Apr 092014
Swimmers should definitely avoid stretch #2 and #4!

Swimmers should definitely avoid stretch #2 and #4!

I get a lot of questions about whether swimmers should stretch and which stretches they should do. I’m doing some research into this. I do know I’ve heard that “static stretching” is not beneficial in warm up and, in fact, can cause harm. I’ve also read that static stretching has a role and that would be in post workout. Here are some articles I found today while pursuing the web on this topic. Click the titles to jump to the online article. As I get more information and links, I’ll add to this posting.

General Static Stretching is a Waste of Time (a 4-part series)

Reasons Not to Stretch – NY Times

How does Static Stretching Affect an Athlete’s Performance?

 Top 5 Worst Stretching Mistakes

Jul 212013

We swimmers do joke that chlorine is our perfume. I mean seriously, we reek! Pool_Chlorine_OdorLg

Well, one of our swimmer friends has found a very cool and very inexpensive way to make your own product to remove that chlorine yuckiness from your hair and skin. This was posted recently by ElaineK on the USMS discussion forums. If you are a member, you can read the full discussions between Elaine and other swimmers here.

There is a product on the market to remove chlorine from hair and skin (Swim Spray) that costs $12.95 for a 4oz bottle, on their website. If you look at the ingredients of Swim Spray, there are only two: Water and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

After doing a few minutes of research online, I learned that I could make my own spray by adding 1 tsp. of Vitamin C crystals to a pint spray bottle of water. I just purchased a bottle of Vitamin C crystals from Trader Joe’s for $11.99. I am going to use my empty 2oz. free sample of Swim Spray to refill it with my own mix for a cost of about $0.13 per bottle (there are 908- 1/8 teaspoons in the bottle of crystals)!

$0.13 vs $6.50 for 2 ounces of Swim Spray. That gives you an idea of how much $ goes into packaging, marketing, salaries, and all of the other overhead expenses to bring a product to market.

By the way, if you there is not a Trader Joe’s near you, Vitamin C crystals can be purchased online. Just use an empty travel size hairspray bottle, mix up a batch, and throw the bottle in your swim bag. After your swim, briefly rinse off in the shower, spray your hair and skin, wait a few seconds, then rinse. Now you can use your shampoo and body wash or soap as usual.

I would recommend mixing up just enough for a small (4oz or less) bottle at a time, so the Vitamin C doesn’t break down. Besides, it would be a lot easier to carry around than a big spray bottle.

Jul 142013

Women’s Health had an interesting article on a study done about what it takes to get us to avoid some of those tempting comfort foods. You know, those really yummy things like  pizza, donuts, milkshakes, fries, cheeseburgers, cheesecake (and let’s be honest, probably anything “cheesy”). We’ve all seen the trend for restaurants to include some basic nutritional information on their menus or websites. Apparently, that isn’t enough of a motivator for us. So based on the study, Women’s Health came up with this visual guide. You can read more from the Women’s Health post by clicking this graphic below.

Next we’ll probably find out from some study that we need giant size posters like these EVERYWHERE to really penetrate our thick skulls. Or, we just do what we do  in Masters Swimming and say, “I swim to eat”, and throw in a couple of extra sets or work a little harder. Right?!

Eat Less

Jul 092013

Got a small potpourri of interesting health related information for this post. Y’all know I’m a big proponent of drinking water and staying hydrated. (Hey you, yeah you – bring your dang water to practice!) Well, here is a picture that landed on my Flipboard reading this morning. Just more reasons to keep drinking water.



FruitThen there is fruit. I have a LARGE sweet tooth and have always loved eating sweet things, including fruit. In fact, I eat several servings of fruit everyday. I used to count calories and know that some diets are big on eliminating “sugar” foods, including fruit, from your diet. Got kind of discouraging because fruit contains sugar (albeit natural sugar) and can carry a calorie count. Well let me say how heartened I was when I read this article from ABC World News. No time to read the article? Here are the main points:

  1. Fruit eaters tend to have lower BMIs – even less than pure veggie eaters. So there!
  2. Fruit is packed with water and fiber – its naturally occurring sugar is less concentrated. Hallelujah! And…if that isn’t enough, oftentimes that sugar comes with valuable protective substances (such as those you find in Mangos which can protect against breast and colon cancer cells)
  3. “Fruit has awesome antioxidants” . As they say in the article, “The smartest strategy is to not only eat fruit, but to mix it up.” Oh yeah, that I do!
  4. Fruit has beauty benefits – ok, so this is a work in progress on my part. Supposed to give you good skin – even for us with Irish heritage? Get out!
  5. Fruit provides endurance-boosting energy. Say no more, I’m hooked!

