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Thread: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

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    What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Are high yardage/slow aerobic swims a good method? Even the best method?

    Sorry, I'm sure this topic has been covered numerous times. I've been away from the forums and the pool for a while. And I've packed on some pounds.

    I just got back in the pool the other day after a 6-9 month layoff and have no immediate ambition to compete again. I'm thinking a realistic goal is to complete a 5k this summer and just focus on getting back in shape and not worry so much about the clock and sets and such. Figure I will get too frustrated and just want to swim just to swim for now.

    When I was training and competing for a few years in Masters I never got too far above 2000 yards but would do hard sets (for me) of 15x100, etc.. Would I actually lose more weight if I instead swam 3-4k yards of just lap swimming?

    ....Also, I just read in my swimmer that Leslie Livingston has given up weights and dryland. Isn't that a complete 180?

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    Active Member StewartACarroll's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Herb, I have gone through a 43lb weight loss over a very short period of time and have blogged a few times on the method I used to achieve the loss. In my case, swimming was really important but I don't credit it as the method of loosing the weight. For me swimming faster was the driver for the weight loss, but the major method ofmloosingbthe weight was using myfitnesspal religously and controlling my calorie intake. I adhered to a strict but balanced calorie controlled diet, vitamin and mineral supplements and drank a ton of water. Good luck with the goal.

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    sprint diva The Fortress's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by Herb View Post

    ....Also, I just read in my swimmer that Leslie Livingston has given up weights and dryland. Isn't that a complete 180?
    That's not correct. I merely reduced my weights/gym time from 3 to 2 days per week and added in one more swim. I also use fins/paddles/chutes/bungees in the pool, which is essentially in water strength training. I did gave up bikram yoga; I gave up running and spinning long ago. I don't have Swimmer in front of me. The gist of what I said is that most cross training doesn't make you swim faster and can prevent you from really punching quality pool workouts.

    Don't worry, no one would call me anything but a jacked sprinter. Sadly, I look nothing like the skinny runner I used to be pre masters swimming.

    If you really want to lose weight, run. If you can't run and want to swim, I think high intensity swimming burns more calories overall. Don't do the same workouts at the same speed; vary the intensity so your body doesn't adapt and burn fewer calories.

  4. #4
    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Long slow swims you will burn more calories during the workout.HIT and you will burn more calories after the workout,probably more overall but YMMV.Do the types of swimming that helps you want to swim more.
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fortress View Post
    That's not correct. I merely reduced my weights/gym time from 3 to 2 days per week and added in one more swim. I also use fins/paddles/chutes/bungees in the pool, which is essentially in water strength training. I did gave up bikram yoga; I gave up running and spinning long ago. I don't have Swimmer in front of me. The gist of what I said is that most cross training doesn't make you swim faster and can prevent you from really punching quality pool workouts.

    Don't worry, no one would call me anything but a jacked sprinter. Sadly, I look nothing like the skinny runner I used to be pre masters swimming.

    If you really want to lose weight, run. If you can't run and want to swim, I think high intensity swimming burns more calories overall. Don't do the same workouts at the same speed; vary the intensity so your body doesn't adapt and burn fewer calories.
    I can't run with bad legs and I hate it anyway. I enjoy the water. I had always used the competition as the motivation but am looking for a new kind of inspiration. My first workout today was 500 yards in board shorts - no clock, no flip turns, took a couple of rest breaks when I felt like it. And it actually felt pretty good. Tommorow I will go for 750. That is where I am at. My past history shows that if I stick with it I will soon become bored and start doing sets again but I am worried that will make me too frustrated. I was hoping maybe I could justify the slow high yardage angle if the benefits were just as good.

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by StewartACarroll View Post
    Herb, I have gone through a 43lb weight loss over a very short period of time and have blogged a few times on the method I used to achieve the loss. In my case, swimming was really important but I don't credit it as the method of loosing the weight. For me swimming faster was the driver for the weight loss, but the major method ofmloosingbthe weight was using myfitnesspal religously and controlling my calorie intake. I adhered to a strict but balanced calorie controlled diet, vitamin and mineral supplements and drank a ton of water. Good luck with the goal.
    Yeah I know swimming is just part of it. I'm guessing 6 Sierra Nevadas don't help my calorie count.

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Diet, just remove any rifined sugar. You can continue to enjoy your six pack of SN's, but if you do, just go for a walk after. It's all in the diet. I'm kind of on the other side of the fence, I can't seem to gain weight, I've been stuck at 162 for years and I feel like I have to force food down at times.

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Herb,
    i have a very very hard time losing any weight while swimming.

    as a very fast friend of mine said, "don't we swim so we can eat?"

    it seems that the more/harder i swim the more i eat.
    and i can really woof it down.
    as far as refined surgar goes, i'll take mine in the form of 4 scoops of blue bell mocha almond fudge ice cream.
    hmmm, maybe that's my problem.
    ok, make it 5 scoops.

    according to the bmi table that jim posted for his 50 free chart, i'm over weight.
    heck it says i've been overweight since i was 20 (which i can barely remember).

    weight loss will always be about calories in vs calories burnt.

