Andy is a top fundraiser and swims to help his mental health
I decided to take on the Aspire Channel Swim because I was looking for something to help with my motivation to go to the pool, and taking part in the swimming challenge looked like a good way of achieving this as well as supporting a charity that helps people with spinal cord injuries.
I usually swim 4-5 times a week and have done for over 8 years. I find that it helps with my mental health, plus it is a form of exercise that I can take which doesn't exacerbate my physical health problems.
I have multiple health issues including chronic asthma, osteoarthritis and chronic regional pain syndrome, which means I find many of forms of exercise difficult or even impossible to take part in. I was advised to try to exercise more during a period of depression and because of these issues it was suggested that I try swimming. It was at that point that I started my regular swimming sessions and definitely found that it helped with my mental health and my physical health problems.
Due to my arthritis and my chronic pain I am unable to swim breaststroke or front/back crawl as these all cause pain in various joints in my body. I have therefore developed a form of sidestroke which makes best use of my one good(ish) leg and one reasonable arm/shoulder. I can't achieve a fast rate of swimming but am able to maintain a steady pace, this also helps me to regulate my breathing which helps my asthma symptoms.
The pandemic had a huge impact on my ability to go swimming as my local pool was closed and, as my health issues mean that I'm in the vulnerable category, I was shielding and had to stay at home for most of 2020. Unfortunately, just as my local pool was reopening in Autumn 2020 I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and was unable to recommence my regular swimming. After surgery and follow-up treatment I was able to get back in the water in late April of this year.
The very long break from my regular exercise, on top my health issues, made returning to swimming very challenging. My fitness level had deteriorated significantly and initially I struggled to swim more than around 16-18 lengths in one session, a far cry from the 60-70 lengths I was doing previously. I have been swimming every week since April and have just about got back up to 50 lengths per session. However, my motivation has not returned to the pre-pandemic level, mainly due to still struggling with my mental health following my cancer battle.
I have been amazed at the generosity of my friends and family! I think that having the option of donating via the JustGiving page has helped as many people find this easy and convenient, plus they can see how my fundraising is going and therefore feel more a part of my challenge. I have used word of mouth, email, Whatsapp and Facebook to let people know what I’m doing. My fundraising tip would be to use every method that you can think of to get the word out there. And it definitely helps if people know why taking part is important to you. Most of my sponsors are aware of my health issues and that swimming is important to my health and wellbeing, and therefore are more than happy to support me taking on this massive swim in aid of people with spinal cord injuries.
While I don't personally know anyone with a spinal cord injury, I do have colleagues and friends who struggle with serious health issues and get little or no support to make their lives easier. So, if by taking part in this challenge I can raise some money to help a group of people who really need support then I will be happy to help.
Having a group of family and friends pledging such a large sum of money has definitely helped me to regain my motivation to get up in the morning and head to the pool. I feel that as well as helping the charity Aspire with their great work, taking part in this has helped me regain some of my motivation, and by pushing myself to swim that little bit further each time I swim as a thank you to my supporters. The Aspire Channel Swim challenge is actually helping me to improve my mental health.