Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Swim Partner

Today I showed a friend to the pool where I workout. He used to compete on a swim team as a student (high school, yes. but I'm not sure about college), and he hasn't swam regularly for about 5 years. Nevertheless, he certainly knew what he was doing and I'd say the two of us are at about the same fitness level. The only differences are (1) he can do flip turns and I am only learning that with my coach now, and (2) I have better endurance at this point. I swam 1000 yards today, and since Brett was keeping up, I think he went that distance, too.

The benefit of having a workout partner is now so obvious to me. When I wanted to rest, Brett was still swimming. That shortened my rest period between laps. I imagine he was pushed to do more by having someone in the next lane, too.

Brett had a racing suit. I want one, too. But I'm not officially training for a race, so it would seem a little overkill for me at this point. It's like an L.L.Bean catalog: the only people who seem to buy L.L.Bean products these days are the people who want to look like professional outdoorsmen and women. But real professionals buy equally rugged but cheaper gear from other outlets. My jab at L.L.Bean aside, now I'm thinking I might have this wrong. There are lots of cyclists who go out and buy form-fitting Lycra shirts and pants, even though they never enter a race. The clothes improve one's aerodynamics (or hydrodynamics in the case of a swimsuit), and there is some aid to muscle form through the compression (As a scientist I'd like to see research on this). But neither of these benefits are biologically significant. Maybe the racing swimsuits help a swimmer shave a second off their lap times. Maybe Lycra spandex cycling outfits increase one's speed by 1 mph. The improvement is real, but too small for non-competitive athletes to worry about.  I think most swimmers and cyclists wear these outfits because it gives them a psychological incentive to perform competitively, even if they never sign up for a race.

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