At the turn of the century I was cruising around rural Alberta in a bad@$$ 1993 Mercury Topaz. This car had it all - power windows, a sweet CD deck I installed myself, and a tank into which the bare minimum amount of gas was pumped periodically in order to continue said cruising.
Like I said, the car had it all. And often it was all broken.
Once my mechanic realized I’d be the sole reason his children would attend college in the future, we got pretty tight. I’d roll in on fumes because a large part of the car had detached and he’d tell me “dude, you need to fix, like, everything, dude.”
Forget that noise, right? Just tighten whatever you need to tighten until it passes for street legal, I’d tell him.
Like a car, the swimmer’s body requires a minimum amount of capable parts in order to function. Fortunately for all you swimmers out there, my Topaz can serve as a beacon of divine inspiration for your training.
Here are 5 key body parts to tune up when you hop in the deep end this summer.
Having strong shoulder joints that transfer energy effectively from the core and chest will help swimmers pull themselves through the water quicker. However, for young swimmers in particular, it’s important to maintain good shoulder health to avoid injuries in the future that will slow you down in the pool and everywhere else, too.
I tried to keep this list short because like my Topaz, sometimes you can’t devote attention to everything, so I chose hips over core muscles, knees, or legs. This is because every movement in the water begins with the hips. The rest of the body can only do so much if the power in the hips is lacking. So the hips are kind of like the heart of the swimmer’s body.
It takes time and patience to develop proficient breathing rhythms. There’s a reason we hold an event called Hell Week here at the NSWC every summer, and no, it’s not because we want everyone to think we’re cool (do they? guys? guys?). No, it’s because swimming requires exertion without the constant reprieve of oxygen, unlike other sports where you can just open your nostrils and breathe.
Limbs flailing this way and that, swivelling necks, breathing in and out at the right time - sounds like a complicated mess. Well, unlike my Topaz, the young swimmer has a central computing system responsible for directing all that traffic. Timing your kicks with your arms and breathing takes time and dedication. It can be difficult for swimmers of all ages to wrap their brain around all the different commands it’s required to send all at once, but once the brain is comfortable with multitasking and the swimmer doesn’t need to think (ironic, I know), then the physical components of swimming become the focus.
Unlike the hips, the heart is the heart of the body.
Man, with all the parts you need to keep in tip top shape, it’s a miracle we don’t leave the keys in the ignition and park the car on the side of the road for someone else to deal with.
But wait! The body is not a car. A Topaz is a depreciating asset as my accountant likes to remind me, while the body is an investment that will give back years of healthy returns should we treat it right. Spending $1000 on a new transmission for a $500 car was probably a mistake - spending some extra time in the gym building strength in order to improve results and lower the risk of injury is a tall order, but a worthwhile one.
Competitive swimming is hard. You have to compete against a rival while also competing against yourself. It takes determination and ambition to train for weeks and then compete for seconds, but that’s the nature of the sport.
My Topaz had a lot of heart, it lasted for thousands of lengths of highway before mysteriously disappearing one day.
How many lengths will you last for?