Sure, sitting by the pool with beer in hand watching the bikini babes is a great summer past-time. However, the swimming pool can actually be a great workout tool… especially when it comes to treating injuries.
Water provides resistance and supports some of your weight. This strengthens muscles and boosts cardio intensity. Aquatic exercise can help you heal faster too. Doctors often recommend it for people with joint injuries, infections or surgeries as a way to stay fit and shorten recovery time. It can also ease symptoms of chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia and arthritis. A lot of athletes use the pool as a way to recover from injuries. Runners use it as a alternative workout: it’s a great way to take the pressure off of pounding-pavement, and taking strenuous activity off of the legs, all while keeping active.
So you slipped during your run and pulled a ligament? Caught the ball wrong in a b-ball game with your buddies? Or just simply went to pick up the grocery bags and your back went out? Well that’s it! Your workout is doomed until you heal, and so you might as well become a couch potato, right? …WRONG!
Water therapy is one of the most widely used rehabilitation methods in treating sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations and lower-back problems. Most experts agree that water rehabilitation can significantly decrease healing time and recovery by improving circulation to the injured area. The buoyant effect of water eliminates impact while strengthening injured muscles in the process. It also prevents the injured body part from losing its range of motion and becoming stiff. All body areas that are not involved in the specific injury can be worked until one can tolerate movement or use the injured area. Patients slowly begin to use the injured body part in cooperation with healthy parts. It is also believed that there is a psychological impact in doing a similar activity in water (as you would do on land) which can help people get back into a recreational sport.
Immediately after most injuries water running is an appropriate form of treatment. Though, it is essential that there is no trauma from any movements in water. For example, if a pro-track runner has an injured foot, a flotation belt will prevent a runner’s feet from touching the bottom of the pool. Starting with a warm-up of 6 to12 minutes of easy running, an athlete can time himself in a series of 15-second sprints. A typical program is 15-second sprints, a jog and recovery for 15 seconds. Ten such intervals are the norm. Time of sprints can be increased depending upon level of recovery and conditioning. As the injuries heal over a two-week period, the flotation device on the belt can be removed. This will allow the runner to run lightly on the bottom of the pool with the minimum support that the belts give them. The belt can be removed all together with healing time. With steady improvement in the injury, the athlete will move to chest-deep water, followed by shallower water. Lastly, the runner can return to ground surfaces to gradually build to pre-injury status.
Here are useful exercises for injured shoulders, backs and ankles:
Shoulder exercise. In waist-high water, bend knees to submerge shoulders under water. Bend arm of injured shoulder at a right angle at hip. Open hand and move it to side of shoulder slowly. Return to center of body and repeat.
Back exercise. To relieve low back pain, use an elastic band and flotation device for freestyle swimming. The flotation belt lifts the back, letting the tailbone rotate downward. The position creates a lessening of pressure on the low back area. To use the elastic band and flotation device for freestyle swimming, wrap the flotation device around hips and turn strap to the back area. Attach the end of the tether to the flotation device and the other end securely to the side of tile pool (i.e., ladder). Slowly use freestyle stroke.
Using a heel-toe type of movement for the ankle, alternate lifting heel of injured ankle at the same time the opposite toes are raised. Slowly rock both the injured foot and the opposite foot to opposite positions. Repeat for several minutes each day to strengthen the muscles in calf and foot. This will also regain range of motion.
Part of Training
Too hot to go for a run outside? Or getting bored of your regular workout routine? Here are a few H2O resistance exercises that you can add to any workout routine. CHANGE IT UP!
Cardio Warm-Up: If you’re a good swimmer, spend a few minutes a day doing laps. Swimming is one of the best things you can do for your lungs and heart. Can’t swim? No problem! Walking or running around the pool is just as effective. Go into shoulder height water, and try to do about 20 minutes. It may be difficult to sustain at first because of the resistance of the water. But work your way up.
Quad, Hamstring, and Glute Exercise: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart in shallow water with your arms bent at your sides, hands FLAT out, palm up, and fingers together. Slowly bend your knees into a squat position, sticking your butt out behind you. Cupping your hands, keep your back neutral and abs tucked in, exhale and stand up straight. Turn your hands to return to starting position.
Hips & Glutes: Facing the edge of the pool, hold on with both hands and slowly bring one leg out to your side, toes pointed, keeping your back straight. Exhale while you bring it up. Bring it back down and repeat, doing a full set for each leg. Make sure the foot of the supporting leg is flat on the floor. For GLUTES: Keep holding the edge of the pool with both hands and lift your legs off the floor doing scissor kicks.
Back & Shoulders: Do pull-ups. Grasp the side of the pool and lower your body as far as your arms will allow. Keep your knees bent, exhale and pull yourself up as high as you can. For the CHEST: Stand in water up to your neck, reach your hands out to each side, with your elbows unbent and you palms forward. Slowly bring them together, clapping your hands, and then turn your hands to return to starting position.
Triceps: Stand straight, with your open hands palm-down on the surface of the water. Keeping your elbows locked at your sides, exhale and push down until your hands are beside your hips. Turn your hands and bring them back to start position.
Biceps: Bring your open hands to the side of each hip. Palms forward with your fingers close together. Exhale as you slowly bend at the elbow to bring your hands toward your shoulders.
Abs: Stand with your back to the side of the pool holding onto the rim with your elbows. Keeping your knees unbent, slowly bring both legs up to a sitting position and hold it for 10 seconds. Do not hold your breath. Breath slowly through this exercise. Then bend at the knee to bring them down, repeating this as many times as you’d like. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
Cool Down/Stretching: You can do pretty much any stretch you do on land, in the pool. Ex. Hold the side of the pool with one hand, stand on one foot, bend the other knee and grasp your ankle with your free hand to stretch quads and hip flexors. Keep supporting foot flat on floor.
Another Stretch: Hold the side of the pool with one hand and turn your body by pointing your toes away from the wall to stretch your biceps and pectorals. Remember: All these exercises can be taken to an indoor pool during the colder months
But for now…Go out there! Get some sun, and enjoy the water!