View Full Version : Can't even swim yet, shoulder pain already???

May 4th, 2011, 10:44 PM
I've been teaching myself to swim and I'm trying to develop good technique right from the get go.
I've been reading about body rotation in free stroke and bilateral breathing.
I'd be considered an adult learner and I've never been in the water before. I started teaching myself 5 days ago and I spent 1 hour a day in the water.

When i get in the water, I kick off, begin exhaling through my nose strongly, kick with my legs but be careful to not bend my knees, look straight down at the pool, keep my fingers together and point my elbow angled towards the sky when my arm breaks the water's surface and then I angle it in and bring it down in front of my face and pull it towards my waist.

I'm finally at the point where I can swim half a lap on one breath but I can't get breathing down unilaterally or bilaterally.
When I turn my head to get a breath, I don't ever experience the "bow wave" and water just rushes into my mouth from all sides and from the top of my head and goggles.

Also, as of yesterday I've been experiencing dull aching shoulder pain when trying to swim breast stroke.
I get the pain if i'm standing up and raising my right shoulder to neck height.
What can i do about this, I don't want to give up swimming as well because I can't run due to flat feet and previous meniscus complications.

May 5th, 2011, 05:50 PM
Have you tried using fins? You are probably having trouble breathing because you can't generate enough forward speed yet. Fins can help give you a boost until you get a bit stronger. Sometimes pools have sets you can borrow. I wear these: http://www.allamericanswim.com/speedo-optimus-training-fins-p-6512.html

Don't know about the pain but don't do anything that makes it worse.

May 5th, 2011, 06:38 PM
I took a day off from all physical activity...I'm doing olympic style weightlifting for an hour and then did 1 hour of swimming everyday with lifting every other...it was an overuse injury and thankfully just a minor ache.

I also read that it's bad to have your arm come down towards the center of your body...and that you should have your arms coming down towards their respective sides? Basically you don't want your arm to cross over as this causes a greater rotation and puts stress on your rotator cuff?

Two questions that I have not been able to find an answer to are, HOW EXACTLY do I begin the stroke and what is the proper technique for when an arm breaks the water's surface and comes forward into the water again?

Let's say I jump into a lane, how do i begin? Do I push off first and glide, how long do i glide for? When I'm gliding do I kick? Do I exhale when gliding???

When bringing my arm OUT of the water, how do I execute this?
Do I bend my arm with my elbows pointing at th ceiling?
How far should the arm re-enter the water? In front of me? Near my head?
Also, I've read that I should enter fingers first, hand and arm flattened, but with the elbow bent downwards??? What does this look like and how do I do this?

May 5th, 2011, 08:02 PM
It may be that you are doing something that puts your right shoulder in a weird position or under too much strain. You may not be aware you are even doing it. For instance, you talk about putting your hand in front of your face--your hand might be crossing in front of your body, which could lead to strain.

You could also be doing too much too fast. Going from nothing to an hour in the water--and maybe an hour in the water for 5 days straight (it's not clear)--is probably too much too soon.

On the other hand, it's hard to visualize what you are doing from your description. Why not get a lesson? Someone looking at you can offer instant corrections to your stroke and might be able to see immediately why you might be having shoulder pain.

May 5th, 2011, 10:01 PM
Find a good coach...

May 5th, 2011, 10:37 PM
A few things from a relative newb... I'm also in my 30s, just started swimming in earnest recently in life and have been plagued with some shoulder issues the first time I tried a couple years ago and starting to creep up now, but fighting past them with help:

1.) +1 on the coach suggestions. Look to see if there is a masters group in your area. That is a good place to find out about some coaches and, depending on the size, "seriousness", and activity level of the group, you may be able to get into some workouts at your pace with some active coaching/help.

2.) Look up more about technique on the web from some of the sources listed here. I know there are different schools but I found some help from the Total Immersion folk's free content as well as Swim Smooth's free content.

3.) Your comment about the wave not enough to breathe just had me wondering if your head was actually too low. I've not been fast enough at the beginning but still managed to breathe. I had to get the head up a bit higher than an elite swimmer to either side to catch the breaths at first but I found that when I was focused on looking down too much, my head was too low and I would grab water when I reached for a breath (again look for a coach...)

