Jul 172020

Eney Jones performs the dancer pose in the woods near her Colorado home. Photo by Lily Donge.

Most Masters swimmers prefer water training over land-based activity. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis required many swimmers to hang up their swimsuits and find new training alternatives. Research shows that land-based activities can help maintain bone density and muscle mass and that cross-training can reduce the potential for injuries. Masters swimmers Mark Frost, Tom Boyd, Andrea Woodburn, Eney Jones, Hilary Cohen, and Denise Letendre share how they stayed fit during the lockdown and why they continued some of their land-based activities once pools opened again.

Oregon Masters swimmer Mark Frost, 53, has acquired four Masters Top 10 achievements and one Masters All-American berth in a 10K open water race. He joined the Oregon Masters Swim community several years ago and began training up to six days a week at the Hood River Aquatic Center.

Mark was experiencing shoulder pain when pools in his area closed in March. “Before COVID, I was considering transitioning to three, instead of five, days in the pool, using the other two days to do dryland shoulder work.”

He started biking around a 10-mile bike loop in his neighborhood dubbed the “Hamster” loop. At first, he cycled the route on alternate days and then started doing it daily or even twice a day. He’s now done this loop 43 straight days in the afternoons—rather than the early AMs when he once swam.

During the spring, he ventured out on an open water wetsuit swim in Hood River with two other teammates in chilly 55- degree water.  “Water flow is really strong this time of year.” Most of the open water swimmers wait until it slows—and the water hits at least 60, he said.

“I’m going to look for a balance coming out of this [COVID-19 crisis].” Mark plans to continue cycling after pools open “to improve my legs so I can start running again” and to “keep the weight off.”  After completing an Ironman Triathlon in Cozumel in 2013, he has experienced steady weight gain.

He’ll stick with his recently established afternoon training schedule, which has enabled him to communicate with European clients early mornings when he used to swim. Biking, running and open water—rather than pool—training will make that possible. He looks ahead to winning another open water championship and one day swimming the English Channel.

64-year-old Tom Boyd—coached by John Grzeszczak—swims with the Hammerhead Aquatics Masters team in Fort Lauderdale and has acquired 67 Masters Top 10 and one All-American award. A former college swimmer, Tom joined Masters in 1984 and has been consistently swimming ever since. After being diagnosed with a heart condition ten years ago, he has directed his focus on fitness rather than competition.

Pre-COVID-19, he did chest and shoulder work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and back, biceps and legs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Thirty-five years of coaching experience gave him the know-how to design effective strength training workouts. His goal want wasn’t to bulk up—just to get stronger—and maintain a healthy bone density, which can’t be achieved through water training. He cycled through three sets of 6, 10 or 20 reps, doing fewer reps on days higher weights were selected. Stretches were added during rest intervals. In particular, he emphasized stretches for tight hips and hamstrings. This weight routine was disrupted when his condo complex gym closed in March.

Tom’s lockdown strength workout includes pushups (3×20), burpees (2×10), tricep dips (3×20), planks (2×1:15), mountain climbers (3×20), calf raises (2×30), jumping jacks (1×40) and a two-minute wall sit.  “I also do several sets of light-weight repeats of rotator cuff exercises.  Because I only have five-pound weights, I also do three sets of 100 curls as fast as I can to get some lactic acid.” He also does a workout “based on a set that coach John sent out that had a set for each letter of the alphabet and you spell out your full name, including middle name, for your dry land sets. It was fun, and I stuck with it (Table 1).”

Tom typically swam as much as 4000 meters four days a week and ran on three of the off days. Now he’s running four to eight miles before sunrise when he’s less likely to encounter others.

Tom will resume his normal weight routine and continue running three days a week once the lockdown ends and he can return to the pool.  “Once I can get in the water, I will do a lot of dolphin kicking on my back for my core. I will probably discontinue the drylands but will keep up with the planks.  I want to do the weights to help with bone density and muscle mass.” Strength training also helps with weight control, he said.  “I will always continue to do the rotator cuff exercises as I have chronic issues with my shoulders if I don’t.”

