My lockdown injury has meant that I can’t lift my right arm above my head and a lot of movements hurt like hell. It’s made me very aware of all the things I might do with my right arm that I can’t co-ordinate with my left and how single sided I am. Having to do simple tasks with my other arm has required a whole lot of extra thought and co-ordination. It’s also made me realise how lopsided I am which isn’t good for movement and injury management.
Being symmetrical in swimming will make you smoother, more efficient and help you to swim straight. All those things apply in running too but with a bigger emphasis on injury prevention. A lot my running injuries have been because one side is more dominant than the other so either takes on too much work leading to injury, or because its too weak and can’t cope with the load leading to injury.
Doing stuff with your non dominant arm or hand is also good to challenge your movement literacy and co-ordination to get you out of bad habits and increase skills and awareness. And it will give you more options for example if you can breathe to both sides in swimming.
Of course we’re always going to have one side that’s more dominant because we write with one hand but there are simple things you can do in your training and day to day movement to make you more symmetrical.
- Brush your teeth or dry your hair with your other hand.
- If you sit down with your legs or arms crossed, try crossing them the other way (or even better not crossing them – I think this is partly the cause of my injury)
- Put your coat on with your other arm
- If you carry a bag try carrying it on the other side or in the other arm.
- Try sleeping on your other side! (This is hard but being in pain has helped to facilitate this!
- Can you get off the floor in both directions?
- On a bike ride take your drinks bottle out with your other arm
- Get on your bike from the other side
- Clip in first with your other leg and start pedalling with your other leg (doing this on the turbo is a good way to get started).
- I have realised that because my power meter is only on my left pedal I’ve sub consciously started to put more emphasis on my left leg!
- In swimming the first thing to notice is if you start every length pushing off the wall with the same arm? And if so try starting with the other arm and alternating each length. The same with drills check in if you’re always starting from the same arm.
- In swimming how much time do you spend breathing to your non-dominant side? No matter how awful it feels if you don’t practice it you’ll never get used to how it feels. And it’ll never get better.
- Do you always start your run with the same leg?
- In running are your arms symmetrical? And what does it feel like if you think about one arm and then the other?
- When you’re working out in the gym, doing yoga or an exercise routine do you always start each exercise with the same side? Sometimes that means the side you started with gets more attention because you’re more focussed at the start. Or with some exercises the side you’re not working still gets a bit of a workout so is tired before it gets its turn. Try starting with the other side and see what difference that makes?
Have a go at some of these and let me know how you get on.