When Silly Becomes Essential - How “Pressing Reset” Helped Make a Champion Swimmer
Mar 29, 2020
And now a great article from OS Lead Instructor, Mark Shropshire:
- This is an updated version of a blog piece I wrote for Orignal Strength five years ago. It’s still relevant today as OS has continued to be an important part of what I do and well as helping my son who now swims in college. That said, thanks for reading - enjoy!
Let’s face it, Original Strength seems silly. Grown men and women rolling around on the floor and crawling like babies? Ridiculous!
Like many people reading this, my first impression of OS held a similar sentiment. Until I tried it.
I have to imagine it’s the same for most of the athletes and personal training clients that work with me. It certainly was the same for my teenage son. He swims competitively, and as his dad who also works as a performance enhancement coach, was looking for any edge I could find for him….
Boy: “What is this supposed to be doing dad?”
Dad: “It’s going to help you swim faster, keep you healthy and recover faster. Now just do it”
Boy: “I feel dumb doing this”
Dad: “Fair enough - do it anyway”
Conversations along these lines were had on a regular basis when helping/instructing my firstborn rediscover his reflexive core via what are called “resets”. Obviously, at this point doing these resets was something he wasn’t as sure about as I was. There is a saying I picked up in my martial arts training that sums up this situation perfectly:
When the student is ready the master shall appear.
Basically, the master has always been there, it’s the student who needs to be in the right frame of mind or particular circumstance to learn the lessons of the master.
Fast forward a few months from his initial experience with OS. The lovely Mrs. Shropshire and I were at one of our son’s swim meets. Sitting up in the stands watching kids swim back and forth, her phone rang. After a few words, she handed me the phone. It was my son…..
Son: “Dad, my shoulder is hurting and I have to swim soon”.
Me: “How soon?”
Son: “15 minutes”
Me: “Meet me downstairs in the gym”
The “student” was now ready. I met him outside the pool deck and found a quiet spot where we could get to work. After a few questions and basic muscle function tests we started with the simple resets. After each reset, we tested the shoulder to see if the pain was increasing, decreasing or staying the same. We found rocking,bird dogs and rolling were the answer (if you have no idea what I am talking about - click the links!).
With time not on our side, we wrapped it up - his shoulder seemingly pain-free at this point. He had just enough time to run out on to the pool deck and get on the starting blocks - just as his heat was being called to get set! He was swimming the 100 butterfly. This stroke DEMANDS a healthy shoulder complex or you don’t even have a chance. My OS skills and really, the efficacy of what I believed in, were going to be put to the test.
Not only did he swim the event pain-free (which was enough for me) he set a personal best time! From then on there were no more objections. It simply became something that was done on a regular basis.
The silliness had become a secret weapon.
We use Original Strength in a variety of ways when it comes to my son and swimming. One of these ways is to use it as a recovery tool. After competition, especially when you are competing in multiple events (think wrestling tournaments, track and field, swimming or sports where there are intermittent spurts of activity with some rest periods sprinkled in there) one of the keys to success is to calm down quickly. Competition (stress) stimulates the sympathetic nervous system – a.k.a. your fight or flight mechanism. In response to stress, the body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Their main job is to get the body ready for activity - quickly in this case.
- Increases blood pressure
- Increases respiratory rate
- Increases heart rate
- Releases blood sugar for use as immediate energy
- Mobilizes fatty acids for use as energy
- Suppresses the immune system
- Shunts blood flow away from the gut and to the working muscles thus inhibiting digestion
- Suppresses the reproductive system and as a result inhibits the production of testosterone in males
All of these things happen to prepare the body instantly for strong and rapid muscular contractions. Staying in this state of hyper-arousal for a prolonged period of time can lead to undue fatigue and an inability to recover for the next event.
In a sport where there can be limited time between events that require maximal efforts, Original Strength can be a great way to come down from the physiologic excitement of competition.
- We use diaphragmatic breathing, head nods, rolling and rocking to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and help up-regulate its complement - the parasympathetic nervous system. Essentially it does the polar opposite of the sympathetic nervous system.
These movements are performed quickly and in short bursts or under some type of load – fast rocking, elevating the bird dogs, commando rocking or reaching with an arm during rocking for example. Midline crossing slapping of the extremities and shaking opposing limbs along with a few quick tuck jumps are also helpful to tie the body together and bring tactile awareness of the body to the two hemispheres of the brain. Breathing done with repeated, short rapid inhalations followed by an exhale stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and gets him ready for competition.
The results? Conference champion in the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard freestyle medley relay and was named All-Conference in both events as a sophomore. His junior and senior year he repeated as 100 butterfly champion and capped off his HS career as the fastest 100 butterflier in school history (breaking a 31-year-old record), and finished as a state champion and HS All American in the 100 fly.
Fast forward a few years and my son is now swimming in college. He swims at a high level and has yet to be sidelined with any nagging injuries commonly associated with swimming – shoulder, neck and back pain. He continues to work the resets as outlined by OS as well as Original Strength Performance.
In OS Performance we marry certain resets to strength exercises to literally take the breaks off your body and allow it to truly express its authentic strength. I firmly believe that the addition of Original Strength to his existing training has helped him to become the swimmer that he is today.