Andrea Woodburn, a recently retired family therapist, also swims for Hammerhead Aquatics in Ft. Lauderdale. She has acquired 10 Masters Top 10 achievements and has been a Masters swimmer for more than 25 years, serving in various capacities with her LMSC in more recent years.

When pools closed on March 15th, Andrea turned to yoga. She’s a 200-RYT Yoga Alliance certified instructor and enjoys a regular Ashtanga practice. She says yoga is similar to swimming in that “there’s rhythm and flow.” People who take her classes often take it for flexibility, mobility, and better emotional balance. “Who doesn’t like to feel at peace. People are really having this sense of being out of control. In Yoga, you gain insight on your own control over your own body. It’s very powerful.”

Andrea and her husband also practice tether swimming in their backyard pool, simulating 100-yard intervals by stroke count. She’s also been doing the A-Z strength and general conditioning work that teammate Tom Boyd is doing.

The dryland workouts have added a new component to her training.  “Sweat, heart-rate up, high energy, listening to music, I can feel muscles tightening—it’s overall good conditioning.” For many of those reasons, she plans to continue that mode of training post-lockdown.

Andrea believes in having options available. People not open to training outside the water “have no outlet,” she said. “I think it’s important to be well-rounded.” Even if pools don’t close again due to the pandemic, a person might have to stop pool training during an ear infection or other situation. Andrea also cites bone health as one more reason to persist with some kind of land-based training.

 

Table 1: A-Z or Spell Your Name Workout
A 10 Burpees
B 1-minute plank
C 20 pushups
D 40 jumping jacks
E 15 squats
F 3-minute wall sit
G 15 crunches
H 30 calf raises
I 20 body squats
J 20 mountain climbers
K 15 tricep dips
L  1-minute plank
M 20 lunges
N 30-second plank
O 20 pushups
P 25 arm circles
Q 15 side lunges
R 10 burpees
S 20 mountain climbers
T 20 jump squats
U 1-minute high knees
V 40 jumping
W 15 tricep dips
X 15 crunches
Y 3-minute wall sit
Z 30 calf raises

 

Andrea anticipates a return to open water racing. Last year, she swam the Hellespont, a swim that crosses a channel from Europe to Asia. More than 800 swimmers competed, and Andrea won her age group. “It was a really cool race.”

Eney Jones splits her time living in Boulder and Crescent Butte, Colorado. She was an NCAA gold medalist, has 104 Masters Top ten achievements, 7 Masters All American (pool) achievements, and 3 All American open water achievements. She was also a professional triathlete for nearly a decade.

The coronavirus lockdowns scrambled all of her aquatic plans. Eney had been slated to race in USMS Spring Nationals, a meet her dad was hosting, and to attend clinics in Canada and Australia. The sudden end to those plans and her water training felt surreal. “I went from a busy schedule to nothing.”

Embarking on land-based training, she chose to move away from goal-driven training. “I am doing things because I enjoy them, not stressing or training with the ‘end’ or ‘race’ in mind, but more with the ‘right now’ in mind. I used to think that more was more. More training, more activities, more racing. But now I am doing things for less time more often.”

She often ran nine miles while training for triathlons, for example. At first, it felt like a waste for her to try three instead. She gradually let go of that belief and started regularly running short distances with a friend. “I’m making it more about fun and conversation.” Often, Eney doesn’t even wear a watch.

In addition to running, she’s mountain and road biking and doing “kitchen ballet” (a combination of dumbbell exercises, yoga, and ballet), core work (including wheels – https://swimswam.com/finding-the-calm-in-the-storm/) and yoga—outside on the deck with her husband.

Instead of getting up at 4:30 to swim like she did when pools were open, “I sleep in and I’m eating and cooking better.” Sleeping past the wee hours has its benefits. Instead of the afternoon doldrums, “I have energy to go through the day,” she said. She has enjoyed this shift of mindset and activities she’s adopted during this lockdown. “It’s made me open my mind to the fact that other things could feed my soul.”

She admits the water’s never far from her mind. Her thirst for the water drove her to dive into ice-cold creek swimming. “You get in and it’s so cold, you think I can’t do this.” Then, she said, you go numb and don’t care anymore and “afterward, you feel great.”

