Need advice on lap swimming

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    Sep 24, 2008 4:34 AM GMT
    I've decided to get back into lap swimming after an absence of decades. Used to swim a lot back in high school. Problem is, I've got a chronically bad shoulder (rotator cuff). I'm afraid if I go too hard too soon I'll just reinjure it. So, here's a few questions:

    Any suggestions on how to slowly ease into the workouts? The pool at my gym is completely empty much of the time so I can pretty much do whatever I want. Eventually I'd like to be doing something like 1000 yards at a time, but I can't even think about that now.

    The shoulder problems have left me with a slightly limited range of motion on the right side (hard to go the full 360 without pain). I've always taken breaths on the left, but I thought maybe if I switched over and breathed on the right it might go easier. Does that make any sense? If so, is there an easy way to train myself to breathe on the "wrong" side?

    Any other advice for training with a bad shoulder - or maybe some recent wisdom on swimming efficiently? After all, I haven't been coached in swimming for over 30 years.

    Thanks guys.
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    Sep 24, 2008 3:16 PM GMT
    swimming is used by several injured athletes and disabled people for rehabilitation due to it's lack of impact during workouts and it's complete workout out to the body. I suggest getting professional advice before you start.
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    Sep 24, 2008 6:59 PM GMT
    Thanks, by professional advice do you mean a doctor, a physical therapist, or a swim coach?

    Actually I might have made myself sound more decrepit than I really am. I do a full workout in the gym, although I've cut out mil press and heavy bench press (I use the Smith machine now, and keep the weight light). I go out and paddle a mile on my surfboard a couple times a week - it's great for rehab. I see getting back into the pool as more of a small step than a giant leap, but even so I know I have to start slow and ease into it.

    To be honest I've done a lot better figuring things out for myself than following advice from doctors and therapists - after all, it's my shoulder, and I can tell a lot better than they can what exercise works and what doesn't.
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    Sep 24, 2008 7:14 PM GMT
    I'd check out a sports medical facility if there's one near you. I went to one a little while ago. They had chiropractors, physical therapists, a large full gym, all kinds of therapeutic machinery, and massage therapists. They can probably help you with that rotator cuff problem. You might also want to speak to a yoga instructor, who might be able to give you some advice.
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    Sep 24, 2008 7:25 PM GMT
    had random but reoccurring shoulder issues as a swimmer most of my life. As noted above swimming is low impact and I suspect you could work through your issue in a few sessions' time provided you don't go all balls to the walls and try and crank out thousands of yards a day. Ease back in to the water and remember to do all those stretches in a warm up or warm down. I Wouldn't presume to tell you just swim it off as your problem may need some medical attention but when I gave up competition and just swam to stay in shape I would pick up a board and do some heavy kicking stuff if I felt some shoulder discomfort coming on. dolphin kick is great for hips and stomach (try flipping over on your back or turning on your side and do some butterfly kicks, you'll feel it where you want to soon enough. Straight up freestyle kick sprints is good cardio and keeps the ass good and firm, too.
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    Sep 25, 2008 12:38 AM GMT
    Thanks again, I appreciate the suggestions. I've been considering yoga because I know a lot of surfers who swear by it - surfing is a very asymmetrical activity that can easily throw your body out of whack.

    Hmmm, does it really look like I need to firm up my ass?
  • Aquanerd

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    Sep 30, 2008 11:40 PM GMT
    riptjock saidThanks again, I appreciate the suggestions. I've been considering yoga because I know a lot of surfers who swear by it - surfing is a very asymmetrical activity that can easily throw your body out of whack.

    Hmmm, does it really look like I need to firm up my ass?


    Dude,
    There ain't nothing that looks like it needs "firming." They only reason I didn't chuck it all after seeing your pics was to realize I had 6 years to work my ass off to try and get in half the shape your in.

