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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Raring Up With Rest, Recovery And Rehabilitation

As an open water swimmer, American professional marathon swimmer Ashley Twichell logs many thousands of kilometers of training in the pool and open water. 90% of her pool practices tend to be freestyle with an average of 70,000-80,000 meters per week.

This is her reflection on how she incorporates rest, recovery and rehabilitation into her overall athletic preparation.

"The large training volume that I do, combined with the shoulder problems that inherently run in my family, make it absolutely imperative to spend a lot of time on injury prevention, shoulder exercises, tissue work and chiropractic adjustments. As athletes age, recovery and rehab becomes just as essential as the actual work done in the pool.

I first began doing physical therapy in 7th grade, mainly as a precautionary measure. My dad had to have shoulder surgery in his young 20s and both of my brothers have bad shoulders.

While my shoulders frequently made a “clicking” noise on a regular basis, I never experienced much pain. In addition, I never did an extreme amount of yardage in the pool in middle school or high school - usually around 30,000-40,000 yards per week.

However, my coach and parents thought it would be in my best interest to get a head start on strengthening my shoulders, particularly since I seemed to be heading towards becoming a distance swimmer. This physical therapy was pretty basic, and consisted mainly of numerous shoulder exercises, which I did three times a week. I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t as disciplined as I should have been about routinely doing these exercises, and actually stopped doing them in 10th grade; however, looking back on it, I wish I had been more diligent.

When I got to college and began doing more yardage than I had been in high school, my shoulder started to act up a bit. Especially after a high-volume practice, or a practice with a lot of pulling, my shoulders, particularly the right one, would flare up. It is important to note that this was a different ‘pain’ than the usual soreness and aching experienced after tough workouts. Rather, I would have sharp pains running through my right shoulder. At this point, I knew it was time to go see Sports Medicine trainers at Duke University where I attended college.

In response, I began doing physical therapy once again. This was very similar to what I had been doing in middle and high school. I also added in icing on a daily basis. For the time being, this was sufficient. After a particularly tough workout, I would take Ibuprofen to help ease the pain and reduce swelling; however, I really try to limit my Ibuprofen use to when I think it is absolutely necessary.

After graduating college, I moved to California to train with Mission Viejo Nadadores, and my weekly yardage increased yet again. In addition, I began to get into and specialize in open water swimming. These 10K races, typically in rough waters involving chop, waves and/or currents, really put a toll on my shoulders. My normal shoulder exercises and icing weren’t quite providing the relief or recovery that I needed, so I looked into seeing someone on a regular basis (massage therapist, chiropractor, doctor, etc.). I was lucky enough to have someone recommend Dr. Julie Malley at Trabuco Hills Chiropractic, and have been seeing her weekly since January of 2012.

The first part of my visit to Dr. Malley is physical therapy and work on my shoulder. Typically, I will first do electrical stimulation. This involves placing electrodes on my shoulder, which then produce electrical current and cause the selected muscles to contract. This not only helps to strengthen these muscles, but also promotes blood supply to the selected area, which aids in healing. I also use bio photas using red, blue and infrared light. This LED light stimulates the basic energy processes in the mitochondria. When energy goes up it stimulates a healing response in the body causing growth and regeneration. These two processes (stimulation and bio photas), coupled with icing and my shoulder exercises, have allowed me to continue with my desired volume and intensity of training, without an irritated shoulder getting in the way. Lastly, Dr. Malley performs tissue work and chiropractic adjustments, which are important for keeping my entire body in alignment.

As a result, I am hopeful that my shoulders have many more years of mileage in them.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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