We talk to two athletes who are no strangers to swimming pools, elite divers Ross Haslam and Brooke Cullen. They give us their advice on how to safely get back into swimming (or diving!) after such a long break, or indeed if you haven’t been in a pool for years.
1. No time like the present
“Start the process now!” This is the advice of GB diver Ross Haslam, who is currently training for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. “Swimming and diving both use lots of small stabilising muscles throughout the shoulders so focusing on these areas with some simple activation exercises in the build-up to getting in the pool could make your return to the water even more seamless.”
For example, a simple exercise could be to use a band for external shoulder rotations, check out more shoulder exercises here.
2. Ease back into it
Both Haslam and Cullen advise everyone to ease back into their swimming and training. “For those who are less confident in the water, take it slowly”, says Haslam. “There is no rush to be swimming a marathon or jumping off a 10m board straight away, so if you feel like you need to, take your first session nice and easy and try to enjoy the feeling of being back in the water again.”
Cullen advises people to “start off slowly and easy with less lengths than you may have done before. Ease back into your normal sessions over time.”
Both athletes suggest that a warm up is a good idea before you get in the pool. “I would suggest doing a full body warm up before your swim,” says Cullen. “This will mean you have less chance of pulling a muscle. A warm up can include leg and arm swings to activate your joints and it will also help warm up the muscles and overall body.”
4. Make sure you recover
Whether you are training or simply increasing your activity levels, muscle recovery can be key to your fatigue levels and overall enjoyment of exercise. There are several ways you can aid your recovery. Cullen advises that when you restart swimming, or indeed any sport, you need to make sure you stay hydrated. It is easy to forget to drink when you are swimming, so taking a water bottle with you is a good idea. Cullen also recommends that you stretch after a swimming session: “Use selected stretches to the muscle groups you have used in the pool”.
5. Using bioelectrical therapy
Using NuroKor bioelectrical therapy can also aid muscle recovery and help with your return to the pool. Not only can it be used to help sore muscles recover, it can also be used for muscle activation before you get in the pool. Ross Haslam is a strong believer in NuroKor and has used it throughout his rehabilitation for his shoulder, as well as generally for recovery:
“I continue to use NuroKor for sore legs after strength and conditioning sessions or after time in the pool. I can put my NuroKor on in my lunch break and get some great active recovery whilst still relaxing and shutting off mentally before the next session.”
Cullen is also a huge believer in the benefits of bioelectrical therapy and uses her NuroKor device regularly:
“When I go heavy on training I get some minor aches. NuroKor really does take the edge off those aches and pains and gives me confidence to train again the next day.”
6. Goal setting
As an elite athlete, Ross Haslam is used to goal setting. But he suggests it can also be useful for recreational swimmers and divers to stay motivated:
“Set yourself a goal for when you get back in the pool. That could be to swim a certain distance/ swim for a particular amount of time or even to attempt a dive you haven't done in a while. This way you have something to focus on from your very first time back in the pool, helping you to start fresh and stay motivated.”
7. Don’t get caught out
“When returning to the water, make sure you don't forget to tie up your trunks (or secure your swimsuit!)”. This is Haslam’s advice for those who may be a little out of practice with swimming pools. He goes on: “The last thing you want on your first time back in the water is to recreate that iconic Mr Bean moment!”
8. Enjoy it
“Enjoy your first dip back in the pool.” This is Haslam’s last piece of advice, and the one he deems the most important. “Whether that is a reluctant dip of the toe in a cold swimming pool, or a cannonball straight into the deep end, try to enjoy every moment and where possible make a splash and have some fun!”