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by Jani Sutherland

June 1, 2002

A little tubing goes a long way

February Fitness Challenge is over!! Congratulations to all who participated. We are focusing on shoulders this month, since many of us may have overdone it a bit in February. We will also share with you some interesting research on physical effort.

In this issue 3 rotator cuff exercises will be explained. Please note that if your shoulders are already destroyed, see a doctor! If you feel a little pain when you swim, slow down and think about your stroke. AND talk to your coach. Also be aware of your daily activities: how you sit, stand, and sleep. How is your posture? A GREAT series of articles to read are from SWIM Magazine May/June 2001 "Preventing Shoulder Injuries" & July/August 2001"Increasing Shoulder Strength" by Wendy Weil.

First of all, what is the rotator cuff? It is four muscles that allow the arm to rotate inward & outward, lift out to the side & in, and move across the body; basically the muscles responsible for shoulder movement. Essential for swimmers!

The exercises described are using surgical tubing, the colored tubes you can get from a Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer. Use a light to medium resistance tube.

1) Supraspinatus: Stand with one end of tubing under right foot and other end in right hand. Turn thumb down so palm faces out. Have enough tension so that when you raise your arm parallel to the floor you are feeling the work. Do not raise your arm above head. Raise it to between 1 and 2 o'clock if you are facing 12 o'clock. Do 15-20 repetitions. Change sides and repeat.

2) Internal Rotation: Anchor tubing to a wall so it is at elbow height. Step away holding an end in your right hand and your right side is closest to the anchor. Bend your elbow to ninety degrees next to your rib cage, hold tube so that it is in your hand, thumb up, straight in front of your right arm. Control the movement across your body and back to start in front of your right arm. Maintain the ninety degree bend in elbow. Do 15-20 repetitions. Repeat on other side. DO NOT throw your body.

3) External Rotation: Same position as above, only this time hold the tube in your left hand when your right side is closest to the anchor. With tube in left hand, bend elbow to ninety degrees, keeping elbow next to rib cage. Control the movement away from your body and back. Again, do not move your body, move your shoulder.

And now some interesting research on physical exercise, muscle damage and soreness!

Swimming fast, a hard workout or even swimming longer than usual will cause muscle damage (torn and ruptured individual muscle cells). This is a natural process to increasing muscle size. It is the repair process that causes the increased muscle size. So to get stronger you must go through some pain! And researchers have tried unsuccessfully to prevent muscle soreness. Studies show that antioxidant vitamins such as C, E and Beta Carotene have no effect on the after effects of intense training.

It would seem logical to use anti-inflammatory medications to help with this muscle soreness (how many of us are on "Vitamin I" (ibuprofen). Studies are very inconsistent, sometimes anti-inflammatory medications help more often they don't. There is some evidence that anti-inflammatory medications may actually retard healing due to the fact that they inhibit prostaglandins (prostaglandins allow the body to trigger natural responses to infection and injury).

Topical products that contain anti-inflammatory medications seem to stimulate blood flow. These products may help you feel better but there is no evidence that they actually promote healing. Cold applications don't provide any healing but help keep swelling to a minimum (use only for a short time and immediately after activity). Heat, such as a heating pad, some hours later does help with muscle relaxation and increased blood flow, allowing for faster muscle repair.

Most important is a good, complete warm-up (starting slow). Cold muscles put to work suddenly are more likely to suffer damage than warmed up ones. And don't forget the cool down. If you stop intense activity suddenly your heart and breathing rates go back to resting levels but your muscles retain by products such as lactate. Exercising at about 60% of maximum effort keeps your hear working to help clear out your muscles. Massage feels good; even though it hasn't been proven that it helps speed healing. However, many athletes have reported less muscle soreness after massage. Small amounts of moderate exercise are much better for recovery than inactivity. You don't want to exercise hard enough for more muscle damage. So warm up well, swim hard, warm down and then swim easy the next day.

Lastly, there are recent reports from the German National Swim Team that fresh pineapple, papayas, mangos and passion fruit eaten daily helped allow the body to recover faster. With that in mind lets all head for Nationals in Hawaii!!

This month's article is by Jani Sutherland and Sara Quan, Co-Fitness Chairs of the Oregon LMSC.This article is from the March, 2002 edition of the Aqua-Master newsletter, and is reprinted with permission from the authors.


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