching intake. My blood pressure was edging toward unhealthy and is now in a healthy range. Make sure your calorie counter adjusts calories burned as you lose weight. I now burn 100 fewer calories per workout.Thanks, revchris. Yeah, fewer calories burned for the same work-out and fewer calories needed to maintain the lower weight, as well. They get you coming and going. We just have to keep increasing the intensity of our work-outs. If we're not growing, we're dying, and, even if we're growing, entropy will get us in the end. Are you a reverend by any chance?

revchris
May 2nd, 2015, 09:22 PM
Sorry for slow reply. Yes, I'm a minister.

orca1946
May 3rd, 2015, 06:33 PM
I can no longer run cuz of 4 hip operations. I bike/gym/spin cycle/walk/swim to keep going. It needs to be a life time change not just a diet. As I approach 70 [ holy cow, that's almost nearing old] I find that I need/want to workout 5-6 times a week.

DeniseMW
May 4th, 2015, 10:06 AM
orca1946, you're my hero. As soon as the shoulder gets better, I'm going to think about you every time I get in the pool.

robrecht
May 20th, 2015, 11:35 AM
I can no longer run cuz of 4 hip operations. I bike/gym/spin cycle/walk/swim to keep going. It needs to be a life time change not just a diet. As I approach 70 [ holy cow, that's almost nearing old] I find that I need/want to workout 5-6 times a week.Excellent! I never want to get out of shape again. Am planning on riding my bike to the gym this summer for my own little duathalon.

Swam 4 miles on Saturday, 2 of which was practicing with the masters team. Next goal is 5 miles and then a 10k.

robrecht
May 26th, 2015, 09:40 AM
New milestone: swam 5 miles continuous yesterday, 167 minutes.

Next goal is 10k

robrecht
May 26th, 2015, 09:45 AM
Sorry for slow reply. Yes, I'm a minister.
Cool. I used to be a Franciscan monk.

Grappledunk
May 28th, 2015, 07:28 PM
Sun, July 12th at Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. They also have a 1.5 mile event and a 3-mile relay, where each person on the relay team swims 1 mile. Here's the website for the event:

http://www.steelmantriathlon.com/ows/scheduleInfo.php

Looks like fun!


I did this race last year, and it was definitely a good one. Very well organized, nice location, and we lucked out with the weather. Also the swag is of much higher caliber than you get at some races... and obviously that's the important part. :)
Good luck with your training...maybe I'll see you there!

robrecht
May 28th, 2015, 07:48 PM
I did this race last year, and it was definitely a good one. Very well organized, nice location, and we lucked out with the weather. Also the swag is of much higher caliber than you get at some races... and obviously that's the important part. :)
Good luck with your training...maybe I'll see you there!Great. I am already meeting up with a couple of people from MyFitnessPal. The more the merrier. I just checked out your blog. You are really funny!

Gary P
June 25th, 2015, 09:18 PM
Some evidence of what swimming regularly, combined with good eating habits, can do for you:

http://i.imgur.com/RbLVzFL.jpg?1

robrecht
June 26th, 2015, 01:29 AM
Some evidence of what swimming regularly, combined with good eating habits, can do for you:

Very cool!

Wish I'd taken 'before' pictures. It would be even more dramatic. Not bragging, believe me, I'm not proud of how fat I got!

Grappledunk
June 26th, 2015, 08:54 AM
Wow- way to go, Gary P!

DeniseMW
June 26th, 2015, 11:39 AM
Gary P, what can I say other than, YAY.

ElaineK
June 26th, 2015, 04:03 PM
You look fabulous! Congratulations!!! :applaud::banana::cheerleader:

robrecht
June 27th, 2015, 06:26 AM
Some evidence of what swimming regularly, combined with good eating habits, can do for you:

http://i.imgur.com/RbLVzFL.jpg?1
So it looks like losing weight also has the health benefit of improving eye-sight. I did not know that. And judging by the molding on the door behind you, it seems like you've gotten a little taller as well.

Elissa Dahdal Binion
July 4th, 2015, 06:52 PM
Way to go Gary!!! I am swimming regularly (5 days a week) and I noticed I am gaining more muscle, and I'm toning up. My abs are harder but the fat is still there:( How long does it take for the stomach to get flatter?



Some evidence of what swimming regularly, combined with good eating habits, can do for you:

http://i.imgur.com/RbLVzFL.jpg?1

Gary P
July 6th, 2015, 07:27 AM
Way to go Gary!!! I am swimming regularly (5 days a week) and I noticed I am gaining more muscle, and I'm toning up. My abs are harder but the fat is still there:( How long does it take for the stomach to get flatter?

Elissa, I'm still carrying a bit of fat on the belly. The ab muscles are just starting to peek out at the top. I probably have another 5 or so lbs to give, but that last little bit has proved elusive. Increased workout intensity has resulted in an increase in the intensity of my appetite. I'm not gaining, but my rate of loss has all but stalled out.

robrecht
July 6th, 2015, 07:46 AM
In general, except in a few unusual circumstances, it is not possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. The exceptions are for teenagers, who have a boatload of hormones for building muscle, those who take hormones for building muscle, and, especially the very obese, when people first start working out. Otherwise, for the rest of us, we must eat at a calorie deficit to lose weight or eat at a calorie surplus to gain weight, including muscle weight. Those losing weight will always lose some muscle. When we are eating at a calorie deficit, working out and especially strength training can help us to not lose as much muscle as we would otherwise. Thus we can minimize the muscle mass lost, and can even increase strength and tone our bodies to look more muscular. Those adding muscle will also always add some fat as well. Body builders work in cycles of bulking up to build muscle and then cutting to get rid of the fat also gained while building muscle. So to lose fat, we must eat at a calorie deficit. That deficit can be be created by eating fewer calories or burning more calories or a combination of both.

robrecht
July 6th, 2016, 08:35 PM
I did this race last year, and it was definitely a good one. Very well organized, nice location, and we lucked out with the weather. Also the swag is of much higher caliber than you get at some races... and obviously that's the important part. :)
Good luck with your training...maybe I'll see you there!Grappledunk, or anyone else, any one doing this race this year on Sunday? I missed the online registration deadline but emailed the organizer and he gave me a code to register as a volunteer, which means I also get to write on people with a magic marker before the race. How cool is that?

swimark
July 6th, 2016, 09:14 PM
Grappledunk, or anyone else, any one doing this race this year on Sunday? I missed the online registration deadline but emailed the organizer and he gave me a code to register as a volunteer, which means I also get to write on people with a magic marker before the race. How cool is that?


They reopened registration today for this Sunday's race. Email the director to see if there are any spots left. I'm doing the 5k.

robrecht, Don't know if you remember Joe from last year, but he talked me into this... http://www.ows.steelmantriathlon.com/

robrecht
July 6th, 2016, 11:44 PM
They reopened registration today for this Sunday's race. Email the director to see if there are any spots left. I'm doing the 5k.

robrecht, Don't know if you remember Joe from last year, but he talked me into this... http://www.ows.steelmantriathlon.com/Sure I remember Joe. Great guy. Hope to see you both there on Sunday. Maybe a pub crawl afterwards? Only healthy food and drink, of course.

swimark
July 7th, 2016, 12:25 AM
Sure I remember Joe. Great guy. Hope to see you both there on Sunday. Maybe a pub crawl afterwards? Only healthy food and drink, of course.
Joe mentioned possibly going out afterwards.