Jan 112016

MusclesAs swimmers, we often feel pretty fit and definitely have a bias toward being in the water for our exercise. But, it is critically important to your health and well-being to also incorporate land-based training. You need to establish and maintain strength, stretching and balance (which goes as we age).

Doing so will really help your swimming and especially help your shoulders which can take quite a beating in the pool. It’s also a nice way to simply change things up. You might surprise yourself with how good it feels, so give it a go!

We’re no different than pitchers with our astronomical repetition count on those shoulders. Think I’m kidding? Next time you are in the pool, count just your freestyle strokes. Every single freestyle stroke. Now multiply that by how many workouts you do each week, each month, each year. Yeah, it really adds up.

Help your shoulders, improve your core stability, and strengthen your hips, glutes and legs by doing land-based exercises. You don’t need to have a gym membership. Hiking, walking, and running are good, but sometimes you don’t have that much time. So make the most out of the time you have and try incorporating workout options you can do right in your own home.

For a no-cost option look no further than Darbee.com. I stumbled on this site recently and am blown away by the number of offerings they have. You can do the workout straight from their web browser or download a PDF of that day’s challenge. There are hundreds of workouts here and many require no equipment at all. Be sure and read Darbee’s overview and instruction manual before you set off doing the routines. And, know your limits! Start small and build. After all, we don’t want you missing any pool time, right?

Take the challenge and broaden your fitness horizons. You’ll love the feel and your swimming will probably improve if you stick with it. Happy exercising!

Here’s the link to get an overview of the variety of programs Darbee offers. http://darebee.com/programs.html

Here are some samples of the workouts you can download from Darbee. Each workout also lets you know who it is geared toward and what muscles are worked. How cool is that?

Hear Me Roar for Ladies

Purgatory HIIT Workout

Sun Salutation Yoga Workout


May 052015

Dr. G. John Mullen is one of my favorite Dryland specialists out there. A swimmer himself, a physical therapist, and a guy that really understands how our bodies work, I find myself reading his blogs regularly. I come away knowing so much more. Today this landed in my reading feeds and the timing is perfect as I talked to a few swimmers about this subject this week. 

Many of us are week in our thoracic spine region. We cannot afford to be. So get off the couch and do these exercises! 
Thoracic Spine Mobility in Swimmers

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

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

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!

Aug 182012

Here’s a great drill for mastering flip turns. It comes from our friends over at GoSwim. This drill uses the concept of a waterfall to teach the move where you drive your head to your knees. Pretty cool, and definitely something you can do on your own.

Step by step instructions that go with the video are:

Why do it:

Making sure the set up for your turn is direct, helps improve the speed into and out of the wall. Using the water as a substance, and your momentum to help you through the turn also saves energy and eliminates extraneous movements.

How to do it:

1) Push off the wall underrwater with your hands held down to your sides.

2) Very soon after your push, tuck your chin so the water hits you on the back of the head (like standing under a waterfall and leaning forward).

3) Allow the water to push you around without using your legs or arms. If you donapos;t make it all the way around, thatapos;s fine, this is just to teach you the initial sensation.

4) Move to directly on the surface, pushing off the same way, and tucking your chin to allow the body to flip around.

5) Finally, swim into the wall to gain some momentum, stop swimming a bit sooner than normal to allow both arms to be behind you, tuck your chin and roll into a flip turn.

How to do it really well (the fine points):

Make sure you never pop up prior to the turn, but submerge into the wall on each turn. Make sure you are not lifting your head as you approach the wall, but practice looking at the bottom to start building an awareness of turning without seeing the end. Most of all, when learning this, donapos;t muscle the first couple of steps, stay soft and slow, and feel the water pushing you around.

Coach Cokie’s note:

I would add one more “fine point”. When you flip, be sure and flip straight over, not off to one hip. On  the video, most of the swimmers do flip straight over onto the wall. However, a few flip slightly to one side and come out on one hip. When really trying to master flip turns, get yourself to flip straight over. You’ll use your dolphin kicks (or flutter kicks) to corkscrew you onto one hip and your first breakout stroke finishes straightening out your body. That comes in a future lesson!

Apr 082012

What do you do for exercise, if any, away from the pool? Share with us some of your routines. I know some of you are runners and triathletes. How often during the week are you training in the pool? How often in a week do you train out of the pool, and what do you do? If you don’t do anything outside of swimming, are you content with that? Or, do you wish you had something to augment your swimming?

