TMSM’s swim coach Sam Hume explains how it’s best to get on the front foot and treat the pain straight away
Despite swimming being the gentlest of the three disciplines, many of us experience annoying little aches and pains every now and again that can prevent us from getting the job done in the pool. Here I discuss three common enough problems and how you can remedy them.
Problem – Sore neck and back
Being hunched over your TT handlebars isn’t the only way to stir up your neck and back in triathlon. Many triathlete swimmers aspire to a high body position in the water and the natural tendency is to swim with the head slightly raised up in the belief that this will help the body plane over the water. Sometimes one of the consequences is a sore neck and/or lower back. The extra arch this higher head position requires can even extend further down to involve your hamstrings – it is not uncommon for someone in our swim group to have a hamstring cramp during a recovery swim after Saturday’s long ride. In my experience, a high head position also tends to cause the hips and legs to sink further and can lead to over-kicking to get them back up near the surface. Many swimmers who have this technique problem over-rely on their pull buoys to counteract their sinking hips and feet.
Solution – Head down
So what is a normal head position? Here, think about two measures to help judge your head position. First, where does your gaze fall on the bottom of the pool and secondly where is the waterline in relation to your forehead? Taking zero degrees as your head position when you are looking directly at the bottom and the waterline is at the top of your skull, a normal head position is when your gaze is at 35-to-45 degrees and the waterline is midway between your hairline and eyebrows.
If you have suffered from a sore neck or back, or have the sense that your feet are constantly sinking, try lowering your head position to 10-to-15 degrees and pushing your chest down gently into the water. This will bring your hips and feet up, reducing the need to kick and lessen the strain on your neck and back. This body position is often actually more streamlined as your feet aren’t dragging as deeply.