Archive for June, 2008

Swimming – proper technique

June 28, 2008

I wanted to give myself something to work on while swimming Saturday rather than just thrashing about in the pool again. So I did some research on it. Who am I to do research and not share? Enjoy this if you are thinking of entering a triathlon and don’t know much about proper swimming technique (yep that’s me).

But First, My Results

Using all that I learned from info below I improved my swimming to the point where I get more laps without choking on the water when trying to breathe. My times for 1/2/4 laps improved from 0:25/1:10/2:45 to 0:21/0:50/2:20. I think I figured out part of my getting tired problem. I do this workout after I lift weights for the day, and of course part of the goal with the weights is to do two sets of 15 reps to the point that each and every muscle is separately brought to the point where it can lift no more or is close to not being able to. This might explain the feeling of not being able to pull myself through the water for long periods of time without getting to the point where I feel like I can’t keep it up.

I still have the serious problem that I am not able to find a rhythm at a slower pace. I try and go slower and breathing every 3rd stroke becomes too far in between breaths to wait. I tried to go 2-3-2-3 which has the effect of breathing twice on each side then switching. It helped a bit but I just don’t know if it’s going to work for me yet. As to some of the commentary below which I wrote before I left to swim, I found that I get across the pool in about 22-24 strokes. Apparently I have a long way to go to improve my stroke length. I did a total of 500 yards this time with lots of breaks, as in every 1, 2, or 4 laps. It took 35 minutes but I think I rested more than 20 minutes of that time. Roughly estimating my total swimming time I think it was just about 10 minutes, which sort of proves that my pace is too fast. I need to start adding more laps to each set rather than stopping so much. This will force me to swim slower and get better at it. Next week I will do a set of 10 laps at some point which is half of the sprint triathlon swimming leg. I would like to think that I can do it in about 5 minutes. Obviously this will be pushing it since there is no rest in between, but I think if I do this before the weights I will have a bit more stamina.

What I found on Proper Swimming Technique

Here is a primer on how to swim and why efficiency is important. 

Very funny in that they suggest a nice warm up for a 2000 meter workout and it totals that on it’s own. Warm up or the whole thing it is more than I am going to be swimming. I need to race 500 meters in my triathlon, so I seriously doubt I will be swimming more than 1000 as a workout. Besides, my technique is so bad, I get the same amount of exercise from a 300 meter workout that a real swimmer would get in 1500 meters.

Check out this little tidbit of the workout:

10×50 freestyle: Rest 30-60 seconds. Count the number of strokes with each 50 meter interval and try not to exceed 22 strokes. Remember, good swimmers swim fast because of a long stroke length! Your goal should be to reduce the number of strokes you take in 50 meters.

Besides the fact that my entire workout consisted of just over half of this this little bit, I am supposed to get all the way across the pool in 11 strokes. Yeah right. I will have to count and see how many above 50 I am.

Here is a story about a California celeb learning to swim for a triathlon.

Here is a 5 part primer on swimming freestyle. The guy is hung up on the forearm and how long it is vertical so apparently that is an important part of the stroke.

Here is a swimmer talking about the dreaded dropped elbow, which basically means your forearm is not vertical.

Here is a link on how to practise to make your kick better.

You Tube Breathing tutorial

After you read all of these is it nice to see videos of proper swimming technique.

Mark Foster
Ian Thorpe
free style kicking

I have a feeling this swimming thing is going to be a lot like golf or bowling where you know all the moves you need to make but then tend to focus on one or two to the detriment of the others without a ton of practice.


South Beach Diet – Science of Fats

June 27, 2008

In honor of one of my favorite shows on the radio, called Science Friday, I decided to do a little research today, Friday, into my diet in a scientific direction.

I wanted to look into the science behind the south beach diet. The post got so long I broke it up into 2 parts. In this post I will discuss Fat.

South Beach Diet

The goal of the diet as it was developed as reported by Dr. Agatston, in his book, was to create a diet that had as few rules as possible and was flexible and simple. It is supposed to allow people to eat the way they actually want to eat while improving their blood chemistry and lose weight over the long run.  

The basic science of the diet on a macro-nutrient level is that there is good fat and bad fat. Eat the good stuff, and limit the bad stuff, the diet is that simple. You can get a list of what is good and bad but behind these lists is a bit of science. The Fats are all about specific details of the cholesterol and whether or not the fat is saturated or not. Things you can easily find on the nutrition labels.

All of these topics are covered in the first section of the South Beach Diet book. There is also a new book out.

Now let’s dive a bit deeper into the details of how the diet works.

FAT – Cholesterol

There are two kinds of cholesterol, HDL and LDL, again good and bad. The bad cholesterol has another, not so well known attribute, that makes it go from bad to worse and that is the size of the LDL particles. The smaller the particles, the easier they can scoot on into the aterial lining and start a build up that leads to heart attacks. Here is a quote from David Gilbert:

those with the smallest and most dense LDL particles–had more than three times the risk of heart attack as the quintile with the largest LDL particles.

The whole point can be boiled down to a phrase that everyone is familiar with and understands:

size does matter

LDL size that is, and yes, bigger is better. But is there even a way to find out how big your LDL is? Yes, there are three ways to test. Best bet though is to just ask your doctor if she can do the test.

I don’t care one lick if you tell me I got bad genes if I can’t do anything about it. How do I improve the number?