And finally, as I get older (and hopefully wiser), I’m trying to find more natural products to do some of the “jobs” at home. Check out this chart on ways to use common items in your home for cleaning, personal care/beauty, or for dietary/medicinal applications.




Jun 092013


Click photo for a USA Swimming article on the importance of hydration

Click photo for a USA Swimming article on the importance of hydration

I know I’m most likely “preaching to the choir” here, but I’m forging ahead anyway! I just returned from teaching a Level 3 USMS Coaches Certification course in Alexandria, Virginia. We had the incredible opportunity of having Dr. Jim Miller attend the class.  (Past President of USMS, Orthopedic Surgeon, Swim Coach, FINA-USA-USMS expert on Shoulders and Shoulder Injuries and other Sports Science topics.) We called upon him to present the last portion of the class which was on injury prevention and rehabilitation. By the way, if you haven’t heard him talk or seen his work on shoulders, you should. His knowledge is amazing! For example, did you know that 60-85% of Masters swimmers will have a shoulder injury that keeps them out of the water one week or more?

In his talk, hydration was a major focal point. Time and time again in his presentation, Dr. Miller stressed the need for staying hydrated – before practice, during practice, and after practice. It is absolutely an essential part of our overall well being. Get up in the morning and drink a full glass of water. Your system was dormant during the night and dries out. You need to replenish your cells with water. According to a Chicago Tribune story (posted June 5th), the Centers for Disease Control came out with a study saying that nearly half of Americans are not drinking enough water. Their study showed that 43% of adults drink less than 4 cups a day – not nearly enough.

And for those of you that pop Aleve, Advil or some other form of an NSAID, here is a frightening statistic from Dr. Miller. It is estimated that 40% of those on dialysis today are there because of NSAIDs. NSAIDs can be extremely hard on your kidneys. If you do take them, do so with plenty of water and don’t take them on an empty stomach. Don’t take them as preventative (oh, I’m going for my 3 mile swim, 5 mile run, or 25 mike ride and I know I’ll be sore). Wait to use them when the pain actually hits. Try for ice, heat, yoga, foam rollers, massage or other remedies to reduce your dependence on NSAIDs. Your kidneys will appreciate this.

You’ve got to bring water to practice, and you’ve got to make sure to drink it then and even after practice. No matter what time you workout, you should also give your body the fuel it needs to do the workout. We know it isn’t fun to swim on a full belly, or to even contemplate eating at 5 a.m., but you’ve got to do something. Dr. Miller’s suggestion is for a liquid meal even as simple as water mixed with some type of carbohydrate based drink along the lines of Gatorade, Powerade, or other brands you may prefer. Make it a 50-50 combination of water/drink to reduce calories and make it more palatable to your system that may not want much on board. You’ll have a better practice, and, most likely a better day if you get started by giving your body the energy it needs to work for you. (My go to pre workout is a banana topped with just a little almond butter – and, of course, a glass of water. :-) ) Click here to check out this article on What’s In Your Energy Drinks? on the USMS website. Pretty interesting!

Here are a couple of other snippets from Dr. Miller on shoulders. Our upper extremities provide up to 90% of our power and propulsion in our strokes. Because Masters swimmers often swim for decades, the chances that we will incur a serious shoulder injury are very high. Even small things, like sudden changes in our training regimen, can impact our shoulders. You are on a business trip and miss pool workouts for two weeks. On your return, you jump right in and resume at the level you left. This is pretty hard on your shoulders folks! Allow yourself to ease back that first practice or first few practices.

