Although summer has officially ended, it’s still warm enough for a swim. Whether you are training for a triathlon; a twice-weekly swim at your local pool; swimming at a tropical beach while on holidays or a vigorous paddle in the Bay, this is the exercise for you
Do you remember in April where we referred to a baby looking forward to see what was going on in front of them? This exercise requires that same lengthened upper back and neck but this time there will be no arms to assist you.
The shape of your body will resemble a heavy rope stretched out between two people. It’s sufficiently heavy that they won’t be able to stretch it to completely straight; it will have a long curved shape. This is the shape to keep in mind when you are ‘Swimming’.
Joseph Pilates is quoted as saying, “Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.” This is pertinent for this exercise, which may seem easy at first glance but is quite complex to perform correctly.
Swimming Preparation Exercises
- Lie on your front, with legs long and active and your arms stretched out overhead. Glide your shoulder blades down your back and inhale to lift your head and chest off the floor – this is your starting position. From here, exhale to float opposite arm and leg off the mat, inhale to return. Focus on the limbs that have been left behind and use the press of your leg, hip and palm into the mat to assist with controlling the torso. Repeat 3 times each side and then add in a head turn towards your lifted leg for 3 times each side.
- Start in the same position as exercise 1, except bring 1 arm down by your side. Exhale as you lift your head, chest, the arm by your side and the opposite leg, and allow yourself to spiral towards your lifted arm. Use the hip and leg that’s left behind to counterbalance and also to influence the mobility in your thoracic.
Lie on your front, hands under your forehead and your legs stretched out behind you. Inhale, gently engage your abdominals and float one straight leg off the floor, exhale to lower that leg, inhale to change to the other leg, and then alternate as if you are kicking through the water.
Next leave the legs long and active on the floor and stretch your arms out. Glide your shoulder blades down your back and inhale to lift your head and chest off the floor, now try the same ‘kicking’ movement with your arms. Now you are ready to put it all together!
Legs and arms extended and active; exhale as you elevate head, chest, arms and legs off the floor. Watch those abdominals and maintain a long line from fingertips to toes. Make sure that only your arms and legs are moving, no rocking is to happen in the body. Remember to breathe in for 5 counts and breathe out for 5 counts.
Ready, Set, Go!
Things to watch out for when you are not doing this exercise under supervision
- If you feel strain in your lower back, return to legs only until you feel your abdominals correctly engaged.
- Think about just hovering your legs and arms rather than trying to lift them up high – this exercise is more about length.
- Try long smooth breaths in and out throughout the exercise.
- As you tire, your chest will probably get closer to the floor, try to keep it lifted.
- Think about arm movements originating from the muscles of the upper back and shoulders (not the neck) and leg movements from the gluteal muscles. The action here is less about the actual arms and legs and more about the muscles and structures between the shoulders and hips.
What you will feel
- As if you could swim across the Bay!
- A wonderfully engaged body – arms, shoulders, lungs, deep spine muscles, abdominals, glutes and legs. Everything is working here.
- Want more challenge? Increase the pace and the height as long as your back does not get over-involved.