How much should I kick my legs?

This is question I’m asked very often. It’s normally asked by a swimmer who’s having a hard time getting their legs to float. Consequently, they resort to kicking harder. Then, because the leg muscles are the largest in the body and use up the most energy, the swimmer gets exhausted very quickly.

In open water swimming, the legs should be used to help balance the swimmer. This often means using a two-beat kick, which means each leg kicks only once for each arm cycle.

But what if I need to kick more to keep my legs up? Well, then you probably have a problem with your body position. When suspended in water, your body will imitate a seesaw. If you push your chest down and forward — as though you are swimming downhill — your legs will rise higher. Voila! Now you can focus on a balancing your stroke using a gentle two-beat kick.

Just make sure that, when you swim “downhill” you don’t bury your head in the water. Push your chest bone down and forward, but keep the water breaking on the crown of your head.

Swim well! Have fun!

How to Avoid Shoulder Problems

Swimming can wreak havoc on shoulders. It seems that “swimmer’s shoulder” is as common as “tennis elbow” these days.

There are many potential causes for swimmer’s shoulder but I have found that there is a common stroke habit that can become a potential source of shoulder problems.

When the hand enters the water, it’s important to reach through the water — rather than over it — and extend the arm.  This lead hand glides, while the back hand pushes water and creates forward momentum. In addition to gliding, the lead hand is “catching” the water. This is the act of finding stable water to anchor the lead hand into.

Swimmers who try to apply pressure on the water too early, often suffer from shoulder problems. I encourage swimmers to forget about generating forward momentum with the top 12-18 inches of surface water. Pushing down with a straight arm places a tremendous amount of pressure on the fulcrum…i.e. your shoulder.

Go ahead and extend your arm as you glide and catch the water. But the pull doesn’t start until you bend your arm — keeping a high elbow — and start moving water towards your feet with you hand and forearm. That’s when to apply pressure on the water.

As always, if you continue to have shoulder problems. You should consider seeing a sports therapist or someone who can diagnose your problem.

Stay healthy!