After lockdown ends, morning “connection” walks with her husband and road and mountain biking will all continue along with the 30-minute “kitchen ballet” routine. “Yes, I will compete but not as much. Yes, I will swim but not as much. I have found that other activities are helping me keep strong and more focused on what really matters.”

32-year-old Denise Letendre “swam collegiately at Rutgers University and then started Masters in 2012.  I am a five-time individual All-American and 93-time Masters Top 10 swimmer.  “Primarily an IMer in the pool,” she also regularly competes in open water competitions.

“About two weeks after pools closed, I purchased a spin bike. My bike cost about 350 dollars and was easy to assemble. I started using the Peloton app to do spin workouts.  I have also incorporated strength workouts, dance cardio, stretching, and yoga into my routine.  The app offers classes in all those areas.  I like the variety.  I particularly like the spin classes because they mimic tough pool workouts.  Sprints and resistance challenges force me to push myself like I would in the pool.  I find myself drawing upon the same “grit” and perseverance I use at the end of a tough swim race.  Sometimes I even convert how much time we have left to a swim race.  Say we have 30 more seconds at a certain challenging speed.  I will tell myself that it’s the last 50 of a 400 IM and push myself like I would at the end of a race.  I get the same ‘high’ at the end of a spin class that I used to get when pushing myself in the pool.  I also feel like the cycling has kept my cardiovascular fitness at a good level.

“After pools reopen, I still plan to use the bike on days I don’t swim. It helps my leg strength and cardiovascular capacity.  I also plan to continue strength and yoga classes.  I had done yoga before quarantine, but during this time, I realized how much my body needs it. I have tight shoulders that I enjoy stretching in downward-facing dog.  I also feel like my balance is improving.  I usually do yoga before bed and it helps me clear my head of the busyness and anxiety of the day.”

Hilary Cohen, 57, lives in Atlanta, Georgia. After pool closures, she continued swimming in nearby lakes on weekends. That’s when “I normally do high volume swims back to back,” she said.

Despite all the turmoil, this seasoned distance open water swimmer has set her sights on competing again in Trifloyd 8, an eight-mile open water event from Clearwater to Tampa in November.  The COVID-19 crisis led her to ask herself, “What can I do to train hard now that I have this limitation?”

Her basement has been converted into a gym with “every piece of equipment.” A friend who owns a Cross Fit gym gave her ideas on implementing an effective core and strengthening program –on land and in an above ground pool—to improve her swimming performance. On land, she emphasizes work for core, shoulders, and back, performing a variety of exercises including planks, landmine lunges (with barbell), standing presses, rotator cuff work, kettlebell swings, waist twists (with barbell), and ball shots. She also suspends herself from gymnastic rings for pullups and core work. “There’s a host of core exercises I’ve added.” She has a large tire in her yard for flipping. This land-based regimen isn’t something she’ll discard even after pools open. “I’ve pulled a muscle in my back. I’ve had injuries.” She believes the dryland work is protective against these problems.

She encourages people locked out of gyms who don’t have weights at home to get creative. She suggests filling PVC pipe with sand and cementing the ends, filling milk jugs with water, or heaving kitty litter bags.

Hilary has one above ground pool in place and is in the process of setting up a second. When working remotely, she takes breaks to train in water just steps away from her computer. “It’s convenient and invigorating.” Recently, she’s been doing tethered sculling, kicking, fist swimming, breaststroke, and core work, including two and three-point plans. She hopes to be able to do full freestyle in her new, deeper pool.

With water nearby and a repertoire of workouts available, “I feel like I’m better able to equip with day to day stress. I can think outside the box and think ‘what else can I use?’ It’s good to experiment.”

 

 

Sep 012018

I am officially a Regional Sales Director for Revo2lution Running, founded by leading running expert Dr. Jason Karp. If you are a personal trainer, running coach or a runner seasoned or new, this cutting-edge program can give you the competitive edge. You can attend a course to become a certified professional or as a runner. Courses are offered in most U.S. cities and many countries worldwide. There is also a home study course that makes it easy to learn during your free time!

