"Swimming has given me so much. I feel much fitter, so much better and so much more confident."
As a child I had swimming lessons during primary school but never learnt to swim properly. I loved swimming and swam regularly during my late teens and early 20s, but I was very much self-taught (and my technique was very much incorrect).
I swam intermittently in my 20s and 30s but I was soon diagnosed with polyarthralgia and osteoarthritis. This resulted in both pain and stiffness in a number of joints. I also have severe asthma. As a consequence I take a number of medications on a daily basis and I carry a nebuliser and ‘rescue pack’ with me.
On top of that, I was diagnosed with having damage and resultant weakness in my back muscles and gluteal neuropathy. I was informed there was no cure, that I needed a walking stick and sent on my way. Despite this, I knew there must be some way I could help myself. The physio suggested that swimming would be very good for me.
However, I was terrified of having to put my face in the water. I also didn’t like being in the deep end unless I was close to the side. Despite making the decision to learn to swim, it was to take me another two and half years before I eventually booked a lesson.
I started lessons at the local leisure centre last April. I quickly realised though, that due to my health problems, group lessons did not work for me. The final straw came when I had an asthma attack after my tutor failed to tell me that there was a problem with the air quality. So I decided to switch to 1:1 lessons. They were much more expensive but I viewed them as an investment.
The first lesson was brilliant and I knew I’d made the right decision. My tutor spent a considerable length of time getting to know me and by the end of my first lesson I was comfortably swimming with my face in the water.
Over a period of weeks, my tutor broke my stroke down and taught me to swim correctly. It was hard work but I loved it.
A change of tutor occurred on July and my new tutor helped me develop my stroke further. I had chosen to follow the ASA Learn to Swim pathway; by November I had completed ASA 5, 6 and 7 and could comfortably swim 200m. I needed a new challenge.
I came across the Sport Relief Swimathon and I set myself the challenge of the 1.5km swim. I kept going, kept training and continued lessons. Week by week, my distances increased.
The big day came, my friend was there, supporting me and willing my on. Suddenly I had one lap to go, I set back off on my final lap, at the end I was told “that was it, you’ve finished.” I climbed out of the pool to congratulations from a smiling friend and handed my medal. The sense of achievement was amazing and I had loved every minute of it.
So what next? My lessons continue and so do the challenges. When I started out on my Sport Relief Swimathon journey I set out to raise £100. Now, my current total stands at £205 so I decided to double the challenge and swim another one.