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ShopGuy

Parkinson's related swimming question (or swimming related Parkinson's question)

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For the past couple months I've been trying to swim regularly as part of my exercise program. Started out with the Master's Swim program my wife does but 5 am starts didn't work for me, so now I swim laps on my own during my lunch hour, two days a week.

 

The problem is, my legs sink. Nothing I've tried seems to fix it. As swimmers know, sinky legs=lots of drag, and I can't go more than 50 yards without having to stop for a rest. Using a pull buoy, I can easily go 3 times that far before a break, and the swimming is actually enjoyable, rather than frustrating.

 

When kicking, it often feels like my legs aren't working quite right, leading me to wonder if the increasing stiffness in my left leg as my symptoms progress isn't part of the problem. On the other hand, days I don't swim I try to get in a 4-5 mile walk, and stiffness hasn't seemed to affect that at all.

 

Any SWPs (Swimmers With Parkinson's) out there who can provide advice? Do I just need more time to develop better swimming technique ( this is what my wife suspects) or can I expect improvement when I start PD meds (something that is looking like sooner rather than later in any event)?

 

--David

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Hi David,

 

Your question is interesting to me.  I've been swimming 5-6 days a week for 6 years and over the course of time have really slowed down in both my time and # of laps.  I attribute it more to my age (65) than PD .. although I think PD is playing a bigger part now.   I don't feel my legs are dragging anymore than they used to .. but they do feel heavier.

 

What I've noticed more is that I really roll to the right when doing the breastroke and I can see my right arm does not come up as high as my left when doing my pull back.  I am making a conscious effort to bring it up higher.

 

Can I assume you use a kickboard?  I use a different method than most.  I do not have my head and shoulders (some) out of the water while kicking because it hurts my lower back.  I extend the kickboard and put my face in the water and kick.  I turn or lift my head out of the water to breath.  I lay flat in the water.  This has also helped with breath control.

 

I don't really have much rigidity but I would think it would play a big part in the flexibility of kicking ... a HUGE drag!  (pun intended)

 

I also do the side stroke and find that I can get a pretty healthy kick out of that stroke too.  Actually, I swim on my stomach, back and side.  Gets all the muscles goin'.   AND, the biggest boost to my swimming is I use a waterproof iShuffle .. the music saves my life some days!

 

Has anyone watched you swim?  You may be doing fine and just have tired legs.

 

Good luck!

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David, 

 

I forgot to mention something, which I'm sure you've already thought of:  using the kickboard may be harder than swimming.  In the beginning you may only be able to do one length (not lap).

 

When I began swimming, my legs would drop down.  After using the kickboard, for quite a while, I noticed my legs were stronger and they ended up closer to the top than before.

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How much stretching are you doing pre and post swim?

 

I'm halfway through the LSVT BIG program.  What seems so odd is realizing I don't know what my leg is doing! There is one stretch, sideways on a chair... leg over the top, knee straight, and inner thigh gets a good stretch.   When I started my knee was at a 90 degree angle.  Not much of a stretch at all, but it just didn't register in my mind I wasn't doing that stretch.  So I have to turn back and look to see where my leg is.

 

At least with my "monkey paws" I can look at them and realize "my fingers are curled around" then stretch fingers out and realize "Ok, that is better".   It's really like my mind and body are disconnected, so I keep having to look to confirm.   With fingers stretched out, shoulders back, arms straight out.... boy does it open my chest and I can get LOUD! 

 

So when swimming if your movement is smaller (less kick) it is a matter of working with stretching to get back to full moment. 

 

So with walking my strides kept getting shorter, figured it was aging more than anything.  Nope, brain feedback in movements getting smaller all the time.  It is so gradual, didnt even notice how short my stride had gotten (I was harder to keep pace walking with my son, and pulled  groin muscle. Ouch!).    With the LSVT I'm moving BIG!

 

Just a thought.

