Neck and back pain in open water

Last summer I did my first 10k swim and the biggest problem I had was that my neck and back started to hurt from the constant swim without any flip turns to stretch my back out. Does anyone have any advice on strengthening my back to avoid the pain and soreness I experienced? Thank you!

Comments

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    Wow- that is the opposite of my back problem- getting back into the pool for laps after years of only open water, and I had to modify my flip turns significantly, and do special exercises to prep my lower legs for pushing off the wall so often.

    If you are normally a pool swimmer, and open water is bothering your neck and back, I wonder if you are holding your head way up to landmark forward. Depending on the course layout, you may be able to barely peek forward every few strokes to maintain in-line stabilization. Also, water moves differently in open water, and swimming in a crowd can make you zig-zag a bit at times, which may be bothering you. Any chance that it is the mechanics of the open water adaptation that is bothering you, rather than the lack of flips? Just a thought, and only because for me, with my back history, in-line is usually best over time.

    I get leg cramps, and will often flex my feet hard while swimming until a cramp fades. Not efficient, but I'm not fast anyway. Fortunately, it happens less and less. If you feel the need to stretch out while doing a ten K, do you feel you can take a few seconds every mile or so to tuck? As for any exercises, any core work, including yoga, might help in all venues. Also, walking is very good for backs. Good luck.

    josbourne
  • cwerhanecwerhane Portland Oregon Member

    My lower back pain resolved with the addition of core exercises into my cross training. I found that after hours OWS my core got lazy, my lower back swayed and that aggravated the pain. I found if I simply beared down on my pelvic vault, the pain dissipated.

    My first two years swimming, my neck was also problematic. Again I sought PT exercises that increased strength and flexibility. I also avoided sighting forward when I had a kayaker. I trusted the kayaker and only looked at my position off of them, looking slightly back over my shoulder with my breath. Also I transitioned to bilateral breathing, in the pool and OW.

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    I had lower back pain in open water mostly due to sighting/navigation, when I would lift my huge noggin up constantly. I did a couple things to fix this:

    1) Worked on navigation and cut my sighting back to every 16th to 20th stroke.
    2) Started lifting weights, especially deadlift.

    I still probably over-sight and could probably sight every 30th stroke, or more, but my brain tells me "Oh God, you're swimming the wrong way! Look up for goodness sake!"

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNMember

    Sighting is probably part of it. You might want to get on a yoga ball or BOSU. Face down with your belly button at the top/center of the ball, legs straight back behind you at shoulder width or slightly more apart. Hands should be behind your head. Do a reverse sit-up where you relax down to the ground and lift your upper body up for several reps and or you can do a lift and hold for 5 seconds. Be careful you don't strain your back

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    IronMike said:

    I still probably over-sight and could probably sight every 30th stroke, or more, but my brain tells me "Oh God, you're swimming the wrong way! Look up for goodness sake!"

    I think I'm the opposite. I get into this nice rhythm that I don't want to screw up. So I don't want to lift and sight, and I kind of keep putting it off. "Two more strokes, how bad can it be?" It's always a surprise when I finally take a peek...

    IronMike
  • josbournejosbourne MichiganMember

    Thank you for the responses. I think you are all correct-I am terrible at navigating in open water and end up way off-course which causes me to lift my head way out of the water to get good look at where I am. Flystorms, thank you for the suggested exercises; I am going to add that to my routine!

    Bridget, yes, I did do some tucks during my 10k, but it frightened the life guards. They kept paddling over to ask if I was dying, lol!

    Solo
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    josbourne said:
    Thank you for the responses. I think you are all correct-I am terrible at navigating in open water and end up way off-course which causes me to lift my head way out of the water to get good look at where I am. Flystorms, thank you for the suggested exercises; I am going to add that to my routine!

    Bridget, yes, I did do some tucks during my 10k, but it frightened the life guards. They kept paddling over to ask if I was dying, lol!

    Besides working on swimming straight, work also on proper sighting. If you're lifting your head "way out of the water," you should work on "alligator eyes." You barely need to lift your head. Look it up and you'll probably find videos on how to do it. And don't worry if you don't see the land feature or buoy you should be swimming toward. If you don't see it the first time you "alligator eyes," then doing another couple of strokes while turning the way you think you should be going, then look again.

    My first 5k way back when (2010?) I saw a bunch of very fast young people (16-19 years old) doing a very weird breast-stroke type of sighting. Basically what they did was when they needed to sight, they'd allow both arms to meet in front of their head, immediately and very quickly do a breast stroke, sighting while their head was up, then complete the breast stroke and turn it back into crawl stroke. They did it incredibly fast, so it only slightly slowed down their progress. I taught this to some triathletes years ago who had difficulty with alligator eyes and it really helped them with their navigation in tris. I think it is a nice intermediate step if you have a good breast stroke and have trouble with alligator eyes.

    Good luck!

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    That breast stroke thing sounds like a good idea. Do you do a breast stroke kick too or is it just the arms? From the description it sounds like just arms. I'm going to mess with that idea, just the arms and no breast stroke kick. It might give me a better snapshot than traditional freestyle sighting does. When I sight now, I have to take two or three peeks to figure out where I am.

    I may even mess around with doing a butterfly kick to launch off the breast stroke arms and resume freestyle. I'm going to have fun in the pool tomorrow. Hopefully the lifeguards don't try to fish me out.

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