I have always known that I wasn’t the most flexible person running around the world. Flexibility is not a strong suit in the Schafer blood line, but I never knew just how challenged I was until the CRP coach Jarrod Evans got ahold of me. Shoulder range of motion is a crucial part of developing the proper stroke, so my main task since day one has been to improve my range of motion as much as I can, as fast as I can, while staying injury free.
Many of my days in Scottsdale include two trips to the pool. The staff even asked if I wanted to set up a room there, so I didn’t have to keep driving back and forth. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I did start to feel as though I spent most of my time at the pool. Each session starts with a 20-minute stretch cord routine, then the set (90 minutes in the morning and 60 minutes in the evening), and concludes with a 30-minute visit to what I call “the stretch factory.” The stretch factory is not nearly as cool as it may sound, it is simply a yoga mat and some bands in the corner of a small gym.
In the beginning, I was sore at all times due to the increased volume in the pool and trying to loosen up my shoulders. More than a few times I wondered if all of this stretching was helping, or if I was just a lost cause. My pool times weren’t really improving, and it was hard to tell if my range of motion was increasing. All of the sudden, my work out of the water started to translate to the pool. In the span of two weeks, I swam some huge PBs and knocked out 3 of the 5 swim standards I needed to hit to remain in the CRP.
While I am still far from flexible, my shoulders have come a long ways, and I am confident that with continued hard work and diligence they will only continue to move in the right direction. A new trouble is getting my progress in the pool to transfer out into the open water. Currently we are in a training camp in Australia and it is designed to help us expedite that process. All of our swim sessions are done in the ocean or a 50-meter pool. So far, it has been quite a grueling transition for me as I have never done any ocean swimming. We hope that swimming in a body of water as variable as the ocean will help expose us to more scenarios that we may encounter come race day.
I am in no position to give swimming advice, but I can attest that working on your range of motion and spending some quality time in the water will make a huge difference in your swimming. I still have a long ways to go, and it will take time to get there, but I am a completely different swimmer today then I was a year ago when I started doing this sport. I am thankful for Jarrod’s patience and guidance in this tortuous process and for the support of USAT and Team Psycho. Long story short, not taking stretching seriously as a kid catches up with you eventually.
Editor’s Note: This blog from Walter about the tough work he’s been putting in to improve his swim this winter really puts a spotlight on the dedication out of the water that Walter has had actually to change his musculature. It’s one thing to slow the miles in the pool; it’s another to follow a diligent flexibility plan.