I headed to the swimming pool today because a rain storm threatened to swamp our region by mid afternoon. Part of me was considering a mountain bike ride, but with temps hanging out in the mid-40s and a massive green creature of evil weather arriving soon, the idea of getting caught in a cold rain was not that appetizing.
Of course that is ironic considering my alternate plan was to dive into the water for 1000 meters of swimming. So many of our choices in this world are odd. We don’t want to get wet in one way so we get soaked in another.
As I started in swimming it felt good to be moving along in the water. I use a pool buoy to warm up after stretching my shoulders for five minutes on the pool deck.
That is just not some tactic to avoid getting into the pool. It is a strategy to prevent muscle pulls. The sudden shock of cool water can cause muscles to seize and cramp. Later during my swim session a friend showed up on the pool deck over the lane next to me. He dipped his toe in the water and looked my way. “It’s cold today,” he lamented. “Last week I dove right in and my back seized up.”
I have had my share of back tension during the last week. On one of those cold mornings where frost covers everything outside, I put our dog Lucy on the leash and started walking her up the block. She got excited by the shimmer of the frost and leapt at the end of the leash. That yank must have torqued the middle of my spine, because the first thing that I noticed was a queasy feeling in my gut. Then the muscles attached to the spinal column started to tighten. That is a warning sign to take things easy. So I called to Lucy and told her in no uncertain terms, “Heel!” We walked together for a half mile but the back was fairly tight when we got home.
So I don’t take back problems lightly. While no sufferer of constant back pain, a few times over the years a back spasm at the base of the trapezoids has caused pain so sharp it takes the breath away.
That’s why I don’t just flop into the pool without stretching some. Plus I like to warm up my shoulders to increase range of motion and prevent injury.
I’m now heading to the pool at least three times a week now to build endurance back up after a layoff period during fall. With swimming, I don’t try to accomplish things all at once by piling on yardage too soon. As a relatively novice swimmer, the risk of overuse injury increases as I tire or lose form. It’s best to build up yardage by increments. Plus it takes a while to adapt mentally to spending more time in the pool.
Creating your own brand of preparation is what adds up to a stroke of good luck in the pool. Mostly that means not hurting yourself until building up enough endurance to actually improve pace and times. Right now I’m at 2:00 per hundred meters. I’m not very fast. On that front, I’ve learned to be patient. Just put one good stroke in front of the other. Then repeat. With a stroke of luck, I’ll get better over time.