    As for a swimming, I agree with the other guys. Just get in and start. Before or after your normal workout gt in the pool a swim just a few laps. Work it slow and easy. Don't worry about getting a workout in the pool. Work on the amazing stretching you can get from swimming. Any guy that lifts, should get in the water afterward.
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    Oct 01, 2008 12:24 AM GMT
    have you considered a different stroke? given your range of motion concerns, I'm thinking butterfly is out, but maybe breast or side? you can still get a good workout in even using a so-called "resting" stroke.
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    Oct 01, 2008 12:56 AM GMT
    Well, you're in Hermosa Beach, so there's no shortage of knowledgable swimmers in SoCal. I would suggest looking in to the local masters teams (search SPMA or USMS) and finding a coach who would be willing to work on your stroke technique. Some clubs, like WH2O, also hold stroke clinics on occasion.

    Hearing that you spend a lot of time paddling on surfboards, it's no surprise that you have strained rotator cuffs. Proper front crawl in the pool (without a board) is a lot less stressful on the shoulders if you're rolling along the long axis of your body to allow for a more relaxed recovery phase.

    It would definitely be worth the investment to hire a coach for even one private stroke clinic (see if you can find one with an underwater camera), or if that's too costly, find a team that is offering a clinic. From there you can build your endurance up at your own pace with less worry of reinjuring it.
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    Oct 03, 2008 4:39 PM GMT
    You're right of course, there are lots of great swimmers here, and I've had some very good advice from a couple of lifeguard buddies - but they've never had my shoulder problems. I came on here mainly to see if I could find someone who successfully worked through a similar situation. Having said that, I very much appreciate all the helpful suggestions.

    By the way, paddling a surfboard is MUCH less stressful to my shoulder than swimming the crawl, because I don't have to bring my arm all the way around and up over my head. Paddling isn't what caused my problems; I started doing it as rehab - and it's been by far the most effective rehab method I've found. Much better than the standard rubber band and light dumbbell exercises that everyone tells you to do for rotator cuff (yeah I've spent loads of time on all of them). Maybe that's because my injury is to the frontmost of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff group.
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    Oct 12, 2008 5:38 AM GMT
    to the part about the breathing: back in high school couple years ago the coach had us do freestyle where every third stroke you took a breath. basically, 1-2-breathe, 1-2-breathe.. alternating the sides where we took a breath. it took some time to adjust for me because it didnt feel natural to turn my head to the left to breathe, but after a while it became easier. might try that?
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    Oct 14, 2008 6:01 AM GMT
    Okay,
    I find that when I'm swimming laps, I start to panic with my breathing. I started out doing the whole 3 strokes per breath, but now I train with alternating when I breath. Here is a sample routine I've been doing for the past few days which I have really been focusing on calming my breathing down and streching the time between when I'm breathing:

    300 sw (free style swimming, anystroke; however, it is intended for front crawl)
    300 pull (this is where you need a pool-bouyant [or "pool-boy"] and paddles for you hands to help increase the diameter of the surface area of your hands. It also increases the resistance of each stroke)
    10-200 sci 20 or at 4:00min. (swim 200 hundred meters with either 20 seconds of rest inbetween or whatever time is left after you have swam 200metres, as long as it is under the 4mins)
    500 meters broken down by swimming- 100 zipper (watch your arm position/glide it up yoru body and reach/extend your hand forward. It is as if you are zipping up something on your side, on the return from the down stroke)
    -100 b5/b7 alt 25 (Every 25 metres you are going to alternate when you breath. The first 25 metres you breath on every 5th stroke. The next you breath on the 7th stroke, and the thrid back to 5th etc.)
    -100 fist (clench your hand into a fist and swim with fists instead of an open palm)
    -100 zipper
    -100 b5/b7 alt 25
    400 metres sw (free style swim/front crawl focussing on your stroke and what you have learned through the above exercises.)
    200m - cool down. free style swim.

    If you are starting out swimming again, I would modify this workout. This is approx. 3.7km lap swimming. I work with athletes as a Licensed Massage Therapist, if you have any questions please e-mail me.

    Dave
    LMT/RMT
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    Oct 14, 2008 6:02 AM GMT
    Ps.
    I COMPLETELY AGREE swimming is a TOTAL BODY workout.
    If anyone has other fun exercises regarding swim technique, I am open to reading them and then trying them.

    Dave