Living Positively with Cerebral Palsy
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Learning to swim the crawl

Hey - I have spastic diplegia. I swim five or six times a week (breaststroke). I didn't learn until I was 23 but now I really love swimming and it is part of my 'go away, premature ageing' plan, A physiotherapist has suggested I learn the crawl as well. I think this would be a good idea as if I do get arthritis and need a hip or knee replacement I won't be able to do breaststroke. Has anyone learnt the crawl? How did it combine with cp?

7 Replies

I do I've had a hip replacement so I do the front crawl. I use a woggle to decrease effort and therefore decreases my spasticity.


I mainly swim front crawl, I find it the easiest way to swim as I get more power from my arms.

I don't often use my legs as my hip flexors are so tight my legs don't go straight in the water, therefore they just sink!!! it doesn't help that I can't coordinate my arms and legs together very easily!!

When I was growing up I spent a lot of time in the water - swimming in pools, lakes and the sea... I used to get involved in water sports and swim at least 3 times a week during the summer...


Thanks guys. My co-ordination is not ideal - it took me a long time to learn to do breaststroke properly and I have to do the movements in sequence rather than simultaneously. But I did learn and now I am quite good and confident. What was it like to learn the crawl - can you remember? I think it might take me a while but worth doing. My arms are more powerful than my legs too, and I think the co-ordination might be an issue as it was for breaststroke. My body learns more slowly than my mind. Also my ankles are not that flexible, especially my right, so I wonder about the kick. Any thoughts?


Also my left side is more powerful than my right, so when I started to learn backstroke I swam in smaller and smaller circles by accident.


Try it a and find out what feels right use swimming aids if you have to.


To be honest I don't think I learnt the crawl as such, I just took to it after watching my windsurfing teacher doing it!! My left side is less powerful than my right, so I use my right arm for them power stroke and my left as the follow on... If I'm sea swimming I use my right arm for pulling through waves. As for kicking, I don't use my ankles at all, I kick from my knees and hips.

To reduce water resistance I swim with my head in the water with helps with conserving energy, I am by no means the fastest swimmer in the water, and when lake or sea swimming I always wear a wetsuit at the very least to aid buoyancy and keep my warm, as when I get cold my muscles tighten up and saps my energy. when doing anything where I'm going totally out of my depth I always wear both a wetsuit and life jacket.

Have you thought of seeing a swimming teacher? I used one (a friend of mine) to help perfect my technique. It also helped her gain some experience of teaching someone with a disability.

One thing we worked on together was using a float to take my arms out of the equation so I could concentrate on kicking, which helped build strength and flexibility in my legs. We also put a woggle under the front of my hips lift them up to helps flatten me out in the water making it easier to kick.

Have you ever done any Hydrotherapy? that is great for loosening up and great for basic swimming. I use a hydro pool in the winter as I find most pools too cold....