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.