Gretchen Reynolds, writing in the New York Times, answers a reader’s question about the practicality of taking a runners’ 10-20-30 workout to the water. First a reminder: in the 10-20-30 program, she writes, “runners jog at a leisurely pace for 30 seconds, accelerate to a moderate speed for 20 seconds, and then sprint as hard as possible for 10 seconds, repeating the whole sequence five times, before walking for several minutes, and then completing five minutes of 10-20-30 training once or twice more.” Yes, it was developed by the Danes, who try hard to make work fun, and vice versa. Reynolds consults Jens Bangsbo, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who helped to develop 10-20-30 program, and OK, unsurprisingly, Jens recommends the program for swimmers too. Bangsbo suggests that swimmers use freestyle or butterfly for the all-out 10 seconds and breaststroke for the 20 and 30 second periods. He tells Reynolds that swimmers who train five times a week should probably use the 10-20-30 method three times a week, while for runners, the program should be used only twice a week.
Swimming in open water offers many joys not found in pools, and also a few challenges, like waves. Happily, now comes the Wall Street Journal with three pieces of sound advice about such challenges. WSJ Fitness reporter Jen Murphy consults Sara McLarty, a coach and owner of Swim Like A Pro in Clermont, Fla., about how she prepares open water swimmers for, well, open water. First, says McLarty, swimmers should practice an open-water technique called sighting– lifting the eyes out of the water and looking forward to make sure you are still on course for the buoys. McLarty has her clients build the neck strength needed for sighting by swimming with their heads out of water and keeping their eyes on a water bottle at the end of the lane in a pool. Second, writes Murphy, bilateral breathing, or alternating sides during freestyle, is critical for open-water swimming. Not only does it allow a swimmer to breathe away from the waves, it also promotes a straighter and well-balanced stroke. Finally, says Murphy, drafting– following in the slipstream of another swimmer– can save energy and allow one to follow that swimmer’s bubbles so they don’t have to worry about sighting.
OK, peeing in a swimming pool is gross, but if it’s insufficiently gross dissuade potential pee-ers, here’s another thing to think about. Researchers at Purdue University have found that the uric acid in urine interacts with chlorine (in pools) in surprising ways, and can create hazardous “volatile disinfection byproducts,” including cyanogen chloride (CNCl) and trichloramine (NCl3). What are they? Cyanogen chloride is a toxic compound that affects many organs, including the lungs, heart and central nervous system by inhalation. Trichloramine has been associated with acute lung injury in accidental, occupational or recreational exposures to chlorine-based disinfectants. The Purdue findings were not a complete surprise. Researchers had known for years that certain airborne contaminants are created when chlorine reacts with sweat and urine in indoor swimming pools, but new findings show that uric acid from urine is definitely “an efficient precursor to the formation of CNCl and NCl3.
It’s weird. Swimming does everything exercise should do–build strength, lower blood pressure, increase endurance–except one: it doesn’t help you lose weight. Writing in the New York Times Ask Well column, Gretchen Reynolds reports on the surprising findings of a 2005 study of exercise habits and body weight. The study, which involved 15,000 adults ages 53 to 57, found that people who walked, jogged or cycled gained little weight over the course of a decade, and those who but people who swam, lifted weights or walked slowly did put on a few pounds.What’s up with that? Reynolds quotes Hirofumi Tanaka, the director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, reporting that his own research suggest that swimming seems to stimulate the appetite. Read more in the New York Times.