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TexasTom .. your comment about small kicks need more stretching is interesting .. I am wondering if that is why I feel I am still able to kick, although now I'm wondering if I'm NOT doing what I think I am.  :)

 

I don't stretch before I swim (I know, very naughty!) .. however, when I am done and ready to begin Part 2 of my routine, I head into the warm pool for the next 1/2 hr.  I do some balancing on one of those water noodles.  I stand on the largest one with both feet, standing in chest-high water.  Because the noodle is round, it does roll around and it gives me a pretty good calf stretch.  I put my arms up as in a yoga style and balance.  It's taken me 1-1/2 years to stand for 2 minutes uninterrupted.  I can't do it consistently .. especially if there are other people in the water, i.e., extra current.  I do some other exercises:  standing on one leg, arms up over my head and do some front kicks, side kicks and back kicks ... not really fast kicks; more controlled ones.  Then I use water weights and do some core work and at the end of my time, I do some good stretches with feet touching the side of the pool and I stretch back (as if you were touching your toes to the floor).  I do 5-6 of these and then I do some arm stretches.  If I remember, I try and do the type of stretches you mentioned.  I just pretend I'm sitting on a chair.

 

You bring up an interesting point about not realizing what your body is doing until you see it .. I've only experienced it with my arm / breaststroke but I can certainly see what you are experiencing.  I will have to become more aware.

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Thanks, Swimmer and Tom.

 

I'm not using a kick board (because I find them frustrating, prob.  because my kicking isn't very good). I was referring to my kick swimming freestyle. Practicing kicking separately (with kick board) is something I know I should be doing, and I'll try tomorrow. I'm sure most of this really is lack of practice and experience, not PD.

 

Breaststroke is pretty good for me, but more tiring than freestyle. Backstroke? Well, I can do it, but feel like I'm being water-boarded. So without a coach forcing me to, I tend to avoid it.

 

Tom, I stretch some in the pool, between laps, but not really before or after. My flexibility's okay (at least for a male)--I can generally touch my toes without trouble, although not first thing in the morning. Been looking for a yoga class.

 

--David

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Noticed this summer i have problems swimming. My legs dont drop but seem to float up all the time so half my stroke is above water. Hurts my neck and back. I cant get them down. Anyone else experience that??

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I have similar trouble with any swimming techniques involving flutter kicks.  My legs sink which throws my front crawl off. I swim mostly underwater now, since my front crawl sucks.

Have you tried dolphin or frog kicks?  I think the problem with us parkies is that the normal flutter kick requires fine motor control.  I do much better utilizing frog kicks (with a kickboard) or dolphin kicks (butterfly stroke, underwater). The dolphin kicks can be a bit hard on the back though...

 

Edited by afroney

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This is interesting, we take the grandkids to a local pool frequently. And my legs sink like a rock.

Even holding on to the edge of the pool trying to just relax and float and cannot do so.

Maybe the rigidity?

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Since I was never much of a swimmer anyway, I have not tested my body thoroughly in pools.  However, the first time I knew PD was causing trouble in the water, my legs FLOATED rather than sank!  I could not pull them down or do a flutter kick.  I had no control over them at all and had to work my way along the edge of the pool to reach a woman who helped me get out of it.  By the strangest coincidence, she was a researcher working with PD and heart patients!

J

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J that sounds exactly the same. Interestingly for some legs float for others they sink. Weird.

Afroney it happens with all kicks. 

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6 hours ago, Skiing said:

J that sounds exactly the same. Interestingly for some legs float for others they sink. Weird.

Afroney it happens with all kicks. 

Even underwater?

I ask, because I'm terrible at swimming on the surface. My legs sink and drag, like yours. It stinks, because I used to be a good swimmer. Underwater, I do much better for some reason.

I was really happy with myself this summer. Was able to touch bottom of a 20 ft deep pond.   My buddy didn't believe me, so I swam to the bottom again and brought up a handful of mud.

Edited by afroney

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