Straight Arm Recovery Swim Stroke: Old Dog, New Trick

With an Ironman three weeks away, it was time to try out the old wetsuit. After half a mile in the pool, my arms and shoulders were aching. I mentioned this to my 8x Kona son, Nigel, and he said, “Use a straight arm recovery stroke, Dad. In fact, I’ve been using straight arm recovery for years.”

swim stroke
Still in OK shape for 78. Can this old dog learn a new trick in the pool by changing his swim stroke? Photo by Maya. PS I’ve been neglecting the weight room, that bike started to feel heavy much too soon for comfort.

I tried it with a pull buoy (to emulate the wetsuit) the next day, and being a scientist, I needed data. I jumped in the pool, did a couple of warm up laps, and carried out the experiment (once was enough!).

One-hundred yard test:

High elbow recovery swim stroke: 1:58

Similar effort, straight arm recovery swim stroke: 1:46

One-mile test:

At that time, my mile swim time (much neglected due to pool closures) had degenerated to about 45 minutes.


One mile with straight arm recovery swim stroke: 36 minutes, shoulders feeling great.

Guess I’m done with high elbow recovery swim stroke.

Fixing my run with PAD will be a whole ‘nother matter.

Never stop training for aging,


peripheral arterial disease running
Grey is muscle, white is fat, clear ring around the central white spot (bone marrow) is the femoral bone. Note the loss of both muscle and bone mass in the sedentary guy.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.