Learn the importance of knowing your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold in doing effective training. Learn how to create a running program for someone new to running, whether it be you or a client. If weight loss is a goal for you or your client(s), learn nutrition tips that will make this goal more achievable. And most importantly, learn how to run safely with less potential for injury. 65 percent of people to participate in running experience an injury over the course of the year, which can mean missing races, fun with friends, and interfere with weight loss goals. Why not avoid injury altogether so you can keep on running? Knowledge is power and Dr. Karp’s program will give you power with a capital P and so much more. To read about or sign up for a workshop, home study program, runner mentoring programs and more, check out the Revo2lution Running web site. For a 15 percent discount on your workshop fee, please use the code SUSANCOOK when you purchase.

Sep 092013

Exercise tops don’t all fit alike. So put as much thought into how they feel on your upper back and shoulders as to how they look. Five years ago after I suffered a severe rotator cuff injury, I looked at this for the first time. My physical therapist mentioned posture exercises as being an important part of my rehab and said the muscles and tendons in the shoulder complex were more likely to move unimpinged if the upper posturals were in proper alignment.

The next morning I worked my way into an exercise top I planned to wear all day. I felt an immediate tugging in the injured part of my shoulder and then went and looked in a full length mirror to see that the way the top fit, it hunched my shoulders forward. I decided then to get rid of these tops. When you try them on, look in the mirror to make sure the “tightness” equally pulls on the front and the back of the shoulder.  This should be of even more concern to larger breasted women (not me), who will tend to slump forward already because of the amount of weight they have to support in the front.

Even  exercise tops that don’t pull me unevenly sometimes overtighten my neck and upper trapezius with prolonged wear to the point that I’m uncomfortable. Now I try to teach class and then change into a regular bra to avoid unnecessary soreness and strain at the end of the day.

I hope this post will get you thinking about your upper body exercise wear and how you can choose clothing that will keep you more comfortable while in motion and afterward.

May 042012

I highly recommend that you read this great article I came across this morning about shoulder injuries. Although it’s particularly pertinent to swimmers in that it addresses possible modificiations of freestyle to reduce shoulder stress, it also has great information about muscle balance and methods of rehabilitation that should be helpful to all. You can check it out at
www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/lane9/news/Commentary/30442.asp

Apr 172012

I encounter many clients and swimmers with shoulder problems. In many cases, the pain can be resolved simply by icing and reducing activity for a period of time and then following up with exercises that facilitate proper alignment and movement in the shoulder girdle. Consult with a physical therapist if you are unsure how to rehabilitate a shoulder injry. If your shoulders are in good shape or have been recently rehabilitated, you can keep them that way by practicing a few safety tips:

1) Never carry a purse or backpack over one shoulder. This puts undue stress on the tissues around the shoulder girdle. Carry the purse or bag over both shoulders or in the hand. Even better, remove some items you don’t absolutely need to carry around with you.

2) When walking your dog, hold the leash in the hand opposite of the side where your dog is walking. When your dog stops suddenly, your shoulder will internally rotate and be more “anchored” than it will be if you are holding the leash with the opposite hand where the tug may pull your elbow and shoulder away from your trunk and hurt your shoulder.

3) Never yank an item from the back seat of the car. This jerky and unsupported movement places a tremendous amount of stress on the shoulders.

4) Stretch the pectoral muscles after you spend time in front of the computer to restore balance in your posture. When you are hunched over, muscles and connective tissue is unable to move properly without “collisions.”

5) When picking up objects, try to get “underneath” them by using a step stool or ladder and use both arms. More stress is placed on the shoulder when you lift a heavy object that is above shoulder height. In general, avoid “heaving” objects such as suitcases. Ask for help or have someone assist you when getting a bag off of a carousel. Sudden jerky movements are most likely to tear tissues.

6) Be aware of anything causing aggravation and try to avoid or modify it. For example, if you are a swimmer who also plays tennis and racquetball, you may want to cut back on one or two of those sports and pursue an activity such as running or biking that is more lower body dominant to avoid putting so much stress on your shoulders.

Jan 172012

Just like your car, when you driving your body hard, it needs some maintenance and tune-ups. Many athletes and fitness buffs are very diligent about making sure they swim, bike or run a certain number of miles ever week, but devote little attention to pre- and post-workout stretching, massage, and recovery.

