Today I swam for the first time since April 21. Back then I had to stop because my shoulders were really sore and they were not getting any better. The pain got to be too much and I actually made myself go see a doctor (not an everyday occurrence for me, let me tell you). I went straight to a sports medicine clinic and saw a doctor who, himself, has competed in triathlons (including an Ironman). After an exam it was off to physical therapy for several weeks, then back to the doc, which leads us to me in the pool today.
The physical therapy, while I think it helped in some ways, in other ways it did not. I did get my range of motion back but my shoulders were getting sore from the strain of the therapy and I did not think all of the exercises were helping. After chatting with the doc we decided the lay off the PT, do a few of the exercises at home, and get back in the water with a modified stroke.
What was hurting my shoulders the most was the recovery part of the stroke, where your hand moves out of the water and back up to the front. How odd is it that the thing that caused me pain was the one part of the stroke doing the least amount of work? Basically, the angle my hand was at, together with lifting my arm straight out and to the back was messing things up. I had to avoid that.
Today's swim was all about focusing on technique so I would do just one lap at a time. I started out with form that I had in mind and adjusted it with each lap until I thought I was really onto something. It's not like any freestyle I've ever seen but it's getting me through pain-free, so I will stick with it and see how it goes. What I did was borrow the whole rotation thing from Total Immersion so my shoulder wouldn't be at such a severe angle during the recovery. Also, when I start the recovery I flick my wrist so as my arm is coming up, my palm is not perpendicular to the water's surface but parallel to it. Next, I flex at the elbow so just my forearm is moving (this is where it gets weird), and once that's about at ninety degrees to my upper arm I finally flex at the shoulder and finish the recovery. My hand enters the water not right in front of my head, like I had been doing, but more to the outside. I'm sure it looks a bit odd but, as I mentioned, it seems to be working. It's all designed to not do the things that cause my shoulders pain. If that means it looks odd, I can live with that.
The other bright spot is that I did about 1000 yards and was not the least bit tired, which means my lungs haven't completely left me. My swim will be fine when I start up the triathlons again in two months.