Swimming Your Way To A Pain-Free Life

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If you're dealing with a muscle injury or chronic pain, swimming is one of the best things you can do to manage your pain. Being in the water can bring relief to your joints and allow you to perform aerobic activity that might not be possible for you on land. However, depending on your level of fitness, it's important to start slowly and to develop good exercise habits.

The key to a safe and productive swimming routine is a well-engineered exercise program. You'll want to warm up properly, utilize low-intensity work, incorporate high-intensity training, and cool down at every session. Fortunately, when done properly, this can all be accomplished in less than one hour.

Element 1: Warm Up--5 minutes

While everyone understands the need to stretch and warm up before land-based exercise, many swimmers simply enter the water and begin working. Unfortunately, while buoyancy reduces the strain placed on your joints, injury risks still exist when swimming. A proper warm up is vital.

You'll want to perform dynamic stretching for approximately 5 minutes. These movement-based stretches include:

Static stretching, where athletes hold a position for a set period of time, can actually decrease performance in the water when done before a swim. You'll want to save those movements for the end of your workout.

Element #2: Low-Intensity Work--10 Minutes

Your body needs time to acclimate to the water and to raise your heart rate. As a result, it's not a good idea to begin a vigorous exercise immediately upon entering the water. The best movements to perform at this time are isolated drills and half-speed strokes. This means that while performing these movements, your heart rate should never exceed 50% of your maximum rate. To calculate your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age from 220.

To accomplish this, consider using a kickboard and focusing on your legs for a few laps. Also, life jackets can allow you to work on your arm movements during a low-speed lap as well. Finally, you can complete some laps utilizing your favorite strokes at the end of this period--so long as you work at a very slow pace.

Element #3: High-Intensity Work and Intervals--20 minutes

At this point, your body is ready to begin working hard. Interval training has been shown to accelerate fat loss and to build cardiovascular endurance at a rapid rate. A full interval session can be completed in approximately 20 minutes, making it the perfect format for this workout.

Begin by completing full-speed laps of your favorite stroke. After completing a lap or two, rest for 30 seconds. Check your heart rate at this point and verify that it is at your target heart rate. Your target should be approximately 80% of your maximum rate--but this can be tailored to meet your fitness and health needs. 

Eventually, you can eliminate the rest period entirely. Instead, combine a few high-intensity laps with a single low-effort lap. Your cardiovascular fitness will allow you to recover during the low-effort period and you'll burn more calories in the 20 minute time frame.

Element #4: Cool Down--15 Minutes

The best way to cool down after an interval session is the exact same way you warmed up. Begin by performing 5-10 minutes of low-intensity swimming, just as you did when beginning your workout. Then, finish by performing the same dynamic stretches you did at the start. Stretching after your workout is important for muscle recovery and the quality of your next swim.

There is, however, one alteration you should make. Consider adding static stretches to your post-workout routine. These are the traditional stretching movements where you hold a slightly uncomfortable position for 30 seconds or more.  They can increase your range of motion and, when done under the guidance of a physical therapist, can help manage or reduce your chronic muscle and joint pain.

If you follow a program such as this one, swimming can help you reclaim a healthy, active lifestyle in spite of your injuries and pain. You'll be able to work at a level much higher than your pain and injuries would allow with a land-based program. To get any questions about your back health and how to improve it answered, contact a chiropractor, at sites like http://www.chiropractoracupuncturemd.com.