Category Archives: Health

Why Swimmers Are So Healthy  

Want the workout of a lifetime? Jump right in! The pool is the perfect place to transform your health. Ask any die-hard swimmer or fitness pro and they will tell you that swimming is one of the best things that you can do for your body. Ready to get moving? Here are a few reasons why swimming is such an amazing workout.

Swimming makes your body WORK. If you don’t swim, you sink. No excuses allowed! Unlike running where you can slow down and not notice it, you always have forces working against you in the water. Your muscles have to constantly be pushing to keep you going. This means that you will automatically be getting a strength and cardio workout every time you dive in- no planning required!

Swimmers have incredibly healthy lungs. Being able to hold your breath is one of the keys to becoming a good swimmer. As you spend more and more time in the water, you body will get used to reduced oxygen levels and start to use the oxygen that you do have more efficiently. Compared to all other athletes, swimmers have some of the best functioning lungs on the planet.

AMANZI Girl Chloe

Photo credit @thechloekay

Swimming is low impact. It is a great way to workout while avoiding overtaxing your body. Whether you are injured or just trying to prevent injury, swimming is easy on your joints so you don’t feel the same wear and tear that you would if you were out running or working out in the gym. This also means that you never have to take a break from swimming. Whether you are injured, pregnant or just getting too old for the gym, you can still swim with zero issues. The water is very forgiving and makes it easy for everybody to get started and keep moving forward.

Swimmers are relaxed. Ever wonder why surfers are so laid back? It’s because water helps you chill out! Swimmers get those same benefits. Not only do you get those amazing exercise endorphins, you also get that special relaxation that only the water can bring. According to experts, just submerging your body in water makes you feel more at ease and reduces your risk of long term stress.

Swimmers stay younger. According to a recent study, swimmers are biologically a whopping 20 years younger than their actual ages. By reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as improving your muscle mass, cognitive functioning, cardiovascular system, and central nervous system health, swimmers can slow down the clock.

Swimming is a truly full body workout. Few workouts push your entire body into motion like swimming. By calling on often-ignored muscles like your lats, deltoids, and traps while pushing your core and lower back to its limits, swimming will get you into the best shape of your life. Did we mention that it will give you killer arm, leg and shoulder muscles too?

Swimming will help you manage your weight. In fact, few workouts will burn calories quite as efficiently as swimming. You can expect to burn upwards of 600 calories per hour in the water. That is more than biking or running!

The Most Common Swimming Injuries and How to Avoid Them 

AMANZI Girl Laura Dennis

AMANZI Girl Laura stretching between sessions

While swimming is one of the safest sports out there, there are still some risks. Ultimately, any time that you are moving your body, you can hurt it. Poor technique and over training are the most common causes of swimming injuries but it is very easy to avoid injury. Listen to your coach and, of course, listen to your body! Here are a few of the most common swimming injuries that you should be on the lookout for so that you can avoid them.

Rotator cuff injuries: By far the most common injury that you will find in the pool, you can easily recognise the tell-tale signs of a rotator cuff injury. You will feel a sharp pain in your shoulder with every single stroke. The pain will be the sharpest when you extend your arm forward and over your head. This pain combined with shoulder inflammation probably means that you have a rotator cuff injury. One of the most common causes is simply overuse. Of course, it is best to check with your coach to make sure that you are swimming with a proper technique and, if the pain is chronic, check in with your doc. In the long term, focus on strength training but be strategic. Swim and lift weights but pay attention to your body to make sure that you aren’t pushing yourself too hard.

Lower back pain: This injury is often a result of the butterfly stroke. The movement puts a lot of pressure on the lumbar vertebrae because you are arching your back and pushing it out of the water. If you are feeling a general stiffness and swelling in your lower back, it’s time to take a break then focus on strength training and flexibility. To keep your back limber, stretch after each workout. To get your back strong, there are a few workouts that you can do. Get in the habit of adding side planks, lunges, hip bridges, squats and dead lifts to your routine. Make sure that you are maintaining good posture, whether you are working out or just hanging out, and focus on slowly gaining strength.

