Hips and Glutes – Also Important in Swimming

Being somewhat bitter about having to swim in the first place, I am determined to get the most out of being banished to the pool. So, even though I am not actually a swimmer or particularly interested in becoming one over the long term, being stuck with it short term has made me get interested in various points of technique.

Right now my big area of concern is my kick because it has no power. Why does it have no power? Because of the exact same problem I have as a runner – tight hips and weak glutes. These are two problems that make me a 9 minute mile runner instead of the 8 minute mile runner I’d like to be.

Not coincidentally, it is also likely part of my issue with the posterior tibial tendinitis. It’s an overuse injury, but one that I might not have been prone to if my hips and butt were doing what they are supposed to.

This hip and glute problem carries over into swimming, apparently. So, I figure that if I can fix it in the pool, it might also help my running.

From what I have read, it’s a two-part problem – in order to get more power from the kick, I need to engage my glutes and have more flexibility in the hips (glutes apparently can’t engage when the hips are stiff – which makes sense since they are in opposition).

How does one do this? There are 3 things to focus on:
1) Keep the knees straight – don’t let the knee do the work the hips should be doing. The knees shouldn’t be locked, but they shouldn’t really be bending much either. Straight but soft.
2) Think about squeezing the butt while kicking- this gets the glutes activated and puts the kick motion into the hips instead of the knees.
3) Point the toes. This helps the water move in the right direction, and keeps the ankles from acting as a drag anchor.

I’ve always been relatively good about the knees and toes, but the butt squeeze seemed to be the missing piece of the equation. Without it, keeping knees and toes straight meant I wasn’t getting power from them, but I wasn’t getting it from the hips either. So I had no power coming from anywhere.

Incorporating the butt squeeze definitely added some speed to my kick but I also note that it makes me WAY sorer than I’m used to being when I swim. So, it must be doing something, right?

The other piece is to loosen up the hips. I try to stretch them but most of the stretches I know don’t seem to do all that much. They always seem to get the quads – the hip flexors get sore, but they never seem to get more flexible.

So I decided to consult the trusty internet and found this helpful video.

I tried it and it seems like one I can actually do on the pool deck. Also, it feels like it gives a good stretch to the hips without stretching or tightening the wrong things.

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Swimming Pools – Not Just For Relaxing Poolside

I have always been a person who enjoys running. I haven’t always chosen to do it, but I never had anything against it. I have not, however, always been a person who enjoys swimming. For most of my life, I have actually hated it. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but as far as exercise oriented activities are concerned, swimming would have ranked pretty low.

I have always liked swimming pools for sitting next to while sipping a refreshing cocktail, but as a place to exercise? Forget it.

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The main reason I have generally despised swimming for exercise is that swimming for any sort of long distance is very difficult if you’re not doing it right. And it is hard to do it right if you are not fit enough, or don’t know what you’re doing. You find yourself struggling for breath and running out of strength to continue pretty darn quickly.

Running, in some ways, seems to be lot more forgiving of your cardio fitness than swimming is.

The last time I did any serious swimming I was training for a sprint triathlon, probably 10 or more years ago, and while the bike and run were fine, the swimming just about killed me every time I had to do it.

I am not even talking about the open water swimming (a blog post unto itself – because I freak out knowing THERE ARE THINGS, LIVING THINGS, IN THE WATER), I am talking about pool workouts.

30 minutes of running was not a problem. 30 minutes on the bike was a breeze. Put me in the pool to swim laps for 30 minutes, and I came apart like an ice cream cone in July.

I think the reason for this is, if you’re running or biking, you can breathe when you want, you can coast, or you can slow down. You can even cheat and turn off your GPS and gasp for air for a couple of minutes.

With swimming, even if you slow down, you’re still dealing with the fact that you’re underwater and can’t breathe when you want to. It will expose your weakness if you are not fit enough to have good breath control.

My husband is a former competitive swimmer, and he says it’s also because water is very unforgiving of bad form and wasted movement. If you push on it, it pushes back. You have to pull with just the right amount of power to move through the water. Pull too hard or not hard enough, and you might as well have a big bag of rocks tied around your neck.

You also need to be patient and calm – neither of which is my forte. You can’t flail and thrash around in an effort to go faster or you will be fighting the water the whole time. In running, moving legs faster means you go faster, even if your form sucks. You might not go as fast as your potential with bad form, but you will probably be moving somewhat faster than you did previously.

In swimming, you need to move arms and legs the right way, with the right amount of force, or you may in fact end up going slower than you would with a more relaxed stroke.

You also have to inhabit your own head more. There is nothing to look at in the pool other than the lane line at the bottom and the X at the end of the lane. No music, no grass, flowers or trees, and no running partner to talk to. No distractions. Just you, your strokes and your breathing.

So these are all the things I have generally held against swimming and why it’s always been pretty low on my list of things to do. I am happy that since I am now stuck in the pool for a while, that these things don’t seem to bother me so much.

I’m actually kind of enjoying it.

Maybe all that running made me a better swimmer?

Swimming pools – who knew they were not just for relaxing with a cocktail?

How about you? Do you like swimming or do you prefer a refreshing cocktail?
Do you incorporate swimming as cross training?
Has running made YOU a better swimmer, or vice versa?

Eat and Swim Mom

I’m sitting here with sore shoulders right now, from doing one of the few forms of exercise that I can still do on my sore ankle. Non-weight bearing is pretty much where it’s at for me until further notice, so it looks like I will be doing quite a bit of swimming until this ankle situation gets sorted out. And spin classes (mostly sitting down). And whatever else I can come up with that does not involve standing or moving around upright.

Maybe I will have to change the name of the blog?

Here are some possibilities:
Eat and Swim Mom
Eat and Run in the Pool Mom
Eat and Stationary Bike Mom
Eat and Do A Lot of Knee Push-ups Mom
Eat and Pet the Cat Mom…

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That’s one vote for petting the cat.

And yes, in the absence of running posts, the Eat and Run Mom has been reduced to posting gratuitous cat pictures. That’s how far the mighty have fallen…

So okay, enough whining. Since I can’t run, today was a swim day. And you know what? Swimming is some hard damn work! I suspect that is why I have never particularly cared for it in the past. It’s probably more work than it should be since my stroke is not so great. Something to work on while swimming endless laps for the next few weeks I guess.

Running is so easy – at least, the way I do it, it is. Or was. Can’t say the same for swimming.

Another issue I have with swimming is that unlike running, it’s not just strap on shoes and go. There are two clothing changes involved – before and after.

Plus, the whole showering up afterwards thing is a pain. I can run around town all day long in my sweaty workout clothes if I want to, and nobody looks at me funny. They might not want to stand too close to me, but otherwise it’s not a problem. Can’t walk around town in a wet swimsuit though, or you get refused service in public places.

Also, if I swim, I have to wash my hair more often than twice a week. Those are precious minutes I am never getting back. Actually come to think of it, that part is kind of nice – for me and everyone else.

Showering in peace. Just one more thing I’ve missed since I had kids!

So anyway, I swam laps for about 30 minutes while my youngest monkey was in a swim lesson. I definitely felt it a lot in my butt, lower abdominals, lats and shoulders. Felt like a good workout, and it hurt less than I remember.

If I could work up to an hour at a time a few days a week, I’d definitely feel like I accomplished something.

Okay – now it’s your turn.

If you couldn’t run, what kind of exercise would you do?

How do you feel about swimming? Love it, hate it, or neutral about it?