Swim Long – Part 3

Welcome to part 3. By now I hope that you have had a chance to read through Parts I and II and have identified where you need help. I’ve included two short demos where I show you how to practice lengthening the side waist, and how to reconnect shoulder and pelvis. This is just one of the many Mindful Movement techniques available to swimmers who want to improve their experience in the water.

Your technique/ Your style

Without bogging you down with technical jargon, (complex sequencing, etc.), can you remember your co-ordinated movement of the pelvis and shoulder girdle during your front crawl? I urge you to stand, and practice your crawl and feel how you swim.

For a moment, try to visualise how your shoulders rotate with your pelvis. The spine is the axis of movement, almost like there is a rod running through your body from the centre of your head to centre of pelvis. Most importantly, your pelvis is the driving force, the fulcrum. Power from the pelvis propels you along in a rotatory motion. Listing like a boat, help you to cut through the water. Swimming flat creates drag, depletes energy and is most likely to cause a shoulder injury.

The anatomy of your side waist is the space between your pelvis and base of rib cage. Lengthening your side waist lengthens your arm, your lever. This will improve your catch, your pull, your power and ultimately your speed.  Your shoulders co-ordinate a reach and a pull against the resistance of the water and make for a more efficient swim. Think about it, more length in your side body equals more rotation of your hips and shoulders.

The only way I have found to increase awareness of this lengthening is to simply practice on my mat.


Stretching’ the brain

The more relaxed a muscle is when gently moving its bony attachments in opposing directions, the more effective it is at lengthening the muscle fibres. This will never feel uncomfortable, painful or wrong. This will feel awesome.

In Mindful Movement – all exercises are ACTIVE. This is a re-patterning of movement, essentially a relearning of sequence of movement. I truly believe to affect change in the brain, and lay down new patterns, slow awareness of movement on a mat, practiced methodically, will build up new ways of moving. This has been heavily evidenced and researched.

For the anatomy geeks out there I will go further to discuss (briefly) your body’s own protective stretch reflex or myotatic reflex.


Myotatic reflex

When a muscle is under tension (in a lengthened position) there are sensory receptors within the muscle spindle (fibre) that warn the brain that that specific part of the body is under treat. The brain then sends messages (via the spinal cord) to withdraw (to protect that body part). 


Injuries – We all get them! Prevention & Treatment

Once injured, over used /over stretched soft tissue, has set phases of recovery. The optimum Physio window is after the acute/initial inflammation phase. The rest, ice, elevation advise has been heeded.

Next your body is producing new cells and it will be most responsive at this stage of the healing process. Going to a physiotherapist in the acute phase can be problematic as rehabilitation is literally too painful. Equally, leaving Physio too long after scar tissue has been laid down means more work for the physiotherapist, and you, to get you moving without pain again.  However, mindful movement is a safe practice that can be used at all phases of rehabilitation. Clearly, doing it to prevent injury in the first place is the most ideal use of it as a practice.  

Basically, this technique encompasses your entire body systems, your potentially stiff thoracic, tight pectoralis muscles (chest), tight low back muscles, positioning of pelvis, shoulder mobility, will all benefit from these exercises, before, during and after injury. Check out this exercise that lengthens side waist here.

Workshop breakdown

  • Pelvis (re)introduction
  • Connect pelvis to shoulders
  • Learn to become your own clinician
  • Lengthening of shortened/tight muscles
  • Strength specific exercise for rotator cuff
  • Re-calibrating new patterns of movement
  • The ultimate Mind body connection

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