A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “swimming”

Swings and Roundabouts

I’ve been swimming again, and it was so lovely. I find it very relaxing to gently make my way up the pool, rest, then gently make my way back down again.

I found myself trying to work out how long it was since I’d last been swimming … how long since I last felt that I had the spare energy to go swimming. It was definitely before my last fatigue-filled relapse in February, and could well have been some time before that as I’d not been on great form for a while.

Anyway, it made me feel doubly pleased to be in the water again as it meant that I was still on an upward direction from that time, I was still improving, and hopefully this energy level was going to remain for a while.

I felt on a high all day and couldn’t wait to go again, though I was waiting for the inevitable collapse the next day … which didn’t really happen! Granted, my legs were reluctant to do much for the rest of the day I did go swimming but I didn’t expect them to and I was just buzzing inside anyway so it didn’t matter!

I think that my body is having a bit of a chance to get its act together because it’s had more time to concentrate on doing that recently instead of holding me together through various significant events that I’ve had this year.

It really has been quite a year – full of fab things! It was such a pain that the severe fatigue relapse kicked in just before it all began.IMG_9323

First, there was my parents’ Golden Wedding celebration in March, which was a wonderful opportunity to chat to people I’d not seen in ages, and to enjoy seeing my parents having the chance to share their day with so many people they’d known for so long.

My sister came over from New Zealand to be part of the celebration, and she stayed with me for a few days too. It was great to catch up. I think that we also both appreciated being around someone else who was in a similar position to the other; we didn’t need to explain, our MS is reasonably similar for each of us. I could take her around my town at my pace which was perfect for both of us. (It actually took us three days to do justice to the shops and, in particular, the cafes!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A couple of months later, our eldest turned 18. Another lovely occasion, as well as a bit scary!

Then in the autumn it was our turn, with our Silver Wedding and a trip to Scotland in early September and a party at home at the end of the month.

In between, I took part in a tour of Anglesey on our tandem, when I was still feeling somewhat below par, and enjoyed a trip to Scarborough, again using the tandem.

So, it’s no wonder my body hasn’t had the strength to take me swimming as well! It’s taken a quieter few weeks, with no big events to plan on the horizon, to give my body the time to rest.

Even though on the outside it doesn’t look like I’ve had to plan much – just turn up in a suitable dress with my family, consider presents appropriate to mark these significant events, invite friends to our party to celebrate with us  – behind the scenes, I’ve had to do some serious micro planning, especially to manage my energy levels.

Arisaig, Sotland

Arisaig, Sotland

The fact that I’ve had to think so much about these events in advance, and the difference that I’m now beginning to experience now they are over, just goes to show how much nervous energy was taken up with planning anything vaguely significant.

As I say, it’s been a fab year, and I seem to have got safely the other side of the extreme fatigue relapse. It feels like an exchange I can live with to have had all these great events which I was able to fully enjoy, but to have had less energy for swimming, archery, canoing or as much tandem riding as I would have liked. At least, it does now that, as life has quietened down, it looks like I’ll have more energy for some of these activities again – remembering as ever the MS mantra of pacing, pacing, pacing!

my anniversary roses

my anniversary roses

Diving In

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASwimming. In a pool. I know, it doesn’t count as getting outdoors in the fresh air. However, I have to explain where it’s just landed me!

Swimming is the one form of exercise that I’ve continued with, both before and since having MS. I’ve just had to completely rethink my approach to it. I used to race against myself every week, gradually increasing the number of lengths I could do in 30 minutes. I have to admit that I started from an extremely low base, of about two lengths! Let me explain.

When we first married, many moons ago, Pete suggested we went running together. A little apprehensive, I agreed. It was a nightmare! I managed a few hundred metres then collapsed in a heap, weakly waving him on. I was so appalled at the thought of having to repeat the experience that I hastily announced that I would get some exercise by going swimming after work instead.

That was when I remembered that my swimming mainly consisted of splashing about in lakes or the sea on holiday, and that I had barely entered a swimming pool since enduring the mad scrum of school swimming lessons. And so I discovered that I could do about two lengths, max.

However, with regular weekly sessions I was pleased with my steady improvement. I stopped less frequently, and rapidly increased the number of lengths until I reached something of a plateau. I would still push myself each week, trying to squeeze an extra length out of my time, but kept strictly to my 30-minute limit.

After having climbed into the pool weary from my working day I would leave with my head feeling spring cleaned, light  and airy.


During that commonly experienced lengthy period between a possible and definite diagnosis of MS, I continued to go swimming but would get frustrated. I would still push myself but sometimes felt like I was barely moving. Then I had some physiotherapy and began the long road to rethinking my approach to … well, most things.

No longer was the idea to push myself to the limit, to keep going until I felt I would burst. Now I was to be kind to my body, resting it regularly so that it could keep going for longer. Pausing; being gentle; conserving energy.

This attitude had to apply to every part of my life, not just swimming. It was (still is) very hard to do! It goes against everything that you’re told. However, I started to give it a go. In the pool, I would swim a length, pause, swim another, get frustrated and swim a few, thinking ha! I can still do it. Then I’d get out and regret it immediately. I’d have no energy for anything. So, next time: swim, pause, swim, pause, try not to look at the clock. Well, I still do half an hour and I still count the number of lengths. But gradually, gradually, I relearnt, and now I keep to the same number of lengths each week. I know that’s the number that works.

And I still get out of the pool feeling great. Well, my head feels great; it tells me that I can do anything. My body, though, is keen to take it easy for the rest of the day. Which brings me to where swimming has landed me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI came home from swimming the other morning, feeling invincible! It was fantastic; I could do anything I put my mind to! I switched on my computer to find an email about a day arranged by ParalympicsGB to encourage more people with disabilities to try out different sports. Well, I could do that! Before I knew it, I had completed the online form, ticking a wide variety of sports to try … and now I’m off to Sheffield next weekend to try out as many sports as possible, and hopefully meet some paralympic athletes. I expect it will be me and a load of 10-year-olds all hoping to get to Rio – them, not me! At 40-plus-quite-a-few-years-on-top I’m simply hoping to have a fun day out and live out that Olympic and Paralympic motto to Be Inspired!


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