Helen is swimming for a former colleague's dad who had a spinal injury

I first took on the Aspire Channel Swim in 2014 after my daughter, who is doing the challenge again this year with me, saw a poster for it in our local swimming pool in Peebles. This year, after reading the emails from Aspire, I signed up because I thought I needed a challenge.

Hl First Day Before Gold Hat Arrived

I have tried to keep swimming over the years, on and off. I’m not a strong swimmer (I didn’t learn until I was eight years old) or a particularly good one, but I have stamina and find swimming a good way to keep generally well exercised and supple. I’m a bit slower than I’d like to be. I do breaststroke, backstroke and front crawl alternately and think a few lessons would help me to refine my technique to go faster. Sadly, I don’t swim fast enough to become much fitter or to lose weight!

I find swimming and counting lengths calming and I usually think about my issues as I swim, which helps me put them in perspective. It’s a good way of building in exercise to my daily routine.

I like the overall exercise swimming gives me, which keeps my muscles and my arthritic ankle working, and it helps loosen my neck muscles after too many hours in front of the computer.

Prior to lockdown I was swimming occasionally and was upset when I had to stop because of the pandemic. I’d just been made redundant and was looking forward to increasing my visits to the pool. I did go walking during lockdown but found I needed to do something more for my overall health and wellbeing so, when pools reopened, I went back three mornings a week until the pools closed again. From the beginning of August this year, I’ve been going regularly three mornings a week before work and, by the end of September, I decided I was practised enough to take on the Aspire Swim Challenge 2021.

My advice to people taking on the challenge for the first time would be to just do it! It is a challenge, but the satisfaction of achieving the goal of swimming 22 miles in 12 weeks, especially for someone who isn’t a particularly good swimmer, is very rewarding.

With my fundraising I try to be generally encouraging, but not demanding, and to be honest about how hard the challenge is for me. I was hoping to be one of the top fundraisers again this year. I’m fortunate - I have generous friends. I have done all my fundraising through Facebook, so I don’t have to badger people face to face. I also asked my colleagues at work through Teams chat and a couple of people responded. I plan to both post on Facebook and send a message to my work colleagues again.

I don’t directly know anyone with a spinal cord injury but I know of the journalist Melanie Reid and a former colleague, who was the first to sponsor me in 2014, told me her father had a spinal injury following a problem from an operation.

Hl Selfie With Gold Hat

I’m doing the challenge this year for my former colleague and her father. He’s no longer alive but I know how important it is to give someone with Spinal Cord Injury the best possible chance to live well.

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