Posts Tagged ‘athletic injuries’

Aquatic Therapy & Training Made Me a Better Athlete

December 9, 2008

Growing up, I was never a “water person”.  In fact I was the only one of my friends who wasn’t on the local swim team – even though I was the only one with a pool in my backyard. My sports and physical activities were strictly land-based — soccer, running, tennis and ballet. The only time I took to the water was to cool off on a hot summer day. Furthermore,  I had almost drowned twice by the time I was 2 years old – so an aquatic environment was not exactly my comfort zone. Frankly, if someone had told me back then that I would eventually earn much of my living by working in a swimming pool I would’ve laughed!

My passion for aquatic exercise and therapy began out of personal necessity. As a former competitive runner, I discovered the benefits of aquatic therapy and training 25  years ago after suffering from many running-related injuries (partly due to my idiopathic scoliosis for which I wore a back brace for 3+ years in high school). Rather reluctantly, I began running and exercising in the deep end of a warm swimming pool wearing a flotation belt to take the stress off of my injuries. Much to my surprise, the pool not only became a refuge for me, it became a great cross training tool, by enabling me to exercise hard while helping my injuries heal. It also helped me maintain my sanity during that frustrating period as an athlete.

In addition to healing power of the warm water, I came to discover the performance benefits of aquatic training. For whereas most athletes leave the pool behind when their injuries heal, I continued training in the deep water even as I transitioned back to land running with great results. In fact, upon my return to competition I knocked 20 minutes off of my marathon PR (personal record) and later qualified and placed 31st in the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials. Furthermore, I became a faster, stronger, more resilient runner and . I used to call the aquatic workouts my “secret training weapon” because it gave me an edge over my frequently-injured competitors by both improving my overall strength and conditioning and preventing injuries.After finishing my masters in exercise physiology in 1996 I went on to study aquatic therapy and become an aquatic therapist specialist and today  I spend many hours a week in warm water helping others heal as well as achieve their competitive goals. With the exception of falling during a race!,  I’ve never had a major running-related injury since I began performing aquatic therapy exercise and, though I no longer compete, today I still run regularly at age 50. Furthermore, despite my scoliosis, aquatic therapy exercise has also enabled me to enjoy other physical activities besides running that have become passions of mine, including: ballroom dancing, tandem cycling and power yoga.

Bottom line:  I would never have experienced success and longevity in my running career or enjoyed other forms of physical activity pain-free had it not been for the water.

Be Well,


Watch Carolyn on U-Tube !

October 29, 2008

Please check out this short segment of Carolyn demonstrating aquatic therapy techniques with clients.

Help Your Body Heal – Part I

October 26, 2008

Whether you’re an athlete or an active person, few things are worse than sitting on the sidelines while recovering from injury or surgery. Furthermore, the body’s repair mechanisms operate best in the young when cell turnover is more rapid so the healing process naturally slows with age.

Fortunately, regardless of your age, there are things you can do to facilitate your healing process. In general, the healthier you are, the faster you recover from cuts and scrapes, strains, sprains, broken bones or surgeries. Furthermore, the components that increase your general wellness (exercising regularly, eating healthfully, sleeping adequately) also enhance your ability to heal. Plus, the more rapidly you heal, the quicker you can safely resume normal activity after injury or surgery, and the faster you can regain your strength, energy and function. 


Regular exercise appears to accelerate wound healing in particular. A recent study from Ohio State showed that older adults who exercised regularly for a few months healed faster. This was true even though none of the subjects had exercised consistently for at least six months prior to the study. One group was put on an exercise program (consisting of three times a week of  45 minutes of aerobic exercise, 15 minutes of strength training and 10 minutes of stretching exercises) while a control group remained sedentary. After one month, all subjects received a small puncture wound on the back of their arm. The exercise group then continued their program another two months while the researchers monitored all subjects until their wounds were no longer visible. Researchers found that the exercisers’ wounds healed on average 10 days faster than the non-exercisers.


When your body experiences trauma whether from injury or surgery, extra attention should be paid to certain dietary components, such as eating additional protein when you’re healing from muscle tears or strains or from surgery. When healing broken bones, it can be helpful to consume extra bone building nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K. In my next blog I’ll look specifically at foods that help you heal.


What is one of the best healing remedies, doesn’t require a prescription and is free??? SLEEP! Your body does much of its routine repair and maintenance at night when you are asleep. Production of growth hormone, which speeds absorption of nutrients and amino acids into your cells and aids the repair of tissue, peaks during sleep. In addition, your immune system recharges itself during sleep, producing antibodies to ward off viruses and infection. 

The Bottom Line

Taking care of yourself before and after you experience injury or have surgery truly facilitates the healing process. On a personal note, while I rarely get sick, I happen to be somewhat accident-prone and have thus become all-too-familiar with my own healing process. Years ago, when I became committed to my wellness full-time, I noticed that though (unfortunately) I didn’t get hurt any less, when I did get knocked down, I bounced back much faster.  Faster even than I did when I was much younger. One of the reasons for this change was my increased attention to optimal nutrition.  Next blog I’ll speak more to the issue of nutritional healing. But for now…

Be Well,





Healing Waters: Sports-Specific Aquatic Workouts – Part II

October 5, 2008

In my last blog I outlined the key benefits of aquatic athletic conditioning and rehab. Here, we’ll break it down sport by sport to look out how specifically to train in the pool.



In addition to the healing power of water exercise as part of a rehabilitation program, water training can also help prevent future injuries by balancing the strength and flexibility of opposing muscle groups. To perform well in any sport you must train for the specific demands of that sport. Golfers must develop their swing, tennis players must strengthen their strokes and marathoners must run for miles. By taking the same training principles into the water, however, you can swing, run, jump and kick again and again – improving your skills and your sports-specific fitness and preventing potential injury. Sports-specific water training addresses every component of fitness, including strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility and balance. Furthermore, the more you can duplicate specific sport skills in the water, the more you’ll be able to enhance your performance on land.