Swimmer’s knee: Feeling a pain on the inner side of your knee? Blame the breast stroke and take a look at your form. One common cause of knee pain is actually excessive hip rotation. To prevent pain, have your coach watch you closely to make sure that your breast stroke is spot on. Be sure to also mix it up in the water. Use different strokes so that you aren’t overtaxing particular muscles.

Neck injuries: Between holding a high head position and rotating your neck back and forth, a lot of swimmers deal with chronic neck pain. To stop it before it starts, focus on strengthening your neck with neck extension and shoulder roll exercises. While you are dealing with pain, stay out of the water as much as possible and stretch your neck and shoulders regularly to keep yourself flexible.

Veggie Athletes

Beautiful fruit and veg via @thebitingtruth

Taste the rainbow! Image via @thebitingtruth

You know what dinosaurs and athletes have in common? They both need meat! Or do they? Even some dinosaurs were vegetarians, and we wouldn’t mess with the long neck dinosaurs.

Dino comparisons aside, there are actually a lot of vegetarian athletes out there believe it or not. Like anything in your diet, changing it to exclude meat completely has huge implications for your athletic performance and lifestyle. If you are determined to go vegetarian, already a vegetarian or just curious about the impacts, we explore the advantages and disadvantages.

The Pros  
People are quick to jump on the offense against vegetarians for some reason, so there are a lot of naysayers out there who say you can’t combine athleticism and vegetarianism. We don’t agree with this perspective.

Just about every expert agrees that with careful planning, a well-balanced and nourishing vegetarian diet is possible. If you are willing to put time and effort to create the veggie lifestyle you desire, then go for it. There are also many creative vegetarian recipes out there, which are delicious and nutritious (Stay tuned to our blog for some ideas)!

Good protein sources include rice, eggs, beans, nuts, tofu, the list goes on! You should aim to be incorporating these high protein foods into every meal, as this is essential to athlete recovery.

There are many famous successful vegetarian athletes out there, including US Olympic swimmer, Katie Ziegler. 11 Time Olympic Medalist Natalie Coughlin sticks to a plant based diet, very occasionally eating meat. Tennis champions, Serena and Venus Williams are also famous for being vegans. If they can do it, you can!  Perhaps look further into how they managed to pull off training and going veggie to help supplement your knowledge of vegetarianism.

The Cons
Being a vegetarian isn’t just hard due to the fact you will miss juicy steaks, tender chicken, etc., but it also takes a good deal of time and effort to create a healthy vegetarian diet.

This means you need to know how to get the right amount of protein and nutrients that you normally get from meat, without having meat. You also will probably need to invest in some supplements. Ladies especially need to look out for iron deficiencies from not having meat!

Not to worry our little veggie friends! All of this is possible, but it requires that someone goes into it with an attitude of putting effort into their diet.

Conclusion: Listen to your Body and your Doctor

Due to genetics, environment, etc. – sometimes it is necessary to eat meat.  If this is a new change to your diet consult with a doctor and/or nutritionist to plan out how you are going to do this. Also, be sure to monitor how it is impacting your body, mind and energy levels.

 

Tackling Negativity with AMANZI Athletes

AMANZI Girl Georgia DaviesThe biggest enemy most of us will ever face is ourselves. Negative self talk serves as a barrier that prevents many individuals from ever achieving their maximum potential. It is the job of us athletes to tame the real mean person that lives inside of our head, so we can focus on being the best person we can be.

Recently we interviewed all of our top AMANZI athletes, and we asked them how they deal with negativity. The following were some of our favorite answers that we thought would benefit swimmers and non-swimmers alike!  You can read how these professionals deal with mental negativity below. For bonus material, you can follow the link on their names to see the rest of the interview to really get to know what makes these Amanzi athletes tick!

What’s your best advice for dealing with mental negativity? How do you get out of your own head?