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    I've wondered the same things about HIIT vs LSD type swimming. I myself prefer short sprints and keeping the heart rate at a spike... probably my track sprinting background. For me in the last 7 weeks I have seen my body composition change as my belly has been reduced. I've probably lost 6-8 lbs so far. The big key as you guys mentioned is the diet. I've all but eliminated soda from my diet... down from drinking 30-45 oz a day of sugared pop to averaging 20 oz a week total. (That is in the last 2 weeks). I've also stopped eating my usual candy bar in the morning. Now I will say I drink a lot more black coffee w no sweetner now and that has kept the withdrawals from the cokes at bay... I also feel like I have a lot more energy at work and when I get home. I hope to get down to 240 by March (from over 255) and then by May be about 220. It'll be interesting to see how much of a difference that makes in terms of how I feel in the pool and speed.

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    There are a few women I have seen at the pool that do countless laps. While I always thought it looked incredibly boring, they are very thin.

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by Herb View Post
    Are high yardage/slow aerobic swims a good method? Even the best method?
    Sorry, I'm sure this topic has been covered numerous times. I've been away from the forums and the pool for a while. And I've packed on some pounds.
    I just got back in the pool the other day after a 6-9 month layoff and have no immediate ambition to compete again. I'm thinking a realistic goal is to complete a 5k this summer and just focus on getting back in shape and not worry so much about the clock and sets and such. Figure I will get too frustrated and just want to swim just to swim for now.
    When I was training and competing for a few years in Masters I never got too far above 2000 yards but would do hard sets (for me) of 15x100, etc.. Would I actually lose more weight if I instead swam 3-4k yards of just lap swimming?
    ....Also, I just read in my swimmer that Leslie Livingston has given up weights and dryland. Isn't that a complete 180?
    Losing weight is a challenge for me, the only way it happens is by eating less. Consuming fewer calories.

  12. #12
    Very Active Member mlabresh's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    I've been working on losing weight for a few years now with very little success. I started out with some workout videos (kick boxing was my preference), moved on to swimming, and then (hearing it was 'the best way to lose weight') started running. The most success I've had at any given time period in the past 3-4 years was last summer. During the summer swim season (late May through late July) I lost about 10lb. What did I do differently? I was swimming about 2.5hrs a day, doing doubles, 5 days a week (I did often miss the Masters practice, but swam at least once a day 5 days a week, averaging 7-9 swims a week). I swam long course with my Masters group in the early AM and then later on swam with my kids' age group in the intermediate group.

    Sadly, when swim season ended, I had nowhere to swim for a while. I had to go back to running (which I hate and am really no good at). I ended up breaking my elbow doing that (see?). Luckily, it was healed in time for the fall/winter swim season to start up. Unfortunately, I regained the 10lb in the time I was unable to run OR swim (UGH). I dropped a little weight at the beginning of fall season and then held steady until the last couple months when I was able to start swimming 5-6 days a week again.

    I've had times when I was just running, times when I was just swimming, and times when I was running and swimming. The most successful thing for me is to swim 5-6 days a week for 60-90min at a time.

    With regards to calories - I definitely eat MORE with all that swimming! But remember the most important thing about calories is that it's not nearly so much about quantity as it is about quality - especially when swimming. You can eat all the fresh fruits and veggies you want and still be losing weight. Make sure you're cutting back on as much processed food as possible and focus on eating fresh foods. Cutting back on desserts, refined sugars, and not over-doing it on alcohol will help too. There are websites/apps that can help you find the right balance for how many calories burned versus consumed to follow. But, I found, that I still had to maintain a pretty high level of activity in order for any of it to work. I'm not a big eater. I often only eat 1200-1500 calories a day, less when I'm not swimming, and I'm still overweight. I have to be really active in order to shed any pounds. We are all different and it can take some work to find what works for you.

    There are some vitamin/mineral type supplements you can take to aid with metabolism as well. Not diet pills, just nutritional supplements. Like CoQ10, Omegas, etc. Also, some people find protein shakes to be helpful.

    As far as what kind of swimming work outs to do - just keep it varied! Muscle confusion is important. Doing the same type of workouts over and over won't get you very far. Work in some drills, work in some speed sets, work in some long slow swims. Variety is the best way to go for just about everyone.

    Anyway, sorry this is so super long. Hopefully it was at least helpful! Good luck!
    ~Megan

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    Active Member tigerchik's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Weight loss is really related to your caloric intake. Swimming helps burn calories, but you can only swim say, an hour or two a day, which gives you 23 hours a day or so to stuff your face. Look at what you're eating and what you can cut out. Alcohol? Dessert? Afternoon candy?
    While doing this, make sure you eat well around your workouts. Eat before and after, and when it's after eating, make sure you have carbs + protein/fat. The protein/fat will keep you full.
    Eggs, peanut butter, plain yogurt - all great weight loss foods.
    Dried fruit, alcohol, desserts, lots of carbs (bagels pasta etc) - not great weight loss foods.

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    Very Active Member Celestial's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by tigerchik View Post
    Swimming helps burn calories, but you can only swim say, an hour or two a day, which gives you 23 hours a day or so to stuff your face.


