London calling…this is London calling

Firstly…I have three posts, sitting unfinished. I’m just getting back, to blogging regularly, I also need to get into the habit of finishing posts!

On Friday morning, it time to head to London for the Swimathon Ambassadors launch event. It was prove an amazing, whirlwind 36 hours. Thirty-six hours that where to prove more than “a little bit special”.

To write about it, in one post, would mean that the post would be the length of my discertation and also take an absolute age to complete!

Friday morning saw me awake at 5.30am…ridiculously early! There was no way, in my excited state, I was going to get back to sleep. I was worse than my 5 year old nephew, on Christmas morning!.

There was one slight issue to deal with…I say slight, it was actually one that caused me a level of stress that was disproportionate to the problem. My printer threw a hissy fit! For two hours, I tried repeatedly, to get the damn thing to work. It refused, I tried all the usual tricks…switching it, slapping it, like it was a 1970s TV, getting cross with it . To no avail!

Virgin East Coast website, offered no help as to whether or not I could just show, my ticket, on my phone. I placed a panicked message on FB, at a 11pm, asking if anyone could print my tickets. Then I remembered, I could print them off, at the local library.

At 9am I walked, skidded and tottered, carefully across to tbe library. Snow still laid 4 inches thick and it was where the sun, had melted it the previous day, ice had taken it’s place. Quite apart, from making a complete idiot of myself, by falling over, I didn’t want to fall over, break something, land myself in A and E and miss an opportunity of a lifetime (and several weeks training).

I spoke to a lovely lady, a rather panicked conversation along the lines of a garbled “I’m going to London today, I need these tickets, printed off, please can I do it here”. She responded, by advising me, that I would need library membership, to use the P.C. I don’t have library membership, but I did need those tickets printed off! Neither did I have time to sign up.

Thankfully, she waivered, this requirement ‘just this once”. Thirty pence ligher and 10 minutes later, the tickets were in my hand and I was on my home.

An hour later, I threw my backpack over my shoulder and headed out the door. In my bag was my new swimming costume, kindly provided by Zoggs, a partner with Swimathon. The postman arrived, only 10 minutes before I was due to leave. I love my new costume, it’s so bright and funky.

It was time to eading to Newcastle Central Station. This is where my journey really begun….

The Christmas present, that keeps on giving….

The details of the Swimathon Ambassador programe are slowly coming in, travel plans are being finalised and loose ends, tied. It’s very evident that it’s going to be an incredibly busy weekend and I’m grateful that they have provided me with a hotel, that has a pool and gym. This will allow me, to squeeze an hour or so of “me time”. This will also give me a great base, from which to consider my answers to the videod interview. I have the questions, I just need to sit down and formulate my replies. That’s a job for Friday evening.

Part of me wants to share, all the details, now. However, I’ve decided hold back and share them, as they happen. It’s going to be amazing, I’m incredibly excited and I want to remember, as much as a can and make the most of every minute. It’s an opportunity of a life time, an incredible gift, that has just got bigger, and better, from the time I got the first e mail, just before Christmas.

So what excactly is Swimathon? I’ve taken this from the Swimathon website, which I really encourage you to visit, by following this link.

“Swimathon, the world’s biggest fundraising swim, has been encouraging swimmers the length and breadth of the UK to swim a distance challenge since the very first event 31 years ago. Since then, Swimathon’s mission of uniting swimmers around challenges and fundraising has prompted more than half a million swimmers to take part at their local pool and raised more than £48 million for charitable causes.

A challenge for everyone. A swim for all – Enter Swimathon 2018 and join Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie to raise as much money as possible for two causes close to the nation’s hearts. Swimathon will be returning for 2018 and will take place from Friday, April 27 – Sunday, April 29. This is your swim – from 400m to 5k, there is a Swimathon challenge for you”

I’ve taken part, for the past two years and it is an fantastic event. Last year I swam 2.5km, the year before 1.5km (I also later swam, a “simply swim” 2.5km. This year, my plan was to swim 2.5km, but then my friend P, who I train with, decided she wanted to take part. This year they’ve introduced a new, shorter 400m challenge, this was great for P, as she felt unable, to complete 1.5km, so I signed up for the 400m, alongside the 2.5km.