In reality, the body maintenance is as important as the workout itself. Proper care for your body can reduce the incidence of injuries, reduce pain and inflammation and improve performance. Below are some tips to help you establish a preventative maintenance schedule for your body:

1 – Schedule massages regularly. Massage is necessary to keep muscles and the connective tissue that sheaths muscles healthy (long and pliable rather than lumpy and thickened). Massage also often alleviates muscle discomfort. If you can afford it, schedule one twice a month. Otherwise, learn how to do self-massage work with balls and foam rollers.

2 – Stretch major muscles worked after every workout. Stretching releases toxins that build up during exercise, improves circulation, restores length to tissues and incites a relaxation response. Always take nice deep breaths while stretching and hold stretches for 30-60 seconds per muscle stretched. Do not bounce the stretches.

3 – Identify overtight parts of your body and give them extra attention. Stretch these muscles more frequently or even do 2 to four sets of 30-60 seconds for these areas. For example, many people have tight psoas muscles (upper part of front of thighs) from sitting so much. This can tip the pelvis forward and place undue stress on the low back. You can stretch the psoas after work by getting down on your knees and taking a giant step forward with the right foot, resting your hands on the front thigh and then pressing forward with hips in the back, getting that lengthening stretch in the psoas. Then you can change sides. Sitting also tightens the chest muscles, which can be loosened by lying on top of a foam roller with the arms out to sides, palms up at shoulder level and letting gravity passively lengthen the muscles.

4 – Rest. Sleep sufficient hours nightly and take at least one day off from training every week. Never work the same muscle groups in strength training two days in a row.

Your body works very hard for you and you should give something back by nurturing it with some care and recovery.

Mar 012011

I read a bulletin this morning on rotator cuff injuries by Chris Mallio, the head of sports medicine at Bath Rugby in Queensland, Australia. As a trainer and competitive swimmer, I devour any article on the subject. One of the points he reiterates is that a major contributor to rotator cuff injuries is when a “space problem” occurs in the shoulder girdle. Basically, when your muscles and posture are in balance, the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the shoulder are able to move around without brushing up against bony structures as long as there is no inherent abnormality in the shape of the acromonian (or no bone spurs are present). However, most of us have imbalances in posture and musculature. This leads to a shortage of space for fluid movement in the shoulder. When repetitive abrasion occurs, so does inflammation and injury.

A common postural issue in our society of computer users is a forward slump, which leads to a protracted and downwardly rotated scapula. Sitting with a forward lean in front of the computer tightens the chest and weakens the back of the body. If you go to the gym and emphasize chest flies, bench press, and pushups and neglect the back muscles, this will further exacerbate the imbalance. Stretching the chest for 30-60 seconds daily (I prefer laying on the foam roller with arms out to let gravity do the work) and strengthening the rhomboids and upper trapezius can go a long way to remediate this imbalance. Activities such as rows (with a shoulder blade “squeeze” at the back) and scapular retraction are effective exercises to strengthen the back of the body.

Unhealthy “thickening” of connective tissue around the muscles that can inhibit movements may be remediated through regular massage or rolling under tissues with a ball or foam roller. Be sure to have a physical therapist teach you proper technique and to evaluate your condtion to ensure that what you are doing is safe and applicable to your situation.

Feb 212011

Personal Best Stretch: Move Better Than Ever

Susan Dawson-Cook and Jennifer Rischard in Personal Best Stretch

I am attaching a link to a short segment from my DVD for your viewing pleasure. To order Personal Best Stretch, please go to www.susandawson-cook.com You can also post comments or send me an e-mail at susan@corazondeloro.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEYvsG-1IK4&feature=player_detailpage

Jun 082010

Running elevates heart rate, improves bone density, and keeps us feeling positive. In addition, running demands no inflation of tires, no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere. The only downside of running is the trauma on our bodies.

The impact of striking the ground repeatedly places a lot of stress on the feet, shins, knees, and hips. Runners can reduce the incidence of common injuries such as Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, achilles tendonitis, knee problems, and hamstring and other muscle strains by taking a few simple precautions.

