The struggle for balance between academics and athletics is a challenge every swimmer faces. English Olympian Aimee Willmott exemplifies how it is possible to excel in both.
Last month Willmott, who studies at the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience at University of East London, had her dissertation published in The European Journal of Sports Science. The paper, which you can find here, is entitled “Transition phase clothing strategies and their effect on body temperature and 100-m swimming performance.”
Willmott tracked 9 swimmers (3 female, 6 male) through two separate sessions of a 30 minute warm up, followed by 30 minutes of rest before a 100 meter primary-stroke sprint. In the first session, the athletes wore only a t-shirt while resting for the sprint, while in the second they wore a t-shirt, sweatshirt, pants, gloves, socks and sneakers.
The results? All that clothing kept the athletes’ warmed up muscles…warm. Core temperatures measured right after warm up were better maintained through the “transition phase” of waiting to race, and translated to a 0.59% performance improvement across the 9 swimmers’ average times.
The following table shows the difference in reaction time and time/m between the swimmers wearing limited clothing vs warm clothing before racing:
Click to Enlarge:
0.59% might not sound like a lot, but in a minute long race that translates to 0.37 seconds, and we all know the tremendous difference a third of a second can make in a short race like the 100 free.
Here is Willmott’s conclusion:
“Swimmers can be advised that combining active pool warms up with a warm clothing transition phase strategy is a useful way to maintain warm-up benefits and maximize sprint-swimming performance. A warm clothing strategy attenuated the decline in Ttympanic [ear temp] and Tskin during a 30-min transition phase, improving 100-m swimming performance by 0.59% (0.37 s).”
What we should gather from this is that wearing warm clothing and keeping core body temperature high between the time you exit the warm up pool and when you dive in for your race can make a recordable difference in time for (at least) primary sprinting events.
Willmott recently won both the 200 and 400 IMs at the Swim England Winter Championships. Her times of 2:12.05 and 4:36.89, respectively, fell below the qualifying standards for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April.
Willmott currently trains at the University of Stirling.