So last year, in the month of June, when work (school) let out for the summer, I decided to take up swimming. And sometimes, when I decide to start up something, I have a habit of forgetting that the fibro body does not have the ability to push it that the regular body has. In my enthusiasm to begin this new endeavor, I threw my back out some awful about a week before we were traveling to see my brother in Vermont. That little mistake earned me the privilege of being frisked at the security line (because of the back belt which they promptly made me take off), and pre-boarding the plane since I was not able to stand without severe pain for more than a minute or two (walking is always easier for some reason). It also taught me a lesson, I need to learn how to do physical activities the correct way or I will really pay. In the end, it turned out very well. I did something I have thought about doing for years, I took swim lessons as an adult.
I had learned how to swim as a child. In fact, I learned many times in many locations, with multiple instructors. I think I frustrated them all. I never made it past the basic strokes to get to the butterfly, which was something I thought might be fun to do. In looking back, I now know that the biggest problem was not that I am generally uncoordinated or lacking in sports talent (which would be true). The problem was that I could not see. My vision is terrible. Without my glasses or contacts I can only make out swirling colors with my left eye, and colors and some semblance of shapes with my right. The vision has been this bad since I was 8, around the age the swim lessons started. Being 8, and being in the 80s before they made comfy contacts, I wore glasses. And one did not wear expensive glasses in the pool. Or cheap ones for that matter. So I took lesson after lesson without being able to really see what the group instructors were showing me. What an eye opener! I also somehow learned to swim the crawl stroke without putting my head in the water, a form they no longer teach, and which is terrible for the fibro neck.
So after we got back from Vermont, I embarked on 12 private or semi-private (sometimes there were 2 of us) adult swim lessons. The teacher at our local pool specialized in adults and she was very good, very patient. By this round of lessons I had made the miraculous discovery that one can wear contacts safely under goggles. Even better, daily disposables, which, if for some reason lost, were easily and cheaply replaced. I could see my teacher! Also important when taking lessons in something, I really wanted to learn to swim correctly. And to do the butterfly. By the end of the summer, I was doing the freestyle (no longer called the crawl) and backstroke very well and not hurting myself. I was able to do the butterfly, but it was, and is, still physically hard. But the teacher said my form was good and I just needed practice. The breaststroke on the other hand, the beast of a stroke responsible for the back incidence in June, was still a challenge. My teacher said that a lot of people, especially adults, find this stroke to be the hardest, not the butterfly, because of the coordination of the movements. When we were done, I knew how to do it correctly, but needed practice.
Swimming has become a new love, a form of exercise I truly enjoy doing. I have always loved some types of physical activity, (lets emphasize the some), although I am rarely very coordinated in my efforts. And I am stiff as a board, or as my gym teachers used to tell me, as a man. Apparently women are supposed to be more flexible than men naturally. I think all along something was up with my neuro-muscular system, it just didn’t become the fibro I know well until years later. Before the fibro hit I used to enjoy biking and running for solo exercise. If ever given the chance, I also love floor hockey and badmitten too. But with the fibro I first lost the running to knee pain, and then the biking to low back pain (courtesy of the place my back likes to go out). For a number of years I walked 3-4 times a week. But that got really boring. So a friend suggested Curves, a low impact whole body workout that people with chronic pain can do. I enjoyed Curves, and stayed with them for about 6 years (and I highly recommend it for those of you reading this who have chronic pain issues). I met others like myself with chronic pain, some with Lupus, some with fibro, some with Rheumatoid Arthritis. But sooner or later, I needed something different. And along came my swimming.
So this year, I found a gym that has a nice 4 lane pool with water that is 84 degrees (perfect for the fibro swimmer). Mostly not too crowded although as bathing suit season has approached I have had to share lanes. And about twice a week all year, barring 3 bouts of bronchitis, I have faithfully gone swimming. And then, I did it again.
It had been about a week and half I had not gone swimming because of ending the school year, and then traveling to a conference. And a couple of months since the pesky breaststroke and I had spent time together (I mostly stay with freestyle and backstroke). I decided that it was time to work on the breaststroke again. And to really swim my laps hard. Coming out of a few weeks of massive stress and some on and off minor back pain, this was not a good choice. So out my back went last Wednesday. Luckily, I am stronger now, and better at the stroke, so it wasn’t the debilitating problem I had had last year. But, you guessed it, we will be traveling soon. Feeling better now, I think I will leave that stroke alone for awhile and focus on what I can do, and what makes me feel better. This time when I fly, I don’t want to get frisked.