Another week of training has flown by & we are happy where we’re at, while it was a quieter week with cycling & running, we did our biggest swim. 3.5 k is a big swim, for someone with copd it’s huge ! For those of you with lung disease swimming has many benefits , fitness, strengthen lungs, weight loss & low impact. Like many people with lung disease I was very apprehensive when I first started, many things go through your mind, what happens if I get short of breath, will I drown, what if I swallow water. When I started training for my first triathlon, I hadn’t swum laps for 30 yrs, I did 25 meters puffed & panted & started to think how am I going to do this.

These days swimming doesn’t involve to much puffing & panting, but it’s taken a while to get to this stage. My secret to swimming is a pool buoy, focus on breathing & technique. I use a pool buoy as I can’t kick when I swim , kicking when swimming causes me to become breathless very quickly & I’m unable to control my breathing, the pool buoy allows me to concentrate on my stroke & breathing. You may well ask how I swim in a race environment , salt water & wetsuit provide same buoyancy as pool buoy & I tuck my reliever puffer in my wetsuit 🙂 So if you want to hit the pool & get those lungs working, get yourself a pool buoy, start slowly, practice good technique & breathing. If your an inexperienced swimmer join your local squad training, most pools have a slow lane where the swim instructor can help correct any stroke deficiencies, you will be amazed at how good you’ll feel if you can swim a couple of times a week.

By the way my 3.5k took me 1hr 17min, slow for many , flying for me 🙂

Russell & Leanne


Pool buoy .

11 responses to “Swimming with copd

  1. Hi there Russell and Leanne -Russel I am amazed at what you are achieving particularly as I gather your Fev1% is way lower than mine! I was diagnosed age 53 with severe COPD and have been on oxygen for sleep and activity since then. I am 60 now and have gradually built up to doing 5k in 56 minutes (walking fast). I walk further than that sometimes if it is for leisure, and am trying to improve my hill walking. I loved swimming as a child and decided to take it up again last winter but i can’t take my 02 in the pool. I swim breast stroke as any other stroke has me gasping. I have to stop awhile at the end of each length to allow my oxygen levels to recover – hence it takes me nearly two hours to swim 1k. This is still good news however as I could only manage a few strokes when I first started. I would like to try cycling but not sure about balancing on 2 wheels – I was never much good at it as a kid – but never say never!

    I wasn’t sure what a ‘pool buoy’ was until I saw the pic at the bottom of your blog – eureka! They sell those at the pool shop – so next week I will try one out and have a go at swimming crawl (here in the uk we say crawl, though some places say free style – are you in Australia?). Anyhow – best of luck to you and thanks for the inspiration – it feels lonely sometimes doing this stuff as most of my fellow copd friends seem intent on sitting around – although they tend to call it ‘pacing themselves’ lol. I will drop you a line in a week or two and let you know how I get on with a buoy – I did stop the swimming a couple of weeks back partly due to temporary back problems but mainly because I usually do lots of cliff path walking through our summer months – think I might still swim 2 or 3 times a week though.

    I recently started a COPD blog but I haven’t covered exercise much yet -though I did briefly mention it in my ‘about’ section – scroll to bottom of that page and I have pics of me pre 5k fun run last xmas. Incidentally my fvc (forced vital capacity) increased by 6% within just 3 months of my daily swimming and my general shortness of breath is much improved. My fev1 was 29% pre med on diagnosis. Post med readings gradually rose over time and with much exercise to a best of Fev1 40% then stayed there – until swimming when that too reached an all time high of 43%! They told me to expect to lose capacity year on year but so far I either improve or stay level – I have my lung function tested 6 monthly. Likewise my oxygen saturation is improving – last December my consultant said that although I will need it for life for sleep, I am needing it less and less for daytime. I believe exercise is the best medicine there is for COPD until someone finds a cure! Best wishes, Vanessa (UK)
    PS. On my blog go to ‘About’ section (see navi bar) and scroll to bottom page..

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      Thanks for sharing your story and I’m glad I’ve been of some help. I’m about to head out for a 50 k ride but will be reading your blog tonight .

      Talked to you soon.

    2. Wow I loved your blog, so much information & great stories . I think it’s important that these stories are told as it gives us all inspiration . For me the more exercise I do the better I feel, my lung capacity hasn’t improved but it hasn’t worsened . When I was first diagnosed my respiratory Doctor wasn’t not that happy about me doing such extreme exercise, he’s now telling me to do as much as I like. On my gallery page there’s a short video that shows me swimming with a pool buoy . Id love to hear how you go so please keep me posted.

      All the best

  2. Aha! Now I get it. Been swimming for a while now, but only ever manage a gentle breast stroke, or on my back, legs only. I try front crawl from time to time and the result is always the same: breathless, panicking mess in a matter of seconds. Now, front crawl with a buoy, all arms, and no legs might be the answer I’ve been looking for. Will give it a try in the morning. Thanks for the idea and inspiration. G

  3. çI am not sure of the cause of COPD emphysema in my case. I smoked pack a day for 12 or 13 years, but quit 40 years ago. I have been an outdoor person all my adult life. Coughing started last summer producing thick mucus, greenish tint to clear. I tried prednisone and antibiotics, but no change. X-rays are negative, heart lungs and blood and serum chemistries all are normal. I have lung calcification from childhood bout with histoplasmosis. I am 75 years old and retired.My current doctor directed me to which I purchase the COPD herbal remedies from them ,they are located in Johannesburg, the herbal treatment has effectively reduce all my symptoms totally, am waiting to complete the 15 weeks usage because they guaranteed me total cure.

  4. Hi, Russell and Leanne, I found my way here by googling swimming with COPD, and I’m happy about that. Not happy about swimming with COPD but finding you. 🙂 I used to swim miles, but now going totally through struggle with breathing and breathlessness and ready to give up after a short time. Your exercise experiences gives me hope! Also reading about how to sort of make it easier.
    Last night again I couldn’t understand why I was so breathless just after 200m, and was ready to give up. Couldn’t get air enough, had to take it all slow, finished after 1100m and needed my inhaler. (Only a week ago I dived into a swimming pool first time after maybe 15 years.) Water as an element feels so good and I hope I get my strokes and kicks back together.
    Triathlon is or was my favourite thing, and health issues are just trying to spoil it all, but back to pool is fab way to fight it off, at least a bit.

    1. Hi Anne, Great to see your swimming. After I retire from marathons I plan to go back to swimming more often. I use a pool buoy when I swim, it reduces my breathlessness. Maybe worth using for a while if you haven’t already. Best Russ

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