1) Wear footwear appropriate for your arch height and runnng style (its best to get fitted at a running store by someone who can do a proper evaluation) and replace shoes when cushioning has broken down (shoes are usually rated for X amount of miles).

2) Gradually increase intensity during each workout. Be sure not to start out too fast.

3) Increase intensity and distance gradually. Beginners might start by alternating between walking for a minute and jogging for a minute for a total of 15 minutes the first week. Fitter individuals could start with a mile jog, gradually increasing distance by a half mile to a mile per week. Listen to your body! It will tell you if you are doing too much too soon.

4) Avoid running on shoulders and other banked surfaces, which will put undue stress on the hips and knees on one side of the body. I ran on a shoulder in a half marathon once and my knee hurt very badly for two weeks afterward.

5) Integrate cross training into your program. Low or non-impact activities such as swimming or cycling are ideal.

6) Stretch and use a foam roller to lengthen the IT band post-run. It tends to shorten and contract during and after running and cycling. When this band of connective tissue gets too tight, it causes pain on the outside of the knee and hip. To stretch, lay on back, legs extended. Place yoga strap under right foot, extending leg up and gently stretching over body toward the left. To roll, position yourself on your side over foam roller and roll up and down the outside of the thigh. Avoid rolling over the knee joint or the hip bone. A soft roller will work best. I purchases a green one from OTPT that works very well.

7) Stretch hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, IT band, and low back after every workout.

8) If your running style is awkward, hire a running coach or pick up a copy of Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running. His book offers great suggestions on how to adjust your posture, foot strike and running style so it is less traumatic on the body.

Are you ready to get out there and enjoy your workout? I know I am. I’ve got to don my running shoes now, too, before it gets too hot. Tucson in June is hot, hot, hot!!

Apr 192010

Far too often, my more senior clients arrive at the gym in open-toed or street shoes. I typically ask them, “Why aren’t you wearing the right shoes?” Often the response is “These shoes are really comfortable.” I empathize with them. Comfort matters. And these people grew up in an era when comfortable exercise shoes were hard to come by and the idea of wearing them might strike them as unpleasant (as does the idea of me listening to my teenagers’ hip-hop music in the car instead of my favorite and familiar 70s and 80s tunes). Believe it or not, “gym shoes” really can feel great on your feet if you select the right pair. Not to mention the fact that proper footwear protects you in more ways than one.

Wearing a closed-toe shoe in the gym is imperative because bare toes are very vulnerable to the drop of a dumbbell (by you or someone else) or the end of a piece of equipment (surely I’m not the only one who has broken a toe more than once at home in bare feet)? A shoe with proper cushioning and support minimizes trauma on muscles and joints and reduces post-exercise discomfort.

A shoe worn for lifting weights need not be as “high tech” as one worn for impact activities such as walking, jogging or step aerobics. A weight lifting shoe should cover the entire foot, enable comfortable movement in all directions, and offer enough cushioning and support so the floor doesn’t feel too hard beneath your feet (low back and lower extremity joint discomfort often indicate inadequate cushioning).

If you run or engage in other high-impact activities regularly, you should buy very high quality (expensive) exercise shoes. Also buy the best footwear if you wear your shoe soles unevenly. A reputable sporting goods or running store won’t recommend a shoe without first having someone observe you walking or jogging on a treadmill, measure your arch height, and study your posture. Try on the shoe to make sure you get the proper fit (sizes vary from brand to brand), wearing your normal socks and orthotics.

Shoes worn for activities that include lateral movements, such as step aerobics and tennis, should provide lateral support so they don’t “roll over” when you move side-to-side. Running shoes are a poor choice because they are designed exclusively for forward movement. I prefer owning two pairs of shoes—a pair for running and a separate one for aerobics—over buying a once-size-fits-all “cross-training” shoe which doesn’t work optimally for either activity.

Exercise shoes should be replaced regularly. Once the cushioning in a shoe is broken down, it fails to do its job of protecting you. Get in the habit of replacing shoes every six months or about every 350 to 400 running miles to avoid unnecessary injury and pain.

There is a comfortable shoe out there waiting to be found. So when the shoe fits…buy it (and then wear it)!