I love swimming. I’ve always swam since a young kid, but I’ve never been any good. At best I could swim a lap or two before feeling completely out of breath. As for the breathing, my style was unorthodox to say the least. I would lurk my head up and forwards and then bring it around the left (never the right) before diving it back under the water again. Suffice to say my neck suffered and I soon gave up.
Hi, this Dr. Andrew Arnold from Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre.
I want to talk about my swimming journey and managing what I call ‘swimmers’ neck.
About 12 months ago I decided to get good at swimming once and for all. I joined my local swimming venue and started on the laps. At first it was the same old problem. My technique sucked, and my neck pain was not good. In fact, my entire left neck and shoulder complex was in constant spasm and pain and my spine subluxated.
So, I decided to start watching other swimmers, the squad guys and got on YOUTUBE and watched the Olympians. My focus was freestyle and later breast stroke.
It actually wasn’t rocket science. There were several basic principles none of which I was doing.
I made a pact to swim 3x per week every week no matter what and my goal was 40x25m with only one break. That was 12 months ago.
At first it was clumsy. In particular I needed to re-adapt to bilateral neck turning. Turning just one side was creating what I call ‘swimmers’ neck’. This is when your sterno-cliedo-mastoid muscles on one side is repeatedly twisted and shortened causing it to cramp and subluxate-fixate-sprain your upper cervical spinal joints.
So, I kept thinking one lap at a time, just slow it down and focus on technique. Of course, like any habit I just kept wanting to turn left so to speed things up I started ‘tapping’.
Tapping or EFT (emotional freedom techniques) is used to re-program the brain for all sorts of reasons, from phobia’s to addictions, from trauma recovery to improving sport performance. My wife, Dr. Linda Wilson uses this in her work at our practice (www.drlindawilson.com).
At the end of each lap I stopped and tapped, engraining my new-found technique in my neurology. It was working.
After 3 weeks I found I could bilaterally breath, I was on my way to reaching my goal.
My next challenge was equipment. I started developing chronic swimmers’ ear which led to ear infections and tinnitus. After professional ear cleaning and medically prescribed drops a patient at my practice suggested ‘doc’s pro-plugs’. I haven’t looked back. These comfortably plug my ears without pushing wax deep inside. Next was eye wear. Most goggles are just too small. The skin around our eyes are super thin and sensitive and goggles really irritate this. I started using a larger goggle called ‘Vista’. Seals beautifully and instantly and comfortably.
At this point I was starting to knock over 10 or so laps without a break, but not reaching 40.
Again, I looked to the internet and noticed swimmers using hand paddles. These not only provide momentum in the water, they keep your technique really true and build endurance.
Other props I reckon worth trying include paddle board so that you can focus on leg kicking; flippers so you build your kicking; inner thigh foam separator to help build your upper body, swimming caps for a greater glide thru the water and the proper swim attire – you don’t want baggy, saggy, floppy, clingy bathers, trust me!
So, with the kit right, the technique right things were looking good.
Fast forward to today and it’s a very different story.
I now swim 80×25 (or 50M if available ) without breaking and without breaking a sweat. My record is 4km non-stop using paddles. I bilaterally breath effortlessly and easily and just love it. It’s a meditation for me.
My next challenge is 5km in 90 minutes.
To achieve this, I’m starting high level interval swimming, i.e. fast and slow laps. I also throw in breast stroke.
Recently also, I’ve started weight training prior to swimming. Swimming is non-weight bearing of course, and therefore does little to help build bone strength. Specific swim gym techniques are a great adjunct, and necessary.
Finally, make sure you use an anti-chlorine shampoo in the shower room afterwards. Helps keep your hair and skin healthy.
Good luck with your swimming.
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About the Author:
Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor and ACTP accredited Business Coach.
Andrew is married to Dr. Linda Wilson, the Stress Specialist and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.
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