by Carl O’Donnell: Former New Zealand Swimming Champion and 2012 London Olympian
One of the best ways to improve your swimming and overall wellbeing in the long term is to become more mobile. Changing and improving technique is good of course, however you need to be flexible enough to make these changes. Being mobile helps you to be more relaxed in the water, which makes swimming much easier and more efficient. Swimming can be hard enough without the added difficulty of fighting against the limitations of an inflexible body.
Becoming mobile takes time and dedication. When you stretch a muscle once it doesn’t stay stretched. When you stretch a muscle regularly it will adapt to this new movement and grow longer. Therefore stretching should be treated as a regular training session. Finding motivation to stretch at home, when you would otherwise be sitting on the couch, can be difficult so I recommend finding a yoga class and committing to doing it every week. Like any type of training you will not see good results unless you do it often.
You can increase your mobility by trying different forms of exercise. When you train only for swimming, the body will adapt to this and will tighten in areas that get overworked. Doing a range of different activities can help to keep your body moving well in all directions. Don’t be afraid to get out of the water and try some cycling, weights, pilates or team sports.
Mobility is also very important for injury prevention. It is a lot easier to incorporate some mobility training to prevent injury than it is to wait until you are injured and then try and become more mobile to fix the problem. I was lucky enough not to have any swimming related injuries during my career. I put this down to the yoga and stretching sessions I would fit into my training weeks. Check out the pictures below of some of the basic stretches that will help your swimming.
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Carl was a competitive swimmer for 20 years. He was number one in New Zealand in the 100m freestyle for 3 consecutive years and represented New Zealand at the London Olympic Games in 2012. After a break from swimming, Carl was challenged to an ocean swimming race by a friend. He has been hooked ever since and now competes in the Banana Boat New Zealand Ocean Swim Series each year. Carl’s passion for swimming has lead him to start his own swim coaching business, SWIM360. SWIM360 offers swim coaching and squads to swimmers of any level looking to improve their swimming.