Golf is a sport that demands strength, power, stability and flexibility, particularly of the trunk muscles. Furthermore, because of the unilateral nature of golf, it is important to work both sides of your body in order to promote equal strength and flexibility. Take an old club into chest-deep water and slowly and smoothly swing through a full range of motion of your swing, noticing any choppy movements. Repeat ten times and then repeat ten more times in the opposite direction to balance your body.



Like golf, tennis is predominantly a unilateral sport that relies on trunk stability. Bring an old racket or club into chest deep water and practice your forehand and backhand, concentrating on your form. For leg strength and speed, practice plyometric moves such as bounding and leapfrogging and perform shallow and deep water sprints across the pool, with recovery jogs in between. Wear a flotation belt for the deep water sprints. Finally, try some lateral “shuffling” in the shallow end to mimic the side-stepping movements you do when transitioning from a forehand to a backhand.



Deep water running can be a great adjunct to the pounding of running on land and it can also provide an additional upper body workout – something land running doesn’t offer. Wearing a flotation belt, try running in the deep end. Simulate your land-running form as closely as possible by bending and extending your legs. Bend your arms and swing them by your sides in opposition to your legs, pointing your elbows straight behind you. Cup your hands for extra resistance. Try water running at a steady pace for 30 to 45 minutes or do some interval training. Make it even more challenging by deep water running without a flotation device.



Cyclists can duplicate their workouts in deep water by wearing a flotation belt. Extend your arms in front of you as though you were grasping handlebars and cycle your legs, circling your lower leg forward as though pushing your pedals around a complete revolution. To improve your ankle flexibility and strength, plantarflex your foot (toes toward the pool bottom) during the downstroke; dorsiflex your foot (toes toward your head) during the upstroke. Incorporate some interval training into your workout.




Basketball players must possess speed, power, aerobic and anaerobic capacity and a killer jump shot. Unfortunately, this high impact sport is injury prone and training on a hard court day after day can take its toll on your knees, back and feet. By bringing an old basketball and a partner into waist-high water you can practice your jump shot with only half the impact. Better yet, install a backboard next to your pool and you don’t even need a partner. If you’re injured you can practice your jump shot in the deep end by squatting on a kickboard and pushing off to a no-impact, standing jump. Volleyball players can also benefit from this type of training.



Water is also a great transition environment if you’re rehabilitating a sports injury. You can use the different depths of the pool to gradually transition back to land exercise; working first in the deep end with no impact and then in the shallow water with half of the impact of land training. In water up to your chest, you are only 50 percent of your body weight; up to your neck in water, your body is only about 10 percent of its land weight.


Though pool workouts don’t leave you hot and sweaty, you do perspire in the water particularly on a hot day. So pay attention to your hydration. Also, it is possible to overdo it in the water, particularly because aquatic exercise is virtually pain-free. Increase the duration and intensity of your water training gradually the way you would with your land workouts.


Whatever you sport, incorporating water training can be a fun and effective way of increasing your skills and your fitness and staving off injury. The only thing limiting you is your imagination.

Until next time….Be Well!




Aquajogger/Excel Sports Science, Inc. (for flotation belts, tethers)

Phone: (800) 92209544


Sprint/Rothhammer International (general aquatic fitness supplier)

PO Box 3840

San Luis Obispo, CA 93403

Phone: (805) 541-5330

Healing Waters: Aquatic Workouts for Injured Athletes Part I

October 5, 2008

As we all know, sports- and fitness-related injuries are all too common. Fortunately, the water is an ideal environment for athletes to not only rehab their injuries, but also maintain or even increase their conditioning and their performance. In fact, the biggest misconception about aquatic sports training is that it’s only useful when injuries prevent land workouts, when in fact it can be a valuable, year-round cross-training tool for almost any sport or fitness activity.

My work as an aquatic therapist came directly as a result of my own success with aquatic rehab as an athlete. As a former competitive marathon runner, I discovered the performance benefits of aquatic athletic conditioning more than 20 years ago. Unable to train on land for several months because of injuries, I began deep water running. It allowed me to work out as hard as I wanted to without exacerbating my injuries and it saved my sanity in the process. Whereas most athletes give up aquatic training when their injuries heal, I continued training in the deep water with great results. In fact, I knocked 20 minutes off of my marathon PR (personal record). Furthermore, I was not only faster, but a stronger, more resilient runner.

From that point on I continued my aquatic cross training, had no serious injuries, knocked another eight minutes off of my marathon PR and qualified for the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials where I placed 31st with a personal best time of 2:47:08. I truly believe aquatic athletic conditioning gave me an edge over my frequently-injured competitors by both improving my overall fitness and preventing injuries.


Aquatic cross-training not only keeps you cool, it provides an intense, no- or low-impact, pain-free workout. It is the perfect complement to running, tennis, aerobics, basketball and other high impact activities. Famous athletes who have used aquatic training with great success when recovering from injuries include: heptathlete Jackie Joyner Kersee; baseball/football player Bo Jackson; tennis player John Lloyd; runner Mary Slaney; and basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.

Whether you choose swimming, deep water running or shallow water plyometrics, you can get both cardio and muscular endurance training in one workout. Furthermore, water enhances your flexibility so you’ll never leave the pool with tight, sore muscles. In fact, many people find they are able to stretch further in water as it promotes range of motion of joints and ligaments. Never flexible even as a child, I’m now – at age 41 – able to do the splits thanks to my aquatic exercise!

In my next blog I’ll focus on aquatic therapy workouts for specific sports.

Until then…Be Well!