Diets that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, regular aerobic exercise, and loss of excess body fat have been determined to decrease the number of small LDL particles and increase the number of large LDL particles in the blood.

So for me and my current goals, yippee, I don’t have to do anything. It’s a by product of my real goal of removing excess body fat and a method I have chosen to do that called regular aerobic exercise. For you, maybe this is the last straw that puts you on the same path as me.

FAT – Saturation

The first section on fat was more about the details of cholesterol than on what type of fat to eat. The South Beach Diet signature is how easy it is to follow without having to know any of this type of stuff. What you do need to know is how saturated the fat you eat is. Here is the deal. Saturated fat, Bad. Trans-fat, Worse. Monounsaturated fat, good. Polyunsaturated fat, better.

In the old days, before butter was bad for us, they didn’t hydrogenate the vegatable oils so they would be a nice spread at certain temperatures. We humans are so picky though, our butter is to hard to spread so some jackass invented this wonderfully unhealthy process to make vegetable oil deadly. Brilliant. Well, alright they did it so food wouldn’t spoil so fast and so twinkies can have a shelf life of 30 years too.

The thing about the hydrogination process is that it creates trans fats and saturated fats out of what was good fats. Hydrogenation is a chemical process. The fat molecule was mono or poly unsaturated because it didn’t have the hydrogen attached to one or more of the carbon atoms, we are sticking it back in in this process. Worse, the process “nukes” the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which just so happen to be about the best thing an oil might have in it. Get this, the fully hydrogenated fat is not a problem other than it is saturated but it is so hard it is more like a plastic than a fat. So they only partially hydrogenate it to make it the creamy blend you know and love.

The partially hydrogonated oil has a new man made product in it called trans fatty acids, nature does not create this stuff. It takes a heated oil in a chamber pressurized with hydrogen gas with nickel as a catalyst present to sit stewing for hours. This cannot be good. Unless of course you are the manufacturer and need to produce a gazillion pounds of a product that will last longer on the shelf and have a nicely creamy texture that people will choose over something healthier because it is too runny or too hard. Would you ever buy a bag of chips ahoy that was made with unsaturated fats? Not after you found out it would probably go rancid in a few days since they didn’t use saturated fats. The solution? Make your own cookies, at least you will burn a few calories running to the kitchen every time the smoke alarm goes off.

Trans fats are just not good for us. Any processing of the oil, something that makes it last longer in the shelf, degrades the healthiness of the oil

Why are unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats good for us? They don’t do all of the bad things that you have heard and thought was caused by all fats in general. They don’t increase the risk of heart attacks or stroke and so on. Face it humans need fat to live, this is how the body works. Its normal, its natural, fat is not to be avoided at all, only the worst fats are. It is more an exercise in common sense if you think about it this way…

Don’t eat oils that have been placed in a pressure cooker with an explosive gas and nickel metal for hours to make them harder. Now is that so hard to believe?

Now as for saturated fats, there is going to be some consumption. That is just how animals and even some plants are made. We eat them we get some. The key here is to eat less. Put another way make sure of all the fat you eat that less than one third is saturated fat because saturated fats are twice as bad as unsaturated fats are good. [The “because they are twice as bad” comes from somewhere in the SBD book I could not confirm online due to the fatigue in my muscles after all this typing…]

Next week I will be tackling Carbs and all the glycemic index-load-yada yada. This stuff is so interesting to me… can you tell?

So I want anyone with a science question to help me out after that and think of a topic for me to research. That’s right I will do free research on Fridays, so ask me something to research, and it’s yours…

Taking Sugar to the Moon

June 26, 2008

I did my first run, it was hard. It was probably not truly considered running, but if you heard the thunderous sound that was coming from the room I have my treadmill in you might be willing to to agree that I at least stampeded for 1 mile in 12:19.

It was kind of funny cause I got myself confused on the distance and I was starting to consider dropping the speed down cause I though I had 1 1/2 laps left, but I actually had a half a lap left so I sped it up. How much of this stuff is in my head anyway? I can’t accurately measure my heart rate when running at home, but I bet I got it up to what is considered 100% for my age if not more at some point there. I will have to take this running stuff slow at first cause I was feeling it in my shins with just this little bit. But don’t worry about me, there is little chance I will spontaneously jump up and run 5 miles right now anyway.

It sure felt good. I felt it in my stomach muscles which I thought was weird. I think it was cause I had eaten too recently that I had trouble, but I still felt it in my muscles this morning so it wasn’t only that. To which I was happy to find that I got down to 214.8. I managed to avoid the late night eating, with three close calls.

I am doing the weights again tonight, I think I will try to get my bike ride in here so I can get all my stats figured out. I am sure you saw my new image as a banner, I am going to try and update it with my current stats each time I reach better numbers and have a few minutes.

It is amazing how the workouts we do add up to great things over time. My dad, who passed away last year, did something I thought was pretty cool with his exercise bike. He would keep track of all the miles and as they added up he would put where he was on a tour of the US. I don’t think he went any great distances on a given day, but he had so many of them he was on his second tour of the US.

I don’t know if I have the time or inclination to keep good enough records but would it be fun to do some of these things:

  1. “Walk” 500 miles (if you like the Proclaimers)
  2. “Run” the Indy 500
  3. “Bike” from the north pole to the south pole
  4. “Swim” the Amazon river
  5. “Lift” a 10 pound bag of sugar to the moon

Anyone else got an idea?