Springtime kicks off yard clean-up and planting activities, but after several months of sedentary winter sloth a person’s body is often not ready for hard labour in the garden. Water therapy may be just the cure for what ails you, and for health and wellness!
The thing that you don’t want to do is stop moving when you are feeling stiff and sore. Swimming has a way of gently working every muscle in your body, getting the blood flowing, improving range of motion and helping the body repair the muscles.
While drinking enough water flushes out toxins and encourages healthy cell function, exercising in water enhances circulation throughout the body and builds strength. Exercise that is intense enough to get your heart rate up will make you more resilient for all that weed pulling.
The pool offers different ways to improve your cardiovascular health, flexibility and muscular endurance. Besides Aquafit classes, which are fun and motivating within a group environment, there is also lap swimming, a challenging and heart-pumping exercise that will leave you feeling spent if you are putting in the effort. It’s not the kind of swimming where your hair is still dry and you don’t feel out of breath. It’s swim cap, goggles, face in the water, and continuous travel up and down the lanes.
If you’ve never been on a swim team in your youth and learned the secrets of lap swimming, it can feel like a frustrating exercise in gulping, gasping and sputtering. You may feel like you’re battling the water, and it’s winning by going up your nose and making you wheeze like you’ve just run up Ganges hill.
Lap swimming is like dancing to rock ‘n’ roll music. You need to find a rhythm, roll and use your hips. In a nutshell, here may be a few reasons you feel like you’re swimming like a brick:
Your lower half is dragging low in the water = your head is too high.
The water should be just skimming near the upper back of your head, and when you breathe, turn your face to the side as if there’s an imaginary string connecting your chin to your shoulder, as opposed to popping up your head and then turning it. Your head alignment in the water should feel almost like you’re swimming downhill.
You feel more like a barge than a graceful fish = a body that is not “rolling” enough nor streamlined.
Work on rolling (tipping) your hips from side to side every time your arm leaves the water to reach forward (called the “recovery” phase), keeping your upper and lower body aligned. Ask a swim coach for some drills to practise.
When you use a kick board, you are barely moving = legs that are moving mainly from the knee down.
Kick from the hip so that your whole leg moves. A weak kick also contributes to lower body drag.
You seem to have a strong kick, but you are still not moving very fast = your catch (the point when your hand enters the water and follows through) needs attention.
As your arm comes out of the water and moves into “recovery,” pretend your hand is reaching over a barrel. As your hand dips into the water, make sure that your elbow remains slightly bent, and you are not crossing the mid-line of your body. Don’t let the pull through the water distort your body from a streamlined position.
You feel like you’re going to hyperventilate = you are not breathing often enough and/or fully.
While your face is in the water, breathe out all your air so that when turn your face to take a breath, you do so right away — as opposed to finishing the exhale and gulping in new air in the split seconds you have when your face is out of the water. Count: stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe (right side), stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe (left side).
The pool offers different training tools to add interest and intensity to the workout. You can choose from a stack of laminated workout cards or ask an instructor or lifeguard to suggest drills that would be suitable for your skill level. Pull buoys, kickboards, fins and swim paddles all assist a swimmer to swim with better form and/or increase intensity. Each tool isolates parts of the body so you can work on one thing, rather than be overwhelmed with all the stuff you’re supposed to be doing simultaneously.
The pull buoy is a foam piece that you grip between your legs just above the knee. This allows you to experience what it feels like to be horizontally streamlined. It is also a power/strength workout for your upper body because your arms are the only force moving you through the water.
Swim paddles can either be worn like a glove or attached to your hands with thin rubber pieces. Essentially they make your hands bigger, thereby displacing more water during the catch which increases resistance. They also help to guide good form by encouraging the proper hand angle as it enters and moves through the water. You will feel right away if your hand is too flat or your reach too short because the beneficial force that the paddles are supposed to generate will work against you, slowing your pace.
Fins do more than make you look faster. They are actually a very good strength workout for the muscles in your feet, ankles, calves, hip flexors and glutes. They promote a proper kick, increase ankle flexibility, and encourage better body positioning and technique. You can rummage through the fin bin at the pool, but you would be better off to buy your own so that you’ll always have the right fit. Swim fins for training come in different lengths and stiffness. Longer fins slow down your kick but provide a more intense strength workout for your legs. Shorter fins are best for faster kicking and drills. Use in moderation.
If lap swimming isn’t your cup of tea, you could try using a flotation belt to water-jog in the deep end. Add an upper body strength training component with foam dumbbells. They may feel light, but once submerged they become subject to intense water resistance. You can do many of the exercises you would normally do with free weights at a gym.
Swim hard for the long-term reward of health and wellness and continued improvement in flexibility and fitness . . . and the immediate gratification of the hot tub!