Physical Limitations

Swimming with Physical Limitations

Welcome back Swimming Fearless team! This week I’d like to talk a bit about physical limitations and the effect that they can have when you are swimming or learning to swim!

Swimming with a Physical Limitation:

To begin, I’d like to define what a physical limitation is to me.

A physical limitation is when you are afflicted with a condition that holds you back in one way or another with something you’d like to do with your body. This can be any variety of things, from simple bodily injuries all the way to things like genetic diseases. Some of the more common physical limitations include:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Paraplegia
  • Back Pain
  • Chronic Injury
  • Down Syndrome
  • Dismemberment
  • Poor Eyesight
  • Many more…


Less Obvious Limitations…

The ones listed above are obvious limitations. But what can be kind of eye opening to think about is this… some people’s genetic tendencies can provide challenges for them in the pool, purely because their body type demands it.

And sometimes… there’s other physical limitations AND psychological limitations that we don’t even ever seem to think about. Those can be:

  • Low body fat percentage (more on this in a second ;))
  • Poor flexibility
  • Poor cardiovascular condition
  • Highly analytical… (I know right? Who knew being really smart can hold you back…)

What I’d like to do now is try and give you some thoughts to help you not only progress in the water if you are resonating with any of the above conditions, but to also challenge your pre-existing beliefs… physical limitations are NOT the reason that you cannot achieve your goals in the pool… it’s the accompanying mental limitation or LIMITING BELIEF.


Limiting Beliefs:

I have talked a lot about these in the past, but I only keep bringing it back because I believe that it is a real insidious problem that a lot of people have.

People are held back by shitty beliefs that they conjured up in their childhood all the time.


“I’m bad at math, so screw math class… if I don’t try, then I can’t truly fail at this!”

“I’m just shy, so I obviously will never be able to talk and engage that cute girl across the room…”

“My parents told me that I would never amount to anything… so I obviously won’t be able to achieve my dream job!”


And today, I’d like to remind you… SNAP OUT OF THAT SHIT!

You ultimately choose your beliefs. And you can continue to feed yourself with the dirty spoon you’ve been using your entire life, or you can look at reality and trust me when I say that I have personally met a swimmer who has one or more of every single limitation that I’ve listed above. Not only that, but the swimmers that have had those conditions have gone on to accomplish incredible things in the water.

The girl at my high school had the physical condition called paraplegia… she couldn’t use or move her legs. When she was young, something happened that caused her to be completely paralyzed from the waist down. She couldn’t walk or kick… kicking was pretty important to front crawl if I remember correctly.

Anyways, she sure proved everyone wrong who doubted her. She went on to improve her stroke and eventually swim a 200-meter Individual Medley at one of our swim meets. If you don’t know what an Individual Medley is, it is an event where you swim 50 meters of front crawl, backcrawl, breaststroke, and butterfly!


You read that right… Damn… butterfly too!


It was a beautiful moment… her swimming that distance with the entire pool cheering her on. It brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

I don’t believe that there are many real excuses for not learning to swim, so challenge the belief that you can’t swim because of this or that.


How to Work Around Physical Limitations:

Ultimately, working around physical limitations is simple. Utilize a system of problem solving for any limitation and you will find that the work around is easy to apply. Try and understand the underlying principles of swimming and you’ll discover that there are methods of manipulating the situation to your advantage. These can be tricky to come up with, but an analytical mind is an incredible thing. You can figure out how to manage in the water, even while struggling with these conditions.

But I’ll try and give you an example.


Low Body Fat Percentage:

A one that people have frequently asked me about is “how do I swim if I have no fat!”.

A commonly known fact is that people that are fatter float better. Fat is a buoyant substance. And if I don’t have any, how do I prevent myself from sinking while treading water or swimming front crawl??

This is an easy answer when we realize the principles behind what keeps us from sinking.


Center of Gravity and Buoyancy


Center of Gravity:

If you are swimming with a poor body position, then you are always going to struggle with your front crawl because your feet are dangling behind you in the water. And if you are an individual who has a really low body fat percentage, then the issue is compounded because your legs have less buoyancy to begin with.

The solution?

Adjust your center of gravity.

One of the simplest things people can do is to simply push their shoulders forward in the water towards the bottom of the pool. When you do this, you are bringing your center of gravity away from your feet, thus allowing for your feet to float back up to the surface of the pool.



And what about front crawl Brent? How can we adjust our center of gravity when we are vertical and doing treading water? Do you have a wise ass response for that too?

Why yes indeed!

If you want to work on your treading water for example and you are a really muscly guy, then you simply need to spread yourself out over a greater distance in the water and make use of the principle of buoyancy.

If you spread your surface area out over a larger area, you will simply float better. Just like the large oil tankers at sea, they widen their base to provide a greater buoy out of the water.

First, spread your arms out so that they are farther away from your body when you are doing your arm sweeps. And second, open your groin so that your feet and legs are not directly underneath you when you are treading to achieve a larger spread with your mass.

Remember, the goal is to take some of the weight you have to keep a float and spread it around. That means moving things away from your chest and the center of your body.


Wrapping things up…

There’s no limitation large or small that can keep you from being successful in the water. Challenge me if you think you know better in the comments below and then we can have a fun little discussion on what challenges can or cannot be overcome.

If anxiety in the pool is something you are struggling with, check out my article on anxiety below:

Relaxing Exercises for an Anxious Swimmer

Cheers everyone, hope you have a fantastic week!


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