Swimming is great form of cardiovascular exercise as it allows the heart to get pumping as you endure a whole body workout. It is a fantastic way to start exercising if you’re getting back into an exercise regime or if you’re returning to exercise from injury (regardless of the body part affected). Being in the water allows you to move your body without the force of gravity having an impact on your joints. Walking / running / riding are all great forms of exercise however, they can put a lot of strain on the body ultimately making it difficult to persist with that form of exercise due to soreness in various body parts which can become affected.
Swimming doesn’t necessarily mean following the black line straight up and down for hours on end. It can mean staying in the shallow water (hip and/or waist deep) doing some gentle walking or even moving into the deep end to do some deep water running. Either way, you are moving your body with minimal force on the joints.
A common injury that is seen amongst swimmers is what is known as ‘swimmer’s shoulder’. This does not only affect the most elite of swimmers but also those who are new to swimming and don’t quite have the strength in their shoulders yet. Swimmer’s shoulder refers to the rotator cuff muscles (a group of 4 muscles which assists in moving the shoulder in various directions) which can become overused, strained and/or impinged in the subacromial space, giving the individual pain when lifting the arm overhead.
If you are keen to smash out some laps at the local pool or even in the bay, below are some tips to consider in order to minimise your risk to injury:
- Do a good warm up. On dry land, do some arm swings, stretch through the neck and shoulders, maybe even do a few push ups – just to start getting the blood pumping to the area.
- Start small. If it’s been awhile since your last splash, start with swimming for 20-30 mins and then build up your frequency and duration slowly. The general rule is an increase in distance OR time by about 10% per week.
- Drills drills drills. Swimming drills are made to break down the bigger movement into smaller parts. They are also a great way to warm up and work on refining your technique and hence becoming more efficient in the water some drills include:
- Single arm. Great for freestyle and backstroke. Just make sure to do both arms!
- Kicking (with or without a kickboard); dolphin, frog and flutter kick are all great options and can be done on your back and/or front
- Pulling (arms only with or without a pull buoy)
- Using a snorkel. When doing freestyle, using a snorkel is a great way to avoid using the neck. It also allows you to have to not have to worry about timing which can be very tricky to say the least.
- Intervals. Intervals are a great way to work on increasing cardiovascular fitness as it creates spikes in heart rate. The intervals should include 90-95% max effort with a solid rest to then lower the heart rate.
If it’s an outdoor pool that you’re training in think of the vitamin D, increase in cardiovascular fitness, respite from the hot summer weather (although who knows in Melbourne!) not to mention you’ll be working on a killer tan as well. Can’t get much better than that!