Aging and swimming
Would like hear from the forum any insights regarding TI swimming and aging especially when one reaches over 75 years of age.
A quick personal background. Am 78 years old have been swimming for 20 years. Have been accessing TI for about 10 years. Because of this I have lowered my race times in Freestyle 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m as well as 50 and 100 Fly. This was the pattern until 2 years ago when the rules changed for the use of full body suits. My times went up as expected but they were up much more than the 2% generally accredited to the suit. Have read where at the age of 75 there is on the average of 6% muscle loss per year compared to the 2% up till then. I attribute being able to hold or lower my times up until age 75 to the increase of efficiency developed using TI. Also the full body suit has to be acknowledged.
Now at 78 with a low normal testosterone reading the theory is that my system can not build muscle as in the days of yore. As I have recently had Prostate cancer and a complete prostatectomy (PSA Undectable post op 16months) I should not supplement testosterone as that can stimulate any cancer cells present.
Would like to hear if anyone has any suggestions that would enhance my ability to slow down the slide in times.
I am willing to age with grace and explore whatever may be out there to keep the swim times to a gentle increase.
Being officially the same age as you (my birthday is in August so I won't actually be 78 until then), your question is naturally of interest to me. I have no idea what my testosterone levels are but perhaps the next time I visit my doctor for a check-up I'll ask him.
All I can say is that my times improved across the board until 2008, when I set most of my best times, and since then I have improved my time for the 50 Breast, 50 free and 50 back but everything else has gone slightly backward, apart from the 200 IM , which I swam successfully for the first time last year, thus setting personal records in both long course and short course, which I am hoping to improve on this year. Hope springs eternal and I hope to improve everything else as well. I will know soon how much my hope is justified, because my first meet of the year is only a few weeks away now.
Generally speaking, it does seem that the progression has to be downwards, although there are plenty of older swimmers who are much faster than I am, so my view is that if they can do it, why shouldn't I? Did you see the reports of 91-year-old Maurine Kornfeld, who set a world record for the 800m in the World masters Championships last year in Riccione, Italy.
Here's her USMS record of swims, which I find impressive.
I have read that muscle can be built even in the ancient if they do resistance exercises. I prefer bodyweight exercises myself, although I used to do weights when I was younger. Maybe I should return to them, but I feel that for swimming technique is more important than strength. It also helps if there is someone of approximately the same standard in the same race to pull you along. Unfortunately very few over here are of my low standard.
Do either of you have stats on your fat% now compared to a few years ago, so that you can measure numerically any muscle loss?
I had a big shock here this week. My last fitness test was in 1998 and I remember I was 81kg with a body fat of 12%
This week I hit 82kg for the first time (on the way down from 90kg) and was thinking I was in the same shape as I was in my twenties since I was training so much.
Sadly, I remembered that we had bought a fancy scales that also measures fat content and water content. I put in my stats and then get a shock, fat content 22%, or 8kg more fat than 15 years ago.
I will neglect strength training no more. I hope this statistic will change quickly with a bit of gym work and muscle memory?
Since taking up swimming seriously in 2006 and discovering TI I have lost more than 28 pounds, most of which is probably fat, I suppose. I haven't got exact figures because I forgot what I weighed before the momentous discovery.
I am now a few pounds lighter than I was two years ago and am trying to steadily reduce a pound or so at a time by eating mainly healthy food but not embarking on any agressive dieting.
In the 'sixties I lost a lot of weight on a diet that claimed to be a Mayo Clinic diet but actually wasn't endorsed by the Mayo Clinic I gather. If tyou search for Mayo Clinic diet on line you will find a description of it, basically a high protein low carbohydrate diet. I can tell you that it does or did work, but I soon regained all the weight I had lost so I guess a lot of the weight lost was water but I did feel very good on it and it was relatively easy to follow if you lived alone but eating with friends or in my case my then first wife's family was disastrous. The plan I'm on now is relatively easy to follow because nothing is actually forbidden although some foods should be avoided if possible.
My idea is that if I lose two pounds every month by the end of the year I will be close to my ideal weight - still a little above probably, but the situation can reviewed if the plan is successful.
I have a weighing scale that purports to tell me my body composition but I don't have much faith in it. I can tell just by grabbing the spare tyre that there is fat to be lost without doubt. In one of my swimming books there is a method of determining your body composition by measuring your neck, wrist and waist I think and also height and weight. Using that method I got a slighter more cheerful reading than my scales gave me.
The fact that there are several body weight exercises that I used to be able to do when I was younger and can't do now tells me that I have lost some strength.
