I finally found a swimsuit that I feel comfortable in for actual swimming-as-exercise, plus I bit the bullet and bought nose plugs (I have a mental block about putting my nose under water - comes from a bad experience in a swimming lesson as a kid) so in theory, I am now ready to go forth and actually Swim As Exercise.
Which is good, because with arthritis, things like jogging tend to not work out so well.
What I'm wondering is if there are any particular things I should be doing (strokes, other exercises in the water) that will better target the muscles involved in riding. My swimming form right now is, uh, Unique, to say the least, due to the whole nose-water issue, so I suspect I may need to learn or re-learn how to do some things.
A book or DVD would be ideal - I don't really want to commit to swimming lessons just yet, in case swimming turns out to be a problem in some way I hadn't predicted. I don't want to be totally tied into it as my primary form of exercise or tied into a specific pool. (One pool at a gym I couldn't use because although it was indoors, and didn't feel really cold, it was cold enough that it made my ankles ache. I haven't had that issue at other pools, even though none of them have been specifically heated pools for people with arthritis, so I'm thinking it's something that varies depending on the particular pool and how the gym likes to keep it.)
I'm thinking that in particular I probably need to strengthen my legs and core, since I do want to start taking jumping lessons - would it be worth picking up something like a kickboard?
Check to see if there is a Master's program at any of the pools near you. Don't be scared off by the idea of Master's- its for people of all swimming abilities, not just for former competitive swimmers. And its all adults, so you won't be surrounded by little kids. Contact the coach, and see if they can give you some one-on-one sessions so you can get the basics down at least. A kickboard is a good idea, but make sure you have good form so you can get the most out of it. It is a good workout and your quads will be BURNING if you kick for any length of time.
Learning how to do a simple, proper freestyle will be just fine for strengthening your core and building up your strength. Focus on the one stroke for now, and as you grow more confident and stronger then you can add in backstroke and breaststroke. Butterfly is the most difficult by far, and probably not worth the effort to learn, unless you get crazy-motivated for some reason.
Depending on the pool you go to, if there is one lane that is shallow (3') the entire lane length, then you can also try jogging in the water as well. Its easy on your joints, and a very good cardio and leg workout. Many of the pools also offer water aerobics of some sort- those would also help build strength and endurance.
Swimming is fantastic for strengthening your back without a lot of wear and tear on the rest of your body, so its a great addition to riding.
Most indoor pools will have kick boards that you can use, and that would go a long ways towards strengthening your legs. Flutter kick and breast stroke kick will strengthen your legs. You can also float on your back and flutter kick/elementary backstroke kick the length of the pool to further strengthen your legs. If you want more strengthening and easier swimming down the pool, I would suggest purchasing a pair of Finis Zoomer Swim Fins. The blue ones are for recreational swimmers, featuring a soft foot casing so you won't get abrasions on the top of your feet. Because they are shorter than regular fins, they work the muscles in your thighs harder than regular fins do while you are swimming or kicking. I use the competitive ones a lot, and they are great!
Another good exercise is to stand in waist high water, and begin walking across the width of the pool in long strides for 15 minutes. It adds great resistance to the gluts and adductors and improves your leg strength. There are free online instruction pages on water walking so you can see how the technique is done. If you decide you like it and wish to go into deeper water to remove the load on the joints further while getting the same benefits, you can purchase a flotation belt that will allow you to work on this in deeper water. There is also a set that has a flotation belt and flotation hand weights you can purchase for added workout possibilities. I have a friend who is a marathon runner who uses the belt to run in the deep end of the pool for one hour, three times a week. I would suggest starting with walking, or immitating bicycling with your legs first to get the hang of it first.
Aquatic exercise classes are great! Check with your town recreation department to see if they offer low cost ones. If you find you are happier working out in the water, by all means sign up for an adult learn to swim class. Around here, the Masters division is exactly that: a competitive swim division that has in-house meets and is not for the average recreational swimmer, so check it out before signing up.
I swim three times a week and love it! Good luck with your exercise program!
