I love to swim. I learned how to swim at age 5. I begin competing at age 8. I continued through the first two years of college. When I was working, it was difficult to get into the pool on a regular basis. Now that I’m retired, I’ve begun going to our local recreation center and swimming three days a week. I certainly don’t swim as I used to, but swimming is one of the best exercises for the whole body. And I love it.
Several years ago I was with a friend at a Hot Springs spa in Montana. It had an outdoor pool and an indoor pool. For the couple of days we were there, I went down to swim. I noticed that I was having difficulty with the whip kick, which is part of the breaststroke. I wasn’t really swimming a lot then so I really didn’t see it as a problem. I just figured that it was a temporary issue.
As my symptoms continue to worsen, and I was finally diagnosed with MS, I begin to understand that not being able to perform the whip kick was a sign of things to come.
Now when I swim, my flutter kick is weak due to my right leg weakness. As I stroke for the backstroke instead of a straight recovery, my right arm just kind of flails around. And for freestyle, I don’t have a nice long stroke on my right side as with my left arm. And when I pull underwater my right hand stays in a partially closed position.
I’ve missed two weeks due to minor surgery. It was so nice to get back in the pool this morning.
I still love to swim and I’m very glad that I have the opportunity to go three times a week. And even though I’m not swimming as I used to, exercise is an important part of maintaining the skills that I do have. I also want to make sure that my weaknesses will continue to be a strong as possible.
So what’s the point of all of this? I want to encourage you to start, maintain or adjust a daily exercise routine. Even though I have a disabling disease, I know that exercise is vital to not only my physical health but also my mental and emotional health.
I’ve been to some great physical and occupational therapists and I still do many of the exercise that I learned there. The occupational therapy exercises I do with my right hand are extremely difficult. And there’s very little range of motion. But I continue to do them because I do not want to see my hand deteriorate from inactivity. My brain is still attempting to do the exercises, so I am using what I have, my strengths, to compensate for my weaknesses.
Many of my fellow MS’ers have greater physical losses of movement than I do. Even so, I encourage you to keep moving. You still have strengths that can help compensate for your weaknesses. When I do my hand exercises there’s very little movement, and you may see very little movement as well.
Don’t let that stop you. Please, keep moving. Start a routine. Have a schedule. Don’t give up. Share with others what you’re doing. Share with me what you’re doing so I can encourage you. Get an exercise partner. Encourage one another. Stay as healthy as you can for as long as you can!! Don’t give up!!