I seem to have varied my away-from-the-pool training a great deal over the last 10-15 years. Yep, there it is again…I get bored easily. 🙂 Up until about 6-months ago, I was very committed to my gym time, doing weights (machine, not free weights) and core training. Two events completely through me off. One is my bad back – two ruptured discs between L2 and L5, nerve impingement at L2, L3, L4, L5, facet damage at two of those vertebrae, a cyst, spinal stenosis – SIGH – the list just keeps getting longer each year. So I really, really have to be ultra cautious in and out of the water. It has been a challenge, but I refuse to give in!

The second event was moving away. You just really take for granted your life routine and your gym routine. Then a rude awakening occurs when you change your hometown or change gyms. I just haven’t yet found my groove in this new gym in my new state. A third variable, the fact that I’ll be spending a significant time on the road, means I need to be less gym dependent.

Well thankfully, there are lots of options for inspiring oneself and finding things that work “outdoors” or on the road. My most favorite tool for this is my TRX Suspension device. I’ve had one for about 2 years, and was gung ho the first six months or so, and then it got dusty in the corner. Well it is back full force now! What a terrific device for training outdoors. Kind of feel like I’ve got my own little boot camp going. Coach Susie came to visit me here in AZ the past few days and brought her TRX with her. We shared a workout and learned new exercises from each other. Susie has an added benefit that her niece, Emily, is a TRX certified trainer. If you are interested in learning more, use the Contact Coach Susie Powell box in the right sidebar.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to try out a TRX or even know what that is, then visit TRX Training to see what this is all about. There are hundreds and hundreds of different TRX exercises to do off one simple piece of equipment that can be used indoors or outdoors. From the absolute exercise neophyte to the hard-core rugged ultra-athlete, this device has something to offer you.

It is light weight (yet incredibly strong) and easy to pack and take with you. And trust me, it will give you some excellent workouts. While you are training your arms, legs or even balance, you are training your core the entire time! Core training is a huge benefit for any athlete, including swimmers. But let me warn you, start small and keep the reps really intensity low. If you don’t, you may not walk very well the next day. Even reaching for that glass of water could be a struggle. Trust me, I’ve been there!

Now those of you who know me, know that I LOVE technology. My iPhone or iPad is always with me. Well, what better way to find some cross training inspiration than that? My two newest electronic additions are two inexpensive apps available from the iTunes Store. One is for TRX (or suspension training devices) and the other is unrelated, its strictly for leg training.

For TRX, I’ve discovered the iOS App iSuspension and it is truly awesome. Here’s what the iSuspension website has to say about the program.

iSuspension is a creative and unique fitness application that changes the way we stay in shape. It combines the importance of the core exercise group – the most important aspect of any program – with individual and multiple additional groups.

Using some of the principles of core training with these other muscle groups provides increase balance, strength, and stamina. This app illustrates and teaches the basic, intermediate, and advanced techniques of resistance training.

The app also provides the capability of the user to add to these exercises enhancing the experience. The app is user friendly and logical with photos, descriptions, level instruction, and videos for each exercise.

The app is a lite version for the client to experience with the ability to upgrade easily to the Pro version. 

When I purchased iSuspension HD for the iPad it was $2.99.

If you don’t have an iPhone or iPad, you can use FitDeck to find TRX workouts. FitDeck is a company that makes laminated playing cards for all types of exercise equipment including TRX. I’ve got FitDeck card sets for TRX, PhysioBalls, Dumbbells, and Stretch Cords. Small and easy to carry with you, and the lamination holds up very well. You can find an entire FitDeck section on Amazon.

The second app I am new to, but also enjoying, is Easy Legs, available at the App Store for $1.99. Here’s a review provided by Appolocious:

Workout app Easy Legs is all about getting in a quick workout whenever you have time. Filled with leg-toning exercises, Easy Legs lets you capitalize on a free five minutes or a more intensive 15-minute workout, divided into easy, intermediate or advanced workouts. Easy Legs includes more than 60 leg exercises, 30 of which are bodyweight exercises that allow you to work out just about anywhere. The app also lets you play your music along with your workout, syncing it to the beat of your exercises, and provides an “interactive personal trainer” to help you along.

I am grateful to have newfound enthusiasm for enjoying exercise outdoors and away from the pool. I hope that I have inspired you to try something new! Get out there, get some exercise, and have some fun. You are welcome to post and tell us what works  (or doesn’t work) for you. We learn from each other!