4.) Shoulder Pain - Consider going to a good physical therapist who understands the shoulder really well. If you are like me, you have poor posture, you work on a computer or drive a lot and your chest is too tight while the muscles behind your shoulder are too loose and too weak. I've had shoulder pain like you describe and I found out through the PT that I am really strong on the "front muscles" but incredibly weak on the "behind muscles" of the shoulders. This leads to instability and working the shoulders incorrectly. Through some exercises, massage and stretching it is getting better. Look up "upper crossed" or "upper cross" syndrome. Not sure how official that is but the condition fits me to a T.

5.) It gets better! When I first started, I'd be lucky to do 25 yards without taking a few minute break. I've been back for about 2.5-3 months now and haven't been working out as often as I should (kids, church, work, life) but I just had myself timed officially for a mile Tuesday night (entering an OW 2.4 mile race for July! First ever competitive... well anything at least physically... in my life.) and, while many here would blow past me, the time was 32 minutes (a 1750 mile) with the fastest 100 at 1:25 and slowest around 2:00 and many in the 1:50ish ballpark someplace... Some of those laps were on my back to catch my breath here or there and I did all open turns... I fully intend to see that pool mile be in the 26-28 minute ballpark or better by the time I'm "ready" for that 2.4 miler. That isn't to brag its to say that I've done that after having almost posted your exact post a couple times here. You. Can. Do. It! Just find that coach/masters class and a good PT/Ortho/Chiro to chat with.

May 6th, 2011, 01:17 PM
Wow I really appreciate the great responses and I would join a group but sadly I live in a very small town.

@riseforms, I'd say that the front of my shoulders are weaker than my rear shoulder muscles. A lot of weightlifting tends to this if you don't do shoulder exercises that develop the shoulder equally.

@jbs, I think that was exactly what I was doing, crossing my shoulder towards the center of my body and this was led to an exaggerated range of motion which may have put more stress on my shoulder.

May 6th, 2011, 04:04 PM
I think an hour a day is a little bit too much to start off with.

Also, don't force yourself to breath bilatterally. If it works for you, great, but you don't have to do it.

Work on your float: Float in the water without stroking. Move your head up and down and see how it effects where your hips sit in the water. Push off the wall and streamline as far as you can without kicking or pulling. See if you can go further without pushing off the wall harder but by simply being more streamline.

And for goodness sakes, dont wear shorts or anything with pockets!

Good luck!

Brian Stack
May 6th, 2011, 05:10 PM
You really should get some one who knows something about swimming healthy freestyle to take a look at your stroke before you do some damage.
Pain is a good indicator that you're doing something wrong, and without being able to see what you're doing any advice could be dangerous.

If you insist on being your own coach or have no other options look into some self coaching material. Total Immersion has a self coached practice series that they sell. You can get lot's of great info at Emmett Hines' web site http://www.h2oustonswims.org/, he runs it on a donation/honor system so all the articles are fully accessible. If you find it useful you could make a donation.

You could also consider traveling to a clinic to get some coaching. USMS is presenting Swim Fest 2011 in Atlanta this month, info on the home page.
The Pacific LMSC is presenting The Excel Weekend Clinic for Coaches and Swimmers in San Mateo CA June 10, 11 and 12. More info here: http://pacmastersswimmingexcelweekend.com/

Good luck, and get some help with your stroke, we want you swimming pain free for a good long time.

May 6th, 2011, 05:24 PM
Wow I really appreciate the great responses and I would join a group but sadly I live in a very small town.

@riseforms, I'd say that the front of my shoulders are weaker than my rear shoulder muscles. A lot of weightlifting tends to this if you don't do shoulder exercises that develop the shoulder equally.

When I say the "rear shoulder muscles" I am really talking about the infraspinatus, serratus, lower traps, etc.

May 7th, 2011, 06:38 AM
It always helps to get instruction. Ask the lifeguards or the director of the facility if someone teaches adult beginners. A short course of private lessons will allow you to learn at your pace.
To learn proper rotation, it helps to over rotate and go all the way to your back for a breath.
It is difficult to assess a beginner based on his description of what he is doing. there are so many variables in buoyancy that affect how you move in the water.i