I have a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy which means I cannot stand or walk unaided; when I was younger I used to swim a lot for physiotherapy and to keep my muscles as strong as possible.
As I got older and less able to, I stopped swimming as the facilities were never very accessible (I require hoisting in and out of the pool). But, when a new pool opened up not too far away from me that had the facilities I needed, I knew I had to start again.
Before getting back in the pool, I was so unsure of what to expect. My muscles felt much more tired on a daily basis and weaker through the lack of exercise also due to my condition my muscles waste away, so I didn’t know how I’d be able to cope or if I could even do much in the pool.
But I shouldn’t have been worried at all, I don’t swim in a way how we are ‘taught’ to because of my condition but I have adapted the traditional swim to one where I focus a lot on using my arms and legs separately whilst moving in the pool, it’s almost like a personal training session where my carer will challenge me to kick my legs while holding on to the side of the pool or raising my arms in and out of the water to strengthen them which helps me in my day to day life.
Because I spend all my life sitting in my wheelchair or lying in bed, swimming is the only time I can feel free and can move my arms and legs around supported by the water.
The latest task I’m setting myself is to stand up unaided in the pool by the end of 2018. When I started swimming 2 years ago, I couldn’t have even entertained the idea but it’s incredible how my body and strength has changed since swimming on a regular basis. I’m not quite there yet and I accept that it’s a really big challenge but I’ll keep pushing myself and enjoying the freedom swimming gives me.
I would recommend for anyone to try swimming whether disabled or able bodied as it’s such a low impact sport and if you are disabled, the perfect way to move without pain or gravity weighing us down!
If you’ve been inspired by Sophie’s story, find out how to get started with swimming.