Then I decided tbat as it’s my third swimathon and 3 years, since my first lesson, why not complete 3 challenges. So I’ve signed up for 1.5km as well.

The ambassador project, will give me many fantastic opportunities, but.on a personal level, I really hope to get the message, out there, that you’re never too old to learn to swim. It will also be a great opportunity to show to people, that life doesn’t have to have to come to a grinding halt, after the diagnosis of a long-term health problem or disability. Life does change after such a diagnosis, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up, spend your life sitting on the sofa or lead a sedimentary lifestyle. I certainly will never run a marathon or even 5km, even if I wanted to, but in swimming I have a sport, I can regular participate in and love.

Commitment…

Today, I was back at Aquafit. Aquafit is something I have a bit of love/”hate” relationship with.

One the one hand, I love it, becuase it enables me to enjoy a really good work out, supported by water. On the other hand I find it pretty hard going, spending forty five minutes, being told what to do, when what I would like to do is swim!

In addition, because the water is supporting me, physically I can do more,  I really enjoy pushing myself. This unfortunately, had led to me getting told off, by some participants, for kicking to hard, splashing to much or “wetting their hair”.  It’s hard to get tbe balance right.
Today, I noticed, there a few familiar faces missing. There’s a pretty grim viral infection, doing the rounds, which is decimating people. I started with on Christmas ay and three week later, I still have a residual cough. There were also a few new, unfamiliar faces. These might be people who have been a member of the gym, for a while, who have decided to give aquafit a try. Or they might be “New Year Resolutionsers”.

As Big Ben bongs it’s way into the New Year (other clocks are avaialable) New Year Resolutions are made. To get fitter and loose weigbt, are high among them. Buoyed up, by the enthusiasm, they head down to the gym to sign up. New Year, New me!

I first noticed this phenomena, last year. In January, the pool was heaving and the gym, busy. I overheard people discuss, how amazing they were because “they’d swam 20 lengths” and listened to  their plans to join “Weightwatchers”. By Febuary, the tide of new people slackened, by March there were few, of these once new faces, to be seen, either the pool or gym. The only evidence, of their former commitment to “go the gym, get fitter resolution” is that their 12 month contract still needs be honoured, necessitating the payment of x amount of money, to be talen from their bank account.

Committing to anything needs careful consideration. Doing more excercise, getting fitter, living a healthier lifestyle is hard work. It needs commitment of both heart and mind. Coming out of a swimming pool, when it’s -4c, outside isn’t funny. Even if you dried off and dressed! Getting up at 6am, to go swimming is hard work. Battling to swim, in a crowded pool, is frustrating experience.

I am pretty sure, many gyms, make a large proportion of their profits, from those people who never or rarely go. I’m guessing, many gyms, every New Year, run promotions…no joining fee, vouchers, catchy slogans, freebies, to entice people in.

Maybe though, what gyms should do is give people a trial period, offer support when that commitment starts to waiver, give advice and guidance when things get tough, maybe even offer things like a “buddy scheme”. If gyms are happy enough to get you to sign up for a year, should they not also they offer guidance and support, to help, encourage and support people to remain committed to their goals? In doing so, they will aid people people live healthier, fitter lives, could in the long run help wider society.

The update…

In my last post I made reference to something exciting happening, this year. It’s time to reveal all *drum roll and a pause worthy of a Britian Got Talent Final* 

(If you wish, you may want to miss the next few paragraphs and head to the end, to find out, without reading the rest of the post). 

Back in December, way before Christmas and the last minute shopping, I received an e mail, essentially asking  me if I would like to be a “case study for Swimathon, to encourage women to swim”. Happy to be involved, I replied Yes! At this point, I thought it would maybe involve a few words and maybe a photo, on the back of a leaflet, somewhere. 

A few days and a phone call later, I realised that it might be it a little more than that. I still didn’t give much thought to, it sounded fun and an opportunity to “sell swimming to other people”. To tell people, just how amazing swimming is….

New Year came an went, bells chimed, fireworks went off and the recycling bin was filled. Then came another e mail and with it, the realisation of just what I’d “signed up for”. 

I am going to be a “Swimathon Ambassador”…yes that’s right, a “Swimathon Ambassador”. 

I am completely shocked, I’m astounded to have been asked. I really can’t understand why excactly they would ask me. It’s ridiculous, three years ago I decided to learn to swim, something many adults decide to do. Now I’m an ambassador! These sort of things, don’t happen to people like me.

