Thanks to an injury, I had a teachable moment in the pool.
OK, I already mentioned that last Wednesday I flipped my folding bike when I hit a wheel block. Since I ride upright, when the front wheel stopped, my torso flexed, straining the muscles just below my ribcage. After that I tumbled forward and landed on my right shoulder. When I got to work, my friend Mark gave me two ibuprofen, then two more in the afternoon. I debated whether to walk to the light rail, ride to the light rail or ride home. I rode down the alley and felt better on the bike than I did sitting at my desk. So I rode the nine miles home.
I had no trouble riding home, but trying to lie down in bed was agony. Trying to get out of bed was no picnic, either, but I did go to work on Thursday. I didn’t bike, however. Mark opined that riding home may have kept my muscles somewhat loose. I was sore again in bed, but I did ride on Friday. I tried to run Saturday morning, but the bouncing hurt too much. I had to settle for fast walking the three miles. I thought about swimming on Sunday, but instead tried running again. I found I could run slowly at first, then after a mile or so ran without much discomfort.
In all of this I was trying to exert myself without injuring myself further. On Monday after work, I debated swimming as I rode the light rail. I walked to the club, and took an empty 25 yard lane. The air was cold, but the water was a comfortable 76 degrees. Two or three crawl strokes did feel like I was injuring myself, so I walked back to the wall. Backstroke was no better. So I kicked a length with my arms at my side, then another with one arm extended. That felt OK.
I decided to try breaststroke, but expected it would hurt even worse than crawl. But it didn’t. Maybe the symmetrical arm movements were easier on my core muscles. I managed fifteen minutes of easy, long-gliding breast and very slow turns. But I was feeling less and less pain.
So I tried crawl again – 50 yard repeats with slow open turns. I could do the swimming, but it became painfully obvious that at least some of the time I was forgetting my Total Immersion training and letting my legs drop. Swimming with dropped legs put a lot more stress on my core muscles, and the resulting pain made for an effective reminder to keep my head down to stay longitudinally balanced. I also found that rotating was a lot harder on my core muscles without the TI diagonal kick to initiate rotation.
It is a lot easier to let small flaws creep into the stroke when your core muscles are perfectly healthy. I managed fifteen minutes of balanced crawl, and fifteen more minutes of balanced backstroke. And the next morning felt far less pain getting out of bed.