There are a lot of orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists who agree with Dr. Miller that it is very important for you to develop bilateral breathing to protect yourself. Bilateral breathing (breathing to both sides) is especially important if you are going to swim for decades like many masters swimmers. Why? Because over time, one sided breathing can lead to a lopsided stroke and can actually change the musculature in your back, neck and shoulders to be dominant on one side. For more reasons to adopt a breathing strategy to both sides, check out this article from Swim Smooth - http://www.swimsmooth.com/bilateral.html

Take care of your shoulders with a few simple exercises that I posted about a few months back – Shoulder Injury Prevention Exercises. See that posting for a video on some fantastic exercises that will save your shoulders while strengthening your core, improve your rotation, and stabilize your scapula (a big cause of shoulder problems).

The fact that we have so many stroke repetitions in our workout is a big contributor to shoulder injuries. Learning to swim all four strokes is very helpful as you work different areas of your musculature. Throw in kick sets and drill sets to help mix things up.

Take care of your body, its the only one you are going to get. Swim smart and give yourself a break every once in awhile.

Mar 172013


Anyone else out there with knee problems? They can be nagging, irritating, painful, and downright harmful! My arthritic knee now moves funny on my breaststroke kick, causing me groin pain as well as strained muscles on the inside of the knee. Tired of the nonstop issues, today I tried out a series of exercises from WebMD. What did I think? Well, the skeptic was wowed! They seem underwhelming when you look at them one by one. But, give these a try and you may find yourself awakening some new area. You’ll strengthen your hips, knees and leg muscles in general with these. Give ‘em a try!

WebMd Knee Exercises

Jan 272013

I receive an e-newsletter from CorePerformance. It is always chock full of good stuff. This week a post on avoiding pain with some simple Prehab exercises caught my eye. Found a new one in their mix. I highly recommend each of these exercises!

Click the image to go to their article.

Great article on simple exercises to avoid injury.

Great article on simple exercises to avoid injury.

Jan 042013

SwimmingJoyOk, so we are into a New Year, and that always brings out resolutions. Doesn’t it seem like resolutions are about guilt? “I want to exercise more” implies you don’t exercise enough. “I want to lose weight” implies you think you weigh too much. For us swimmers, our resolutions might be along the lines of: “I want to swim more yards”, “I want to swim more practices”, “I want to swim a 200 fly this year.” (Strike me out of that last one – no way!)

And to make matters worse, I just heard on the news that 80% of the people who start their year with the resolution “I want to exercise more” (and then head to their local gym) drop out around 8 weeks. Yikes! Let’s just pile on some more guilt about that.

The longer you’ve been away from the water, the more challenging it is to get back in. Don’t agonize, don’t think about it, just do it! Enough with the guilt. Climb in and give yourself permission to take it easy those first few swims back at the pool. Lots of rest between sets, and sets that focus on drills and technique. Throw away the clock the first week to two weeks. There will be plenty of time to check back in with how slow or fast you are swimming. For now, allow yourself to play in the water. Refresh your memories about why you love swimming. Do some water handstands, swim underwater, blow bubbles, jump off the diving board, do somersaults! Wear fins! Pull out all the toys! If it doesn’t have an element of fun or enjoyment, you’ll probably fall by the wayside. Get back to the pool and fall back in love with swimming. You’ll love yourself for it and your body and mind will love you for it.

Dec 092012

If you are a swimmer, and you haven’t experienced a shoulder injury, count yourself very lucky. Shoulder injuries in all aquatic sports are quite common. I don’t profess to know everything there is about shoulders, yet I have learned a lot after four shoulder surgeries over the years and many rounds of PT. Luckily, I had 1) a fantastic surgeon and 2) an even more fantastic physical therapist.

Initially told I would not be able to swim after my first surgery (1992), I not only went on to swim, but to compete and train at a very high level. I protect my shoulders with continuing physical therapy exercises long after my last surgery in 2003.

I firmly believe that many shoulder injuries can be prevented and if not prevented, repaired with good physical therapy exercises. FINA, the world body for aquatic sports agrees. They have distributed an amazing video that cuts to the chase with exercises that can be done with little or no equipment and can be done at home. I found some I hadn’t seen before and they are really good.

Watch this 15-minute video and think about incorporating some of these exercises into your routine. Who knows, you just may stave off future shoulder problems!