Swimming as pelvic muscle 'cross training'



OK, I've been doing a lot of thinking and 'feeling' my body in a whole new way when I'm going about my daily life. As an avid swimmer (swam competitively in high school and college), I find that it's a wonderful, relaxing way to get a great total-body workout. I know that most of the work that you teach in terms of posture and exercise are done against gravity, and the PT in me is very aware of how important of a concept that is.

I just started being able to swim again (yay...no more catheters!) and have become very aware of the positioning of my body, and the way that it moves in water as compared to on 'dry land'. When swimming freestyle (crawl stroke), I am mindful of maintaining the natural curve of my lumbar spine and really trying to feel the connection of my shoulders, back, abdominal, pelvic and hip muscles as they work together. It feels especially good to me exercising in this prone position because by virtue of gravity and positioning my bladder is probably back where it's supposed to be.

I've been also swimming breaststroke and using a kickboard to just do breaststroke kicking and it feels like it's a great way to 'cross train' the pelvic muscles. Since the breaststroke kick incorporates alternating hip external and internal rotation coupled with hip flexion, abd- and adduction, it feels to me that this contraction of psoas, obturators, adductors and glutes (really, the entire hip/pelvic complex) while also maintaining the natural lumbar curve causes a spontaneous and concurrent contraction of the pelvic floor musculature. Again, this is all in prone which is gravitationally an excellent position for prolapsed organs.

I'm now just starting to think about the whole breathing aspect and how intraabdominal pressure is contributing to all of this in regards to conditioning. Stay tuned...I'll have to swim a few more laps to really feel what's going on.

Anyways, I just wanted to put this out there and share how I'm taking an activity that is important to me and incorporating the principles that you've outlined to bring a whole new awareness to movement. It feels SO GOOD to get back in the pool again after the ordeal that I've been through and it feels right to me to exercise in this way.

Michele (now you all know why I picked mermaid as a username :)!)

Dear Michele,

It's so heart-warming to think of you swimming and all well after such an ordeal! I also feel a kindred spirit in trying to understand these issues at a deep level.

Yes, the work of reversing/stabilizing prolapse must be done on our feet for the reasons you express. However, swimming has got to be the very best adjunct to this work. How else can we be totally weightless and yet able to feel our natural spinal curves and how our body is outlined in space? I hope if you're going to go on with your PT work you will consider designing a water program for women!

Many hugs,


I'm a mermaid too - I taught myself to swim in Mission Bay when I was five years old and although my parents moved us to La Mesa after kindergarten I still managed to live at the beach and miss the salt water s-o-o-o much.

I am so happy for you that you are back doing the things you love. And reading your description of muscle action during swimming makes me want to find a pool - even though I don't really know how to swim.

Thank you all for your words of support and encouragement!

Christine...Yes, I do think that creating an aquatics program as well as a system of yoga poses that support optimal spinal alignment will be in the works for me. All of these concepts and how I feel them in my own body are still kind of nebulous at best but each day brings new awareness and understanding. You put a smile on my face thinking of your as a little girl swimming in Mission Bay (which is only 15 minutes from where I live). The water is pretty cold right now and I'm not sure my current postpartum body will squeeze into my wetsuit (plus I'm not nearly in the shape I need to be), but it will be a happy day for me when I get to paddle out on my surfboard and catch a wave this summer.

Granolamom...even if you don't know how to swim, being in the water can be incredibly therapeutic, it's such a pleasant sensory experience. Perhaps even just using a kickboard to use your legs only without having to worry too much about your forward movement can be very helpful.



Hi Michele

what a great post, and so glad to hear you no longer need the cathater. I really look forward to following your work with swimming, yoga and P.T.

Your post also reminded me that when I was swimming a few weeks ago in the sea on holiday's it also felt so theraputic on a very deep level. Not just physically which was wonderfull,but energetically too.

I really felt some sort of liberation - perhaps because nothing will "fall" in there without gravity. Plus being held and supported in a salty body of water - a real female feeling arena with all the connections of water with femininity and female power.

Plus i did something a bit crazy for me and went swimming in a nudist beach (sorta prudily i admit - in that I just whipped off my bikine at the waters edge and dashed in!)

Doing this in itself is also an amazing feeling... feeling untethered and sensing all the healthy sea water could go inside me and circulate.

Plus being naked in warm sea water with the sun above felt like being 6 years old again. Wonderfull!

If anyone gets the chance to do this please have a go.

Best wishes


OOOooooohhhhh yyyeeesssssss! It is one of the things we all should do before we die! :-D


Hi! I appreciate this question and post. Any recent or updated thoughts on this?

I live in the center of Mexico and there are some wonderful hot spring pools (no chlorine) close by. I have made up a sort of exercise routine with some breast stroke and scissors kicks and yoga all mixed together. It all feels so good that I never want to leave the pool. While I am in the pool my uterus/bladder just seem to float back up in place but as soon as I get out it pops back out. Wish I could live in the water there.

Hi Granolamom, I am not a swimmer either - never liked laps but see my post below. I

Hi, I did some swimming recently and found that with some swimming styles, the posture is not supported if the neck is not in alignment, so that one can nose breath. If I had my face in the water it was impossible to comfortably nose breath which I prefer to do in all activities.
The two positions I found that worked were side stroke swimming and swimming on my back with frog legs like upside down breast stroke.
Other exercises were done upright like jumping on toes.
Probably back stroke would be ok but I like the other strokes better.

Christine in her post says that the WW work is done on dry land, and I would only use swimming as an adjunct to that. It is easier for me to do the DVDs at home...there are currently a lot of permanent public pool closures here, and I like outdoor pools...

Aussie Soul Sister

Hi All, I'm a steady slow whale kind of swimmer! Just to say breast stroke always feels wonderful re my pop for me. It seems to help push the organs forward, activate the lower lumbar curve, work the psoas, open the upper chest & stretch the front of the body, works the whole body, including full human extension. As an addition to the WW work on land in daily life, I've found it really helpful.