When pain or injury is a gift
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on May 24th, 2010

From a thread on the TI Discussion Forum aerogramma posted:

I’ve found a new focal point: pain, actually. Today I went to the pool wanting to focus on basics. I hadn’t swum for a week due to a tender shoulder, so there I was with the user guide for Lesson 3 of Easy Freestyle by my side going through the drills.

My shoulder began to annoy me a bit and then I read for the 100th time the phrase ‘hip-drive -not arm pull – should initiate each switch’ and that does it:  The moment I start focusing on this phrase any annoyance on the shoulder disappears.

Right Hip Poised to Initiate SpearSwitch

I kept using pain sensitivity as a reminder and so went swiftly and pain-free through 90 minutes of practice . . . I also managed to improve my SPL from 18 to 17!

My Reply:

Pain is indeed a useful indicator – and one we are more likely to encounter as we age. Rather than an annoyance, it can be a reminder to move more consciously. I virtually never feel shoulder pain – or any other kind – when swimming, but this month I’m spending more hours in yoga class than in the pool.

For perhaps 10 years, spinal x-rays have shown that I was developing arthritic narrowing in my lower spine. It’s a familial condition, but my devotion to swimming and yoga have helped keep me relatively symptom-free.

But my arthritic spine has, in one sense, been a gift, as it forces me to pay close attention to posture. Even slight compression in my lower spine causes tension or spasm. So I do yoga poses, and sit at my desk, with mindfully keeping my navel pulled in and my pelvis tucked.

There are some yoga poses which I used to be able to do with impunity that I now have to do with care – or in modified ways. And some I can no longer do at all. It’s an inconvenience but a small price to pay for the greater tendency for self-awareness it has produced.

4 Responses to “When pain or injury is a gift”

  1. Yes it is really true that pain is a GOOD indicator. Our body tells us that something is wrong. I myself have experienced extreme shoulder pain which was accumulated through years of abuse. What corrected it are Simple Stretches, Range Of Motion and Strength Exercises. =)

  2. Ward says:

    I’ve been swiming TI for a number of years and really love it but never really worked too hard on preventing crossing over and late last year I started feeling a ton of shoulder pain. I’m finally at the point where I have to focus entirely on avoiding crossing over unfortunately I’ve found that this has made it more difficult to feel like I got a really good cardio workout. I’d love to learn ways to train that might allow for both. I guess it involves increasing tempo while maintaining focus but specific workout routines or ideas would be great.

  3. If you have shoulder pain, I recommend you improve your stroke first, then focus on how you train. A good place to start is to think about swimming differently. You seem to think of it as a workout, a form of exercise. Yes it unquestionably can provide healthful exercise, but only after you master the “art of fluent movement” in it. That comes from training the brain, not the body.
    Crossover is more likely a cause of instability and diverted energy, not a cause of shoulder injury. So your shoulder pain is more likely to result from poor balance, overreaching on entry and putting too much pressure on the shoulder while it’s in an unstable position – or from internal rotation on recovery, which increases impingement in the joint capsule.
    In the Easy Freestyle DVD, Lesson One teaches balance. Lesson Four teaches the right entry angle and position. Lesson Five teaches a neutral, relaxed recovery.

  4. Ward says:

    Thanks I have gone back to the basics and notice many things that I need to imprint better. I have definitely been over reaching on entry and what you say about not treating it as a workout is also useful. I came to swimming because of an old knee injury and excersize was my primary goal but now I do many other things for excersize so I can “afford” to stop looking at the chronometer.

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