Hate Jim, Love Leslie
by, March 24th, 2010 at 04:17 PM (6431 Views)
USMS members in good standing in 2009, who also had the good fortune to receive the November/December edition of Swimmer magazine, may recall the following "Both Sides of the Lane Line" *** for tat column penned by Leslie "the Fortress" Livingston and Dr. Jim "Fake Doctor" Thornton, MD (f), Ph.D. in exercise physiology (f), M.A. in journalism (r), M.F.A.in fiction writing (r), B.S.in zoology (r), and all around great guy (r).
Note: Please do not strain your eyes trying to read the attached .jpg image! I subjected the thing to Optical Character Recognition and will paste the entire text in below.
Now, take a second to familiarize yourselves with yesteryear's arguments before proceeding to the NEARLY UNBELIEVABLE LEVEL OF UNDESERVED HATE MAIL ONE OF US JUST RECEIVED IN THE MOST RECENT ISSUE OF SWIMMER'S LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SECTION!
As promised, here is the text of the above in a more readable format:
Leslie Livingston, 48, is a lawyer and mother of three.
She has numerous USMS and FINA Top 10 rankings and recently set a NR in the 50 back. She is a member Patriot Masters in Fairfax, Va.
I’m 48 and getting faster. Eschewing conventional wisdom that swimming faster requires more pool time, I've embarked on an intense strength-training regimen. This regimen has ed to increased propulsive force in the water and significant time drops. None of this is terribly surprising. Lifting creates explosive power, increases sprint speed and improves muscular endurance. It can also improve agility, stability and balance. Lifting, in effect, produces "free speed" — you apply the same swimming technique with stronger muscles, generating faster times. Free speed can't be achieved by swimming alone because swimming simply does not provide sufficient resistance
Weight lifting is perfect cross training for Masters swimmers. Performing several compound functional lifts for the upper and lower body two to three times per week will suffice. Studies confirm that lifting has an immediate impact for relatively untrained under trained athletes or those who have reached plateaus. These studies are much more probative for Masters swimmers than the short-lived Costill study of elite swimmers that Mr. Thornton is wont to cite.
Unlike aerobic conditioning, strength does not desert us if work or life temporarily thwarts our quest for endorphins. And, unlike swimming alone, lifting combats the aging process by reversing or stymieing the body's natural loss of bone and muscle mass. This should improve flagging times or training slumps. In sum, all swimmers should exploit this powerful potential for improvement. As a former skeptic, I acknowledge that it's easy to avoid the weight room. But, if speed and health are your goal, why wait?
Jim Thornton has 30 individual Top 10 times— "a dozen less than the lovely Leslie, but at least I can still beat my age in the 100 freestyle, and she can't."
I don't like weight lifting. Why pick up something when you don't have to, only to put it down again?
Maybe I'd think differently if dumbbells actually improved swimming performance. Clearly, many muscle-headed Masters and Olympians alike long ago accepted this myth as gospel. Free weights, Nautilus machines, Pilates with Swiss balls, the whole shooting match of self-torture: The buff have snookered themselves into believing these are critical to speed in the water.
I don't believe it because science doesn't support it, a conclusion reached by legendary exercise physiologist and Masters swimmer, David Costill, Ph.D., emeritus professor from Ball State University. "General weight lifting probably has no carry-over to swimming performance," Dr. Costill told me recently. "There's never been a study that supports a benefit, though there have been studies that show it doesn't help."
Still skeptical? Check Medline for additional citations.
As for diehard iron-pumpers who prefer anecdotal evidence to well-designed studies, let me conclude with anecdotal proof of my own.
At LCM nationals in Indy last August, the charming speed demon/debater/ignoramus, Leslie Livingston, swam the 50M butterfly in a PR of 29.74. My own time: 29.55— two-tenths of a second faster, I think we can all agree, is a pretty decisive beat-down.
Leslie will no doubt argue it's only because I'm 6' 1" and, well, male; whereas she is 5' 4" and all girl. Nonsense! I reply. No need to evoke sexism or heightism here. I triumphed for one simple reason: She lifts weights, and I don't.
Alrighty then! Here now is the reaction to our respective views, reaction that just hit this month's sizzling edition of Swimmer. Again, no eye straining please! I will reprint the letters' text (with names left out) to show you how three things in our sport are now incontrovertible:
1. Leslie good, Jim bad
2. It is not just Tea Baggers who are easily hoodwinked and unable to understand even the slightest of ironic tones! It appears that more than a few of our swimming ranks suffer "wet brain" syndrome, as well.
3. I do agree with the very final letter about who should be named Time Magazine's Athlete of the Year. I had to read the final paragraph several times to convince myself it was not just some glitch in the OCR software that came bundled with my Brother ALL-in-One printer-copier-fax-scanner-and-time-to-change-my-Depends-diaper-reminding Device!