  1. A quote that my coach told me, something along the lines of “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re probably right” – always believe in yourself and your ability. Georgia Davies (Swimmer)
  1. Don’t think about the past in a bad way think of it as something you can improve on, as you can always better what you do if you keep going at it and doing the right things. Ellie Faulkner (Swimmer)
  1. “I use a method created by Dr Steve Peters (psychiatrist to British Cycling & Team Sky) in his book ‘The Chimp Paradox’. Basically, anything negative that comes into your head is classified as a ‘threat’ or getting ‘hijacked by your chimp’. I will go through my ‘threats’ with my coach before each race and counter them. For example, perhaps a threat for me would be, ‘what if I don’t have my run legs when I jump off the bike?’ This would be countered with, ‘that is just silly, you have been running really well in training/doing lots of brick sessions, there is no reason why this would happen.’ So each and every threat gets countered and you can go into the race knowing that you’ve dealt with all those little voices.” Gillian Sanders (Triathlete)
  1. “Control the controllable and focus on the processes rather than the outcome. Such as telling yourself to keep a high elbow and strong catch in the swim rather than just thinking ‘swim faster, swim faster’.” Tamsyn Moana-Veale (Triathlete)
  1. “The self-doubts and anxieties are hard to beat sometimes in competitive sport, especially if you are in a bad mindset. Firstly think to yourself, why do I do this sport? Why do I train hard every day? Your answer should be because you love it, not just to please someone, but because you enjoy it. I used to battle with this because I forgot about what I wanted, simply trying to please others and forgetting how much I love surf myself! If you enjoy your sport, your next step is to begin building your positive self-talk. Everything begins in the head, and if you can think it you can do it! Rather than being down on yourself after a race, think of what you can do better for next time. So enjoy your sport, think positive, and smile! The doubt you feel will be gone before you know it.” Brittany Jessup (Surf Lifesaver)
  1. “Don’t over think and just focus on what you need to do.” Holly Grice (Triathlete)

How to Prevent Shoulder Injuries

How to prevent shoulder injuriesOne of the most common issues swimmers experience involve the shoulders. If you’ve been swimming for a while, the chances are you’ve probably heard of someone who has experienced a shoulder injury, or you may have even experienced a shoulder injury yourself. During the opening day of London Olympics, FINA released a video entitled “Prevention of Shoulder Injuries in Aquatics Sports” to raise awareness of shoulder injuries in swimming.

The goal of the video is to show swimmers various exercises that can help prevent debilitating shoulder issues. By choosing the Olympics as a medium, FINA really wanted to get this message out to a global audience to raise awareness.

The video explains the basic anatomy of the shoulder to show swimmers where the most common injuries in the sport of swimming occur. Then FINA video goes on to show detailed visuals of dry land exercises that can help swimmers avoid these injuries all together. Some of these exercises require extra equipment, but some you can just do with a ball, water bottle or no equipment at all. Just taking a little time doing the dry land shoulder exercises really can go a long way to help avoid injury, but they can also improve your strength and flexibility to improve your stroke.

The video was compiled by top experts that included physicians, trainers, physical therapist and coaches, and you know FINA wouldn’t do a second rate job at anything they do. If you are swimmer or new to swimming, this video can help you build strength and flexibility in your shoulders. In the long-run you can maintain the health of your shoulders, because there is nothing like a shoulder injury to really put a damper on your athletic or fitness swimming goals.

5 Easy Ways to make a Bag of Nuts Gourmet

Photo by DewFrame / CC BY

Photo by DewFrame / CC BY

Bags of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc are a quick, easy and healthy snack for any swimmer or athlete. It provides a huge calorie kick with healthy fats and fibers that can keep us full without overfilling our stomachs. The only problem with this perfect snack is that it can get really boring, really fast. The following are simple ingredients that you can add to a bag of nuts to make it a lot tastier. Keep in mind some of these ingredients could interact poorly with your stomach, so make sure to just test out with a little bit of the ingredient first to make sure you don’t end up with an upset stomach.

1. Sprinkle with Cayenne
If you love spicy food, cayenne is the perfect spice to add a bit of heat to any snack. It also just happens to be really good for you, and you can read about it here. Just add a sprinkle to your bag of nuts then shake it around. Make sure to not add too much, because a little bit of cayenne goes a long way. Start with just a pinch of cayenne then add more to match your spice preferences.