It was her fifth attempt at the 110-mile swim; the first four foiled by roiling seas, jellyfish, and unexpected squalls, but 64-year-old endurance swimmer Diana Nyad kept on keeping on for 53 hours, until she stepped onto the beach at Key West, dazed, exhausted and victorious. What did she learn? The New York Times reports that Nyad had three messages: “One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”
Yet another reason to swim in a lake: researchers at NYU have found that improperly chorinated swimming pools can take a toll on your teeth. Futurity reports that rexearchers at the school have documented the case of a 52-year-old man who suffered from “extremely sensitive teeth,” dark staining, and rapid enamel loss over a very short five-month period beginning in May 2010. The researchers concluded that the enamel loss was a direct result of the patient’s 90 minute swimming exercise routine he had started earlier that summer. Their findings suggest that improper pool chlorination was responsible for the patient’s dental erosion. Futurity reports that the Center for Disease Control and various dental journals have reported on similar cases of dental enamel erosion caused by improper.swimming pool chlorination,
Swimmers, I mean top level swimmers, have never agreed about which of two arm movements is most efficient for freestyle swimming. In one corner, we have proponents of the paddle stroke, also known as the deep catch stroke, for which the arm is extended and which pulls the water like a boat paddle. In the other, we have proponents of the propeller stroke, also known as the sculling stroke, for which the arm is bent at the elbow and makes a slight S-shaped curve as it moves through the water. Now, thanks to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, we have our final answer: the deep catch stroke is more effective and more efficient than the sculling stroke. Finding that answer wasn’t easy. A Johns Hopkins news release reports that scientists from the department of engineering used high-precision laser scans and underwater videos of elite swimmers, then turned to animation software to change the shape of the static arm in such a way as to match the video sequence. The team then ran computer simulations to study the flow of fluid around the arm and the forces that acted upon the limb. Each simulation involved about 4 million degrees of freedom and required thousands of hours of computer processing time. Study author Rajat Miittal says his research disproves the long-held conviction of many swim coaches that the sculling stroke delivers more speed. “Sculling, in my view, is a swimming stroke that is based on an incomplete understanding of fluid mechanics,” Mittal said. “We found that lift is indeed a major component in thrust production for both strokes, and that certainly indicates that the arm does not behave simply like a paddle. However, the simulations also indicate that exaggerated sculling motions, which are designed to enhance and exploit lift, actually reduce both the lift and drag contributions to thrust. So, lift is in fact important, but not in the way envisioned by these early coaches who were trying to bring fluid mechanics into swimming.” Got that? Read more from Johns Hopkins.
Here’s a good reason to suffer the brief discomfort of jumping in the deep end: swimming appears to lower your blood pressure. The Wall Street Journal reports on a study in which researchers recruited 43 adults, 50 to 80 years old, who were at least mildly hypertensive, and divided them into two groups. One group swam 15 to 45 minutes a day, three to four days a week, while the second group spent that time stretching and learning relaxation exercises. After twelve weeks, the non-swimmers blood pressure showed no change, while the systolic blood pressure of the swimmers dropped 7 percent. The researchers also found that the swimmers’ arteries became more elastic and responsive to changes in blood flow. Read an abstract of the study in the American Journal of Cardiology.
Many people thought it was strange that swimmers competing at the 2009 Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Championship meet in Rome set 43 world records. That’s right, 43 world records, almost all of which still stand today. The likely culprit, everyone knew, was the new high-tech swim suits designed to reduce drag, improve buoyancy, and compress muscles. So powerful was the suspicion that the super suits were behind the super swims that the suits were banned in 2010. Now comes a study from researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, all but proving that the suits made all the difference in the world records. A Northwestern news release reports that researchers analyzed available race data from 1990 to 2010 and compared improvements in swimming to improvements in track and field, a similar sport. The researchers also factored in improvements in training science, changes in rules and regulations, gender differences, anaerobic versus aerobic events, unique talent and membership data. What did they find? “Our data strongly indicate that it was more than just hard work that allowed athletes to set the unprecedented 43 world records during the 2009 world championships,” said Lanty O’Connor, first author of the study, published in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. “The swimsuits played a significant role.”
Roughly ten percent of the lifeguards on New York State’s ocean beaches are 50 or older, according to what the New York Times calls “unoffical estimates”. And all of them are in great shape. The New York State office of parks knows that they’re in great shape because the guards have to pass an annual fitness test requiring them to swim 100 meters in a pool in less than one minute and 20 seconds, and run a quarter of a mile in two minutes and ten seconds. To make sure they will pass, the New York Times reports, many of the guards train all winter. One group does 60-minute workouts three times a week, with a focus on shorter, harder intervals, to mimic the test. A typical workout is two laps in the pool at an almost all-out pace, done four times, with just 20 seconds rest between each two-lap set. The Times reports that the guards’ strategy for staying fit has four later-in-life fitness lessons: Set Goals; Harness Group Power; Play in the Snow; and Adapt and Adjust. Read more about each in the New York Times.