I am uttterly stunned, I keep thinking I will wake up soon. So many people tell me they find my story “inspiring”, that’s lovely to hear, but I can’t get my head round why. When asked for names of inspiring swimmers, a middle aged woman, who totters around with a walking stick, carring a nebuliser in her backpack doesn’t excactly spring to mind! You think of the likes of Adam Peaty, Becky Arlington, Jazz Carlin, Hannah Miley and so forth. 

Initially, I had some doubts about being involved, I questioned if and how, my story could inspire others, I still do. This, however is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m going to grasp it with both hands, determined to enjoy every minute of it and get as much out of it I can. 

Happy New Year…here’s to 2018.

Well this post finds me in a similar position, to the last. Recovering from another chest infection. I became unwell, over Christmas, two weeks on I am still on regular nebulisers, antibiotics and prednisolone.

Currently I am not well enough to swim. I am however, planning on going to aquafit on Sunday. Asthma, severe or otherwise, will not beat me!!!

The next few months have something, exciting on the horizion, in relation to swimming as I prepare for Swimathon 2018. It’s early days, but in the coming weeks and months, I hope to be sharing this, here on my blog.

 

All change…

It’s been a considerable length of time, since I last blogged. This blog was set up, to chart my journey through learning to swim…something which I have now achieved. Swimming is still something I do on a regular basis and something I still love, recently I had a go at open water swimming, in Ibiza. It was amazing! Swimming along, watching the fish below you, sadly also what was evident was the sheer amount of rubbish, in the sea! 

I want to keep my blog running, but I need to widen the focus a little, I took up swimming on account of the fact I have chronic health problems, asthma and arthritis, both of which have been helped by swimming and my increased level of fitness, so the focus of my blog will widen to include posts with these  even further to my life in general. 

Rest more, to do more.

The weather, in the North East, continues in it’s awful, autumal fashion. Meanwhile, down south it’s baking…

While we have grey skies, three days of continuous rain and temperatures topping out at 12c, the South of the country enjoys glorious blue skies, summer sunshine and 30c plus. 

I haven’t been able to get swimming, this week. Monday I had meeting to attend, Tuesday and Wednesday, Brownies and Guides. On Thursday, my lungs were awful, tight, grumpy and frankly failing in their job. Walking through the town hall, for a meeting was hard enough, never nimd swim. 

Today was better…but then things went very wrong at work. I’m not in a job, where I can close the door, at 5pm amd that’s it, done. Consequently, I finally headed out the door, at 7pm. One pool, shuts at 8pm…the other pool, 9pm.  The problem is, the one that shuts at 9, is absolutely heaving on a Friday  

I decided to head that way, irrespective. As I was preparing to turn right, towards the pool, my work mobile rang and then rang again. Thinking this was something serious, I turned my car round, drove over a mile to a quiet spot and  checked my phone..it was a no win no fee, sales call. As my mobile number is protected and not used for any other purpose, than work, no one should have this number. There nearly was as an accident, as I was tempted to throw my phone and punch my steering wheel in pure frustration…

It sounds ridiculous, reflecting on it, but I just couldn’t be bothered to turn my car round, to go to a crowded pool and struggle to swim, amongst social swimmers, who prefer to natter than swim. The other day, I overheard a 15 minute conversation discussing the relative merits of gas fires…

The “knit and natter movement” is a popular one, perhaps it could be moved to swimming pools, for an allotted period of time, though given tbe conversations I’ve heard, maybe it should be renamed “bitch and stitch”. 

What I have tried to do though, is walk more. I love walking, as I’ve referred to before. I can walk for miles, a love I’ve inherited from my nana. 

In doing so though I’m discovering, to my frustration, that the distance I can physically walk, particularly given my increase in fitness resulting from regularly swimming, is restricted considerably by pain resulting from my arthritis. Walking is weight bearing, swimming is not. 

A reasonablely slow, 2 and half mile walk is probably the furthest I can comfortably manage, with the aid of my stick. This still causes me discomfort, but with codiene and paracetamol, it’s easily bearable. After this, my hip becomes increasingly painful, once I reach three and half/four miles, it’s close to unbearable. The pain will then continue, for many hours, impacting on my sleep and quality of life. 