2. A Splash of Hot Sauce
This is another option for people who love spicy food. Hot sauce contains capsaicin (belonging to the genus Capsicum), a natural appetite suppressant. If you find yourself hungry during practices or workouts, this may be a great way to stave off the hunger pangs. Just add a dash or two to bag of nuts then shake it around. Make sure not to overdo it, because hot sauce is also high in sodium. Just a dash or two is enough to pump of the flavor of any type of nut.

3. Roast in Olive Oil
Olive oil contains healthy fatty acids along with hormones that help promote brain cell health. You can roast the nuts in olive oil before putting them into the bag. Make sure that you let the nuts cool before putting them into the bag, so you don’t end up melting the plastic! Or you can just drizzle some olive oil on top of the nuts before putting them into the bag. Make sure not to overdo it, because a little bit of olive oil has a lot of calories and fat.

4. Add Wasabi Peas
If you love wasabi (the green hot paste that comes on the side of sushi) you’ll just love wasabi peas. These little crunchy snacks are high in calories and fiber. Just add a small handful of wasabi into your bag of nuts to add a bit of heat and extra flavor. Make sure not to overdo it, because wasabi peas can have a lot of extra sugar and salt.

5. Drizzle with Buckwheat Honey
Honey is obviously a sticky ingredient, but if you have a sweet tooth it is a healthy way to satiate your sugar lust before a workout. Due to the stickiness it may be wise to pack a napkin with your snack. Buckwheat honey provides sugar and antioxidants to help energize and maintain your body, and just FYI, buckwheat honey tends to be better for you than lighter honeys. Just drizzle a tablespoon or less of buckwheat honey evenly over the nuts in a bowl. Mix it with a spoon until the honey evenly covers the nuts. Then put the nuts in the bag for a sweet snack on the go.

8 Tips to Help Protect Yourself from Chlorine

As swimmers, we cannot help being exposed to chlorine due to the nature of our sport. Some of us are lucky enough to have access to indoor and outdoor pools that use salt or UV filters, but not everyone has access to such facilities. Of course, even if you do normally swim in a pool that doesn’t use chlorine, during competition or holidays it may be impossible to avoid chlorine.

Some of the health risks associated with chlorine include higher risks of some types of cancer, asthma and other health issues. We don’t really want to scare anyone out of the water, but these are issues to be aware of if you spend a lot of time in chlorinated water. It is important to know that some of the dangers are not scientifically proven yet, but some think it is better to be safe rather than sorry. You can read more about conflicting evidence here.

A blogger known as Wellness Mama posted some advice on how to minimize the damage done by chlorine.

Here are some of her tips with some additional tips of our own:

  1. Use Vitamin C: Take vitamin C internally and externally helps reduce the harsh exposure to chlorine.
  2. Filter chlorinated drinking and shower water: Invest in filters for your drinking and showering water to minimize chlorine exposure at home.
  3. Swim outdoors: A lot of the harm from chlorine comes from breathing in chlorine in the air, especially at indoor pools with poor ventilation. One way to avoid this is by swimming in an outdoor pool where the chemicals cannot get trapped for you to breathe in.
  4. Protect Hair and Eyes: Always wear goggles and a swim cap to the pool. AMANZI Triathlete Jodie Duff always wears a silicone swim cap at training.Jodie Duff
  5. Lotions and shampoos: There are a lot of shampoos, conditioners and lotions available to get chlorine out of the hair and off the body after swim sessions. There are also some lotions available that perhaps protect the skin from chlorine exposure.
  6. Shower after each swim session: Some swim sessions can be grueling, and some swimmers (especially younger ones) may be tempted to skip showering. It is wiser (and less smelly) to take a shower to get the chlorine off the skin.
  7. Avoid chlorinated and poorly ventilated indoor pools: You can ask about the systems that are in place to take care of the pool. When in doubt, if the smell of chlorine indoors is really strong, chances are the pool isn’t well ventilated. Most swimmers also know the uncomfortable feeling of swimming in a pool that uses way too much chlorine.
  8. Get involved: If it is a community pool, you could even get involved to get these systems updated by coordinating with other swimmers to make changes happen. Even if it is a private pool, chances are if enough customers complain the owners will take action.

AMANZI xxx