Thanks, whoever you are, for the vote of confidence!
Usually, I like SWIMMER and look forward to reading it. But, seriously Jim Thornton's article in "Both Sides of the Lane Line" was not only un-progressive, but 110 percent naive. I suggest running an article next month on Dara Torres's strength routine. Do you think Jim Thornton would want to pony up his un-weight-trained body and go up against Dara? Looking forward to something a little less antiquated in Both Sides of the Lane Line.
I found it ironic that your policy "SWIMMER will not accept submissions that include inappropriate language or constitute personal attacks" was listed in "Both Sides of the Lane Line," and "No Weigh," by Jim Thornton, in which he writes "At the LCM nationals in Indy last August, the charming speed demon/debater/ignoramus, Leslie Livingston ..." was an example of a (failure at being humorous?) personal attack (ignoramus) on Leslie Livingston. I enjoy your magazine.
Keep the beautiful glossy covers, as I display them at work, to catch the eye of coworkers who pick it up. Thanks.
I enjoyed the "No Weigh" half of Both Sides of the Lane Line in your November-December issue by Jim Thornton, ostensibly rebutting Leslie Livingston's cogent arguments in favor of focused weight training for swimmers. Its tongue-in-cheek (fin-in-mouth?) flavor provided just the right amount of cleverly disguised but strong support for Leslie's argument, while purporting to argue the opposite - a wonderful Dickensian touch! I particularly liked his "I think we can all agree..." challenge that 0.2 seconds better in the 50M fly is a "decisive beat-down" for weight training. Imagine the scene: big strong man (6'1" male) and little bitty lady (5'4" and "all girl," in Thornton's words) on the starting blocks (you can guess who is stretching and preening). The gun goes off, it's over in a flash, and look! The big strong man only beats the little bitty lady by 0.2 seconds (0.7% of elapsed time)! I'm starting to up my weight training right now - well actually, right after Thanksgiving...
I was hoping to clarify a point made by Jim Thornton in his article "No Weigh!" The comment made about "general weight lifting probably has no carry over to swimming performance" is likely true to a point. General weight training typically involves a circuit of weight machines that in essence were designed for form, not function. A standard circuit workout will isolate a muscle group and make it bigger and/or stronger. These machines are not necessarily going to improve function because the motion of the exercise does not actually replicate any real life activity ... or in this case, swimming movement.
More importantly, Mr. Thornton failed to mention that there was a second group involved in that particular study. The second group involved in the study performed only two exercises: pull-ups and dips using the weight-assisted dip and pull-up machine. These exercises more closely replicate actions used in the swimming movement.
Here are the findings: "However, the weight-assisted dip and pull-up swimmers fared slightly better, compared to the traditional strength trainers. For one thing, they improved their 22.9 metre front crawl sprint time by .3 seconds, from 11.2 to 10.9 seconds, while the traditional people failed to improve."
Joe Nagi (Masters swimmer of English Channel success) once asked me if he should lift weights. He knew the answer when I asked him a few questions:
"Can an old man (or woman) be in as good of shape as a young man?"
"Yes," he said.
"Can an old man have as good of technique?" "Yes," he said.
"So what is the difference between an old man and a young man?"
"Strength," he said.
Why not answer the question about weight training once and for all. Leslie trains with weights throughout the year. Jim only swims At the 2010 LCM Nationals, they go head to head in the 50M fly. Who knows, maybe Dr. Costill can add the results to his study.
People should do Medline or Pubmed (the free version) searches when they have questions about exercise or health. They will find there is scientific evidence that weight training improves swimming speed. In 2007, Girold and friends showed a positive effect of 12 weeks of weight training, swimming and running on swimming speed compared to controls who biked (to keep the dry land training time equal), swam and ran.
In 1993, Tanaka, Costill and friends showed no positive effect on swimming speed compared to controls, but only had the swimmers lift for eight weeks. The evidence I've seen is mixed but implies that weight training needs to be done for longer than eight weeks if it is going to have a transferable effect. Anybody can find full citations and summaries of the articles referred to by going to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/ and searching on the author names I provide and the word "swimming."
Tiger vs. Val vs. Jim
I was surprised to see that Tiger Woods was named TIME magazine's Athlete of the Decade. Wouldn't it be nice if one of our outstanding Masters swimmers was so named. I would choose Laura Val. She has set U.S. and world records for the last decade. Best of all she is a nice person, and is true to herself and family.
Even better, what about making Jim Thornton Athlete of the Decade? He is not the nicest person in the world but a demonstrably less dedicated philander than Tiger, and he can beat Laura Val every once in a blue moon in certain events. Plus, like Tiger, he has the advantage of being male!