    Frankly during my (USA) team's Christmas training, I was putting in super ridiculous (for me) amounts of yardage - we're talking 6-7000 yards a day, up from my usual 4500 or so. I was so exhausted, I didn't have the energy to eat! And I lost about 10lbs. Put it back on of course with egg nog & Valentines Candy!! I really think it's easy to try and justify how much you eat after you have a hard workout - whether a HIT or long distance. I know I do, anyway. My favorite trick: Diet Greek Yogurt (Dannon Light & Fit) - I swim at 5:30 in the morning & have two of them for breakfast. Total of about 160 calories, but 22gms protein. I'm shapin' up. . . .
    ALSO - I'm mixing it up - started lifting (light) weights again & I try to play tennis at least once a week - if you get tired enough you fall asleep & forget to eat dessert!

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    Active Member StewartACarroll's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    It's not for everyone, but during my weight loss period I ate glutinous amounts of oatmeal. When plain oatmeal got boring I would measure out and add dried fruit such as raisins, or apricots. Another low calorie filling food. I also removed cheese, dressings of all kinds and the big one, alcohol. It was tough at first but I never went hungry and simply made food choices based on calories. I got to the point where if it was a food choice Between something I wanted and something I could eat but not want as much I compared how much swimming I would have to do to offset the food and would typically make the lower calorie choice.

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    Swimming gives me a buzz! Bobinator's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    The best way to lose weight is to couple physical exercise with caloric reduction. In order to maintain your physical exertion you will need proper nutrition. Google Myplate.gov and design meal plans around fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean protein. It's not rocket science, it's a lifestyle. I'm not being a smart _ss, I just get tired of watching people spend lots of $$$$$ to obtain something which should be a simple balance of lifestyle.
    HTFU!

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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Body by vi. Only hope. Just ask them

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    Very Active Member ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobinator View Post
    The best way to lose weight is to couple physical exercise with caloric reduction. In order to maintain your physical exertion you will need proper nutrition. Google Myplate.gov and design meal plans around fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean protein. It's not rocket science, it's a lifestyle. I'm not being a smart _ss, I just get tired of watching people spend lots of $$$$$ to obtain something which should be a simple balance of lifestyle.
    Exactly! Thanks for stating what I was thinking as I read through this thread, as well as other threads on the topic.
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Very Active Member mlabresh's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobinator View Post
    The best way to lose weight is to couple physical exercise with caloric reduction. In order to maintain your physical exertion you will need proper nutrition. Google Myplate.gov and design meal plans around fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean protein. It's not rocket science, it's a lifestyle. I'm not being a smart _ss, I just get tired of watching people spend lots of $$$$$ to obtain something which should be a simple balance of lifestyle.
    I completely agree. But (also not trying to be a smart _ss) sometimes it's not that simple. I've followed all the recommendations/instructions what-have-you and still not been successful at losing weight. I've counted calories, modified what and how much I eat, been very active, and had no luck. I don't know if it's just genetics, but that's how it is. I'm in much better shape and am very strong and have great muscle tone, but in 4 years I've only lost about 15lb (and that's been up and down and all over the place). By protocol, with the information I've followed, what I do *should* have yielded a 1-2lb loss per week. Not quite!

    Anyway, not really trying to argue or anything. I've had some very disheartening and disappointing times these past few years and got really tired of a lot of people telling me "Losing weight isn't hard at all! Just adjust your diet and activity level and off it goes!". I've since given up on the idea of losing weight. I'm just swimming because I love it and I want to get better at it and be able to compete. Sometimes I get bummed that I'm not lighter/thinner so that I can be faster as a result, but I just use that as fuel for my fire to make me work harder.
    ~Megan

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Re: What is the best way to swim for weight loss?

    There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. Some people respond to exercise; some to diet; some to both; some to neither. Almost everybody has a range of maybe 7-12 lb. that our internal systems of weight regulation defends with a remarkable degree of vigor. Increase your activity loads dramatically, and your appetite will go up to compensate. Decrease your food intake, and your metabolism will slow down to compensate for that. Unlike desire and willpower, these internal mechanisms are relentless and work 24/7 to keep you in your range. That's why the stats on recidivism--i.e., people successfully lose weight, only to regain it all back--are so grim. The best studies on intensive lifestyle intervention have shown that only about 30 percent of people can maintain a 5% decrease in body weight over two years.

    Obviously, there are people like Stewart who respond exceptionally well to the combination of swimming and a healthier diet. But it's also quite likely that he is being helped in his quest by genetic factors that allow him to respond so well. Not everyone has these. There are a host of other putative contributors to weight gain that are largely out of a person's control--for instance, if you were either a very low or very high birth weight baby, or your mother was obese when she had you, the odds of you being heavy as an adult go up significantly. (Interestingly, if your formerly obese mother has bariatric surgery and loses weight before she has your sibling, that child is not so likely to become obese.)

    It's all a bewilderingly complex business, and regardless of its impact on your weight, swimming is going to be good for you in a multitude of ways. I know it's hard advice to accept, but if you can focus more on how you feel than how you look, you will realize swimming is its own reward!

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