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I agree with finding a Masters program! I swim with one and when I first joined I hadn't had any technique instruction since I was about 10.
So much about swimming is technique that it's really a good idea to have someone teach you how to swim properly. I was shocked by how much I had to relearn and also pleased by how much better I started swimming after I mastered the techniques.
If you want a place to start, go to www.totalimmersion.net. This is a pretty decent approach to swimming that will help you with some basic techniques. I quibble about some of it but if you're not planning to be a competitive swimmer it won't matter. They have some very good videos that illustrate the concepts clearly.
I used some of this when I was first starting to swim. I had to unlearn some of it when I started swimming competitively but it's still a good program.
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For building core strength, I like doing butterfly kick (feet stay together and kick simultaneously) with a kickboard. You can do it on your stomach or back, and either way you don't have to put your face in the water. The breaststroke kick ("frog" kick) is good for your inner/outer thighs, which would also be good for riding.
definitely get a kickboard. You can do a lot of exercises with those! Some of the things I used to do would be traditional kicking where you hold the board under your armpits, you can also hold it out in front of you and stroke one arm at a time (while the other arm holds it in front) so that you can practice with your arms if you're nervous about totally letting go. I second getting some fins, it will probably help you in the beginning to get the feel for things. However, be warned that when you take them off you will feel much, much slower
If you want actual workouts, a Master's team is a good plan but that does stick you in the pool with a bunch of other people, timed sets, and a coach. If you're more comfortable starting out on your own, check out www.swimplan.com. It will create workouts for you based on how long you want to swim and your skill level.
Have fun, I swam competitively throughout my teens and I don't think I will ever be in that great of shape ever again, lol. I sure do miss that body...
I will second the water/aqua aerobics! Often they are quite inexpensive through your local YMCA. I did the Y aquatics exercise programs when rehabbing my knee and it worked wonders.
Oh, good to hear you had good experiences with the Y. That's the pool I'm going to try first, since we have a family membership there.
(We've actually had the membership for a while and it's not a bad place in general, but I haven't tried the pool because I have a skin condition - psoriasis - and while it's not catching I'm quite self-conscious about it, and of course the average bathing suit shows quite a bit of skin. I finally found an elbow-length sleeve rash guard top and matching longer bike-short style bottoms that I can wear over a swimsuit without adding a lot of bulk but still covering the worst bits of my skin. So I'm kind of excited. )
Originally Posted by Chief2
If you want more strengthening and easier swimming down the pool, I would suggest purchasing a pair of Finis Zoomer Swim Fins. The blue ones are for recreational swimmers, featuring a soft foot casing so you won't get abrasions on the top of your feet.
Do you happen to know if they're made with latex? I'm allergic (though thankfully not deathly so yet) and it seems like a lot of swim stuff is still made out of latex. I had to hunt around a bit to find a nose clip that was definitely not latex.
Originally Posted by KateKat
If you're more comfortable starting out on your own, check out www.swimplan.com. It will create workouts for you based on how long you want to swim and your skill level.
That looks like a very cool website. I just have to go and swim so I have some starting numbers to use.
I will check out swim classes, also - I think I might actually benefit from a class that's aimed at people who have some anxiety about swimming. Prior to my swimming-lesson-negative-experience I was like a fish, but after that I've had to work pretty hard to get even to where I am now. (Even with my weird no-face-in-the-water style, I've passed a basic harbor test at a camp, which involved swimming X lengths of the pool and then treading water for Y minutes.) But I still occasionally get periods where I think I get tense and don't breathe properly. (I tend to breathe too much with my upper chest instead of properly all the way into my lungs.) It's not quite an anxiety attack, but it'll definitely be an issue if I want to actually get to the point where I can get a good workout - 'cause at some point, I'll hit a wall where I can't physically do any more because I'm not getting enough air in and air out.
So if anyone has any suggestions along those lines, that would be cool also - would it be better to maybe schedule some one-on-one sessions with someone? (Like I said, I can swim, so I'm not one of those people who's so crippled by fear that I just cling to the wall. But I need, I dunno, relaxation breathing in the water training or something. )