So, I’m having to rethink my plan, my vivoactive watch sets me a distance to walk each day, I do aim for that distance, but I also aim for 5000 steps over a day. This is always less than what my watch, sets me, but it’s what I judge myself to be able to do, on a good day. Also, instead of marching down the park and doing the whole walk, at once, I try to keep to relatively short distances, before resting. The more I rest, the more I can comfortably, do. 

When is enough, too much?

It’s summer…or so rumour has it. Here in the North East, our summer has consisted, of Autumnal feeling days, lots of rain, a couple of thunderstorms, peppered with occasional warm days.

Encouraged by the positive outcome, from both my hospital  asthma clinic and annual G.P practice check up, I decided that I should really try do more this summer, to take advantage of the better weather. Though the definition of “better weather” is rather a loose one! 

Both my arthritis and asthma, particularly my asthma, is much better in the summer. Last week though, mpst likely triggered by the wet, colder weather my arthritis flaired up, this week, the weather is better and my arthritis is more settled. 

I decided, that I wanted to try and do, lots of physical activity, this summer, both swimming and walking. My Garmin measures both my swim distance and my steps, so I can measure just how much I’m doing. My hope is, that the more I do this summer, the fitter I will be when winter arrives with it’s  icy blast, bringing with it the usual plethora of coughs, colds and chest infections. I am really hoping, that increased fitness levels, will mean it’s easier to fight off the repeated infections, I suffer in the winter and maybe even, reduce number of infections I get.

Last week, I didn’t walk much, due to the poor weather conditions, but I swam a total of nearly 10km. 

This week, the weather is much better, so it’s time to get walking. I love walking and can, walk for miles, the difficulty is that, the dostance I am fit enough to walk, is longer than the distance my arthritis is able to cope with. I had a decent walk on Saturday, on Sunday I visited a nature reserve, with the aim of following a marked walk. Except that I missed a directional arrow, got lost and wandered around for ages, utterly bamboozled as to where I was and where I was supposed to be going. 

Eventually I worked my way back, but my 3 mile walk, turned intp 5 miles. By mile four, I thought I might have to “phone a friend” to get someone to come and help me out. My left hip was giving way and the pain levels were getting to the point of being unbearable. I was so, so grateful to see my car, its red colour acting as homing beacon, as I spotted through the foilage and bushes. 

Last night, I was in so much pain, thank goodness for both codiene aand my heat pack. 

This morning, I hobbled round my flat as I struggled to get ready for and to work. Thank goodnrss for flexible working…

Today, I really should of rested, my body is telling me to rest. No in fact, It’s screaming at me.

But no, like a defiant teenager, I chose to ignore it. Not satisfied with walking 2000 steps at work, I walked to my Arthritis Care support group, another mile and another 2000 steps. Then I took a stupidly, long route home, striding through the park. Another two and half miles…

I am now home and in a great deal of pain, I know I’ve done far to much. Its so frustrating, physically the walking distances I have, does not provide a particular challenge, but my arthritis does. The next few days, I will do as much as I can, but do much less. My painful, achy, stiff joints need to rest, but doing too little are is just as bad, for my arthritis, has a similar negative impact.

Frustrating as it is, it also highlights the benefits of swimming. It low load bearing, the water supports and though I can come out the pool, sore and aching, thankfully I never experience pain like I am now, after just three days of increaing my walking distance. 

What you can’t do in a swimming pool…

Think for a moment, what things are you not allowed to do, in or at a swimming pool. Many of us will remember, this poster, from the 1980’s.

There is, however one thing missing from that poster, swim. That’s right, swim in a swimming pool…

The other day, I encountered a lady who said just that, or rather “swim to well”. The other day, swimming in a lane, a lady asked if she could join me. I was happy to say yes.

She then turned to me, in a voice full of venhem and spat out  “he should not be allowed in the pool”.  I turned to see her, jabbing her finger, towards someone who I thought was a perfectly innocent swimmer. The subject of her ire, the reason for annoyance…she loudly complained that “he”s swimming to well and too fast”.

I was slightly confused by this, the whole purpose of visiting a pool, is to swim. It seemed, however that she believed that if.you were too good, or too fast a swimmer, you should be kicked out, according to her bitter complaints, because “you get in peoples way”.