When I was younger I absolutely loved swimming, with my costume having all of the badges obtained stitched to it and, much to my sisters dismay, all of my certificates pinned on the fridge. I haven’t swam since I was about 12…that kind of went out of the window when I went to upper school, along with many other things you leave behind when you turn 13 (I won’t bore you with the pubescent life adventures). Fast forward to 31 when I went to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths on a trip to Budapest, and I quickly discovered that I couldn’t swim properly. I have a dropped left foot, and with not swimming since that came about when I was around 18, I was absolutely distraught when I struggled to swim just half a length! My foot just ‘flopped’, there was no strength in it to carry out the breast stroke, or kick with a front crawl. With the right foot being absolutely fine and doing as it was told, I found it extremely hard to ‘swim’ in a straight line, my flappy frog foot was resulting in me near enough swimming around in circles – il leave the imagery of this sight down to you guys to paint. The friend who I was with, who is always one to be blunt, noticed and was just like ‘WTF, Hannah’, when I asked her to look in the water at my leg when I was attempting to swim, she then saw the flappy foot situation. This was then proceeded with the standard ‘something else that’s been affected’ eye roll as I laughed it off and shuffled on down to the baths – I can still sit down, at least.
I thought about it quite a bit when I returned home, and trying to work out why as I hadn’t swam for almost 20 years, why on earth is this bothering me more than it should? I did my mile on my 10th birthday, I distinctly remember the certificate and badge being grey, and my word did I showcase that with pride (along with my impressive Pokemon card collection). 64 lengths of that pool NAILED…really can’t remember the timings, but taking into account my small legs and arms (yes, there was a time), I’m going to go with about 1hr 30. Now fast forward 20 years, completing just the one length was an absolute mission – something needed to be done.
I like a challenge, a goal, to always have something to work towards. 3 years ago it was running, that was something that I had NEVER done or had no desire to do so in pre MS life unless it was when last orders were called at the bar. Although like with swimming it wasn’t until I attempted to run that I discovered body parts weren’t doing what the ‘should’; as is the case with a lot of things MS related. The pain, symptoms that happen when stagnant, and from general day to day life activities aside – there are a lot of symptoms that you can be living with that you don’t think as having a great deal of an impact until faced with them in certain tasks/activities. After about a month of adjusting to the increased plethora of symptoms that came with running (vertigo, double vision, lack of balance and coordination to name a few), I entered into the Northampton Half Marathon which was happening in 8 month as my motivation to keep going with it. My 2017 goal. Completed in 3hrs 17 mins, by no means the fastest time and I had to jog with sticks by time I reached mile 6/13, – I did it. I crossed that finish line and it is an acheivment that I am extremely proud of. More so that I have not been able to run for about 20 months now. This is why I have, and always will take the ‘use it before you lose it’ approach to many things in my life now.
Fast forward to 2020 and I signed up to my local gym, with the main intention of using the pool. I started out with aqua aerobic classes 3 times a week as a starting point to get my strength and all around confidence in the pool back. I then started to introduce pool running and as simple as it is, it improves balance, works on your abs, increases flexibility, and all round cardiovascular fitness, not to mention that Covid-19 isn’t the only curve to flatten – win. See, ALWAYS A WAY, thanks to the buoyance of the water I am now running again! I was getting into my routine and gradually working up to swimming again, and then lockdown happened (you may have heard about it). With not being fortuante enough to own a mansion with a pool or home gym; home work outs with Joe Wicks saved the 4 months with the gym/pool being closed. I am not the steadiest person on my feet with the coordination of a blind bull in a china shop, but I was in the comfort of my own home without an audience or any china in sight – so I was more than safe to exercise with this set up, although I almost fell against the TV on more than one occasion…and the coffee table, and the shelf unit…
On Saturday 25th July the Gym reopened…4 months after my last dip in the pool, and with being comfortable with the measures put in place, a week later I headed back. Aqua Aerobic classes weren’t happening at the time (understandably), HOWEVER this left me to work on my swimming finally.
Now 2 months on from reopening, I do at least 1km (40 lengths) each time I go swimming after spending many hours in there relearning a few strokes. I have always prefered swimming under water, by this I mean that I usually put my head under water with each stroke, then come back up for air before doing the next one. I am trying to master gliding under water after each stroke at the moment, but that really is a work in progress due to the coordination and timing needed with the legs, arms, and breathing involved. This is my ‘stroke of the month’, if you will.
A year on from that Budapest trip, and whilst flappy foot is still with me I have certainly gotten more strength back in it, and have adapted my leg strokes appropriately. More importantly, I have been reaquanted with my love for swimming and I CAN still do it, and long may it continue. I don’t like to think of the ‘what ifs/maybes/mights/whens’ with my health; I concentrate on what it is I am able to do right now. When I was running, I didn’t think of the day that I may not be able to continue doing it, and it is with that mind set that I was able to do it for as long as I did, and good grief am I glad that I didn’t entertain the possibility of not being to continue with it to enter my head. The same goes with my swimming, and many, many, other things I am able to do right now.
Flappy foot shuffling out.