Nevertheless, I feel that I ought to be able to swim as fast as a 91-year old woman from California, even if she was a hot swimmer in her youth. Just now she would beat me hollow in virtually all freestyle events. Oh ignominy! ;-)
Richard and Andy
I gave my age as 78 as that is my "swimming" age in Canada. In meets you are the age you are on Dec 31 of that year. My actual birthday (Sep 23) is pretty close to yours.
I do body weight exercises on my off swimming days. Swim every M,W,F. This gives me good recovery time and I feel eager to go each swim morning. The two day layoff over the weekend results in me feeling really strong on the Monday. About three years ago I pulled the long head tendon of my left biceps muscle doing really fast push-ups. The sports medicine Dr said that I should not do anymore push-ups, dips or pull-ups. In the last year I have gradually worked up to over 20 baby push-ups (knees on the floor). These are pain free and makes me feel I am at least doing something for my arm strength. Since the injury my fly times have gone down the most. Would like to hear if anyone has another approach to arm strength.
As our age group 75-79 is somewhat small in numbers I use the swimmers in the adjoining lanes in races to either push me or pull me. Usually the seed times are close to mine so I get the competitive juices going.
Andy. I had a body fat reading about 25 years ago when I was a distance runner and it was 14. About a month ago I found one of those scales you mentioned it said I was 25% body fat. I am 5ft 9in and 170 lbs. with some hint of belly fat but not much. When I suck in my belly it is flat, so I was shocked at that reading. Have begun some of the 4 hour body kettle bell routine. Starting at the 20 lb weight. Have had to back off as it seemed to agravate my lower back. Today I resumed it and am feeling good so maybe slow and easy is best.
I am still torn as to whether to concentrate on 50, 100 and 200m races or to go after 200, 400, 800, 1500 races. From 200m up I use a two beat kick and on the 50 and 100m races I do a very rapid flutter kick. Have not even tried to master the 6beat kick.
Running always melted the belly fat off but that is no longer possible for me as it really bothers my lower back.
Good luck to you both on your quests. Maybe by opening up the issue of what to do when one has maxed out their speed and is on the downward slope some light can be focused on methods to slow down the slide.
Aging and Distance per Stroke
This research may be of interest and very TI orientated.
The research published inthe European Journal of Applied Physiology looked at swimming efficiency measures including the energy cost (energy used) of swimming, stroke frequency and distance per stroke, as well as measuring factors affecting resistance to moving through the water. They looked at these factors in 47 male masters swimmers aged 31-85 years of age.
What did they find
Stroke frequency (strokes per 25m) was no different between any age group. However, distance per stroke dropped steadily with age from 2.3m in the youngsters (30-40 years) to 1.6m in the 70-80 years age group. The message is clear. The older we become the more we need to focus on technique, and especially distance per stroke.
Source: Zamparo, P. et al; (2012). The determinants of performance in master swimmers: a cross-sectional study on the age-related changes in propelling efficiency, hydrodynamic position and energy cost of front crawl. European Journal of Applied Physiology. Published online 17th March.
It is that little niggling voice in the back of my head that says "maybe there is something else".
Isn't TI strength training?
aged (nearly 62) just between Andy, Grand and Richardsk, happy to find time 3-5 times per week for 30-45min swimming, I have a permanent tiny muscle soreness all over the time. My othopaedist says: Fine for your spine!
Never did any special special strength training. So I feel swimming TI (or at least trying it) is strength training by itself, isn't it?
But what I watch with sadness: Recovery time after a gap of one or more weeks takes longer every year. (Just started after 5 weeks off the pool, argh...)
I question whether swimming alone can provide the human body with the required stress that facilitates optimal bone and muscle health, especially as we age. From my studies and research as a personal trainer, I believe that regular weight bearing exercises are one of the keys to healthy bones and muscles (sound diet and aerobic capacity being two others). How you incorporate this into your life and what type of exercises you do are important, as doing it incorrectly can lead to injury and diminished health.
I tend to agree with Andy, in that maximal effort training will definitely not benefit most people in the long term - especially the elderly. As far as optimal bone and muscle health goes, I advocate lifting around 80% of your one rep max - I normally suggest 5 reps 3-4 sets with at least 3 minutes rest between sets and up to 4 different exercises. I worked as a tree surgeon before becoming a TI coach, so I'm a big fan of exercises that mimic natural outdoor activity - isn't this what we were designed for?
Any weight training routine should be designed in light of your general health and exercise history. I always recommend a programme to develop aerobic fitness before introducing weight bearing exercises.
The healthiest and most agile in old age are those who include significant physical activity as part of their normal day. The difference between sedentary and active people in old age is startling - in my twenties I worked regularly with a 64 year old who could erect fence stakes faster than I could!
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