I am pleased to publish this article with the permission of Terry Laughlin, swimming coach and founder of Total Immersion.

Yoga and Swimming

I’m searching for information on stretching with focus on freestyle swimming.

I’ve found in Total Immersion, the Revolutionary Way to Swim better, Faster, and Easier some exercises and two stretches for the front of the shoulder and two stretches for the back of the shoulder.

I’m definitely interested in shoulder stretches but also back and leg stretches that are appropriate. I’ve noticed with TI swimming a definite change to the muscles in my upper back, and I would like to be sure that lack of correct stretching does not cause a physical problem.
The effects or benefits of stretching are commonly thought to be relief of tightness in muscles and increase of range of motion in joints.  Over time I’ve come to view the question of stretching and its effects differently, and my view today is colored by my age – 59, a time when my muscles seem a bit more susceptible to injury or the occurrence of “hot spots” or knots.

My stretching activities now are more geared to overall health and feeling good at all times, while also–as an athlete–trying to keep my muscles ‘tuned for action.’

I rarely do the kind of swim-specific stretching I did from my teens to my 30s that was illustrated in the original TI book. This focused on muscles like the pectorals, triceps, lats. When I was younger I regularly experienced post-swim soreness in those muscles but that was because my swimming relied on higher arm-forces. By using the drag-evading and whole-body-propelling techniques of Perpetual Motion Freestyle, I no longer experience that kind of soreness.

I deal with more general tension–not uncommon in middle-aged-athletes–by warming up more gently and thoroughly before a practice. Also by having one or two practices a week done entirely at ‘recovery pace’ and devoted to higher levels of technique.

I often get knots, particularly in the muscles around my left scapula, because I tore the rotator cuff in that shoulder in an auto accident in 1996 so those muscles compensate to keep my shoulder stable. I need occasional massage, adjustments and acupuncture to break open those knots and relieve tension.

But virtually all of my prior active stretching has been replaced by yoga, which feels both holistic and integrative in a way those stretches were not. Yoga not only keeps me feeling more supple–in my spine and joints as well as in muscles. It also keeps me strong in an integrative way. That is, rather than working on isolated muscles, it strengthens them as they work–in combination and by using them as I do outside of yoga.

Finally, it brings the calming and centering effects of meditation. I’m certain the combination of yoga and swimming is among the most healthful things I will do for the rest of my life.

I was involved in the planning of the Yoga for Swimming and More DVD with Susan Jacque who is one of my teachers, and can strongly recommend it both to complement swimming and as a way to become acquainted with yoga.

For more information on Total Immersion and Terry Laughlin, visit:

http://www.totalimmersion.net/ and

http://www.swimwellblog.com/

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