Very recently in the locker room I over heard a lady say, “I swim five times a week and after every session my neck and back ache”.
Every weekday morning between 6:30 and 8:00 am I watch swimmers go up and down the pool. Some are swimming front crawl, but the majority are swimming breaststroke with their head out of the water, and there is the occasional back-stroker.
I have to say I am so impressed at the commitment of the swimmers to swim their number of lengths before work. But my concern is, do they know that swimming incorrectly consolidates bad habits of movement and may set up problems for the future?
An awkward style, which is often the result of anxiety in the water, can mean that swimming actually does more harm than good. The common bad habit of swimming with the face held out of the water puts terrible strain on the muscles of the neck and back, which can lead to damage of the joints of the spine.
I imagine that the majority of adult swimmers learned swimming at school and possibly have not had lessons since. It does not occur to most swimmers that they may need a refresher course. As with any other sport, “It’s not what you do, its how you do it” swimming has changed. The strokes have changed for a more defined flow and the focus is now on mind and body awareness, fluidity, good body alignment, stroke efficiency and relaxed breathing.
Swimming should not be about plowing up and down the pool counting the lengths, but about being aware of how you move through the water with ease and grace. To achieve a graceful and powerful stroke, you must practice simple exercises and learn to “feel” how the body moves through the water. Swimming, as with most leisure activities, needs to be technically correct to avoid injury, especially for those with existing neck and back problems.
“Being in water is about enjoying and exploring movement in a continuing flow of graceful, unforced strokes, when every part of the body seems to be an extension of another part, and nothing is hurried or rushed” Poetry in Motion, Stephanie Dutton.
So next time you swim, connect to your mind and body and ask yourself if:
Your breathing is relaxed and rhythmical
Your stroke is symmetrical, streamlined and balanced
Your main power is coming from the legs in breaststroke – not the arms
You rotate your hips and shoulders in front crawl, not relying solely on the arms
The quality of your movement through the water feels fluid and with ease.
You swim gracefully and with ease
This is the first step to becoming aware of your mind and body connecting with the way you move through the water. This will not only improve your swimming, but also your health and fitness.
Although we may admire a really strong, sleek swimmer, most of us are unaware of our own performance. Our feedback is inadequate and we are unsure of what we should expect from ourselves. This is where a few follow up lessons can help – ideally with a teacher who is trained to understand and communicate the deep enjoyment of streamlined swimming.
With guidance you can stop struggling with your swimming which will actually do you harm and connect with your own swimming talent. It’s miles more enjoyable too! Swimming is a wonderful exercise for everybody. Correctly done, it can be most pleasurable, allowing the physical expression of fluidity, grace, power and stamina.