Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Swimming: A Prescription for Pain?

The smell of chlorine (including bleach!) takes me back to those grueling practices and long meets. It almost seems like another lifetime, but I was a competitive swimmer for about 8 years- all through middle school and high school. I have loved to swim since I was a toddler, but didn't start swimming until I was about 10 years old. I swam age group (United State Swimming) and for my high school. I wasn't great, but I still hold some school records and was one of the top swimmers in the state in my favorite event, the 100 yard backstroke.

I devoted a lot of my time to swimming and it was a huge part of my life at the time. I have often said in recent years I wished I had not spent so much of my growing up years in the pool. I failed to learn skills such as sewing that would have greatly benefited me for my current role as wife and mother. But swimming did teach me discipline and gave me the opportunity to be an example and share my faith.

When I look at this picture taken during my junior year of high school it is hard to believe that I used to be able to swim 3+ miles a day, 5-6 days a week! I struggled with shoulder pain on/off some, but really I was healthy and strong. I remember getting out the pool after racing and my legs would just burn and my muscles would ache. Kind of the way I feel when I wake up in the mornings now!

After I graduated high school I rarely swam other than for leisure. I still enjoyed exercising, but running was much more efficient both time-wise and for losing/maintaining weight. We've been blessed to be given a greatly discounted membership to our local YMCA, my old swimming stomping grounds. Swimming and walking are about the only two types of exercise one can do with pudendal neuralgia. I really haven't tried swimming much until recently. I went to the warm water pool a few times last year and walked around, but I always came home hurting because, even though I didn't feel much pain while I was in the water, I  nonetheless overdid it. It's hard to get rid of that competitive nature!

A couple weeks ago I was feeling sorry for myself for being so weak physically and decided to give swimming another try. I swam 16 lengths which is 1/4 a mile. I didn't kick much and obviously didn't do a flip turn. It was hard, but it felt good to actually be able to do some physical activity again! After my short swim I got in the warm water pool and let the jets hit my back. A lot of people around the YMCA still know me and some comment that they are surprised to see me do so little, but they have no idea that to me it is HUGE! Sometimes it's not worth going into the details.

It's a small step and obviously not one that will produce a "cure", but maybe it will help my muscles keep from wasting away without increasing my pain too much while I wait for some more long-term relief. I am thankful for God's small graces that bless me and make the hard days a little more enjoyable. And while I may feel like my competitive swimming days were somewhat non-essential, I know God had a plan. In fact, he ordained these pain-filled days long before my first swim meet (Psalm 139:16) and perhaps my current pain is part of the reason God gave me a love for swimming and led me to compete in the first place.

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