Pip discovered her passion for swimming during lockdown

I found out about the Aspire Channel Swim because I use the pool at the Aspire Leisure Centre daily and saw the posters. I've always loved being in water but until last year I didn’t swim on a regular basis. As my back issues deteriorated, and I started finding land-based exercise more of a struggle, I had to find a form of exercise I was comfortable with that didn't aggravate my physical issues. So, in May last year I started going to the pool for dip sessions and then aqua calm classes, working up to doing three or four blast classes a week. Even through the cold winter days, I never missed a blast class.

Pip At Aspire Crop

I have had two lumbar discectomies, an L4/5 S1 fusion with ray cage and bone harvested from my left hip. I have impinged nerves trapped in the fusion which cause the pain and last January I had a spinal cord stimulator implant which, sadly, hasn’t been effective. I also have a degenerative left hip and I’m a five times cancer survivor! So, to add to my back issues, my right latimus dorsi muscle was used to reconstruct my forehead after cancer. I have pretty good movement in my right arm but can't fully rotate it due to the missing muscle. I have to 'adapt' my daily living to manage those things but when I’m in water... I'm free!!

In the pool I'm 'almost' pain free and the joy of experiencing that is one of the biggest ‘natural highs' I can get! My body is getting exercise and I feel exhilarated because I'm not in pain. I am finding it not only helps my physical wellbeing, but it's also fabulous for my mental and emotional health too.

Then in March 2020 we went into lockdown and I lost my one form of exercise. I did start having short walks but over the weeks my back deteriorated without the pool exercise and walking became more painful, so I summoned up the courage to book an open water coaching session. And that was that, I suddenly discovered a passion for swimming!

Open water swimming in lockdown was a revelation to me. Prior to that, I didn't manage more than 10 lengths of a pool at a time! But I 'learnt' that your breathing is really important when swimming, who knew?!!! Not having the security of the bottom of a pool when swimming in open water, I quickly realised that keeping calm and breathing right were paramount!

Pip Open Water

The day the Aspire Leisure Centre pool reopened I swam 20 lengths and ever since I have been to swim or take part in an aqua class every day. Honestly, it’s thanks to being in lockdown and pushing myself through my fears to swim in the lake that I’m now swimming seven days a week and averaging 40-50 lengths a day. There are days when the pain outweighs the desire to swim, but I knew that if I committed to raising much-needed funds for Aspire, that would give me the added impetus on the days I wasn't feeling it. I don't ever want to lose the appreciation I have for the Aspire facility.

I have dipped in and out of using the wonderful Aspire facilities for a number of years but have been a consistent member since May 2019. There is so much to love about the Centre; it's only a few miles from home, its clean and inviting and all the staff and instructors are really friendly and helpful. I find it a friendly and supportive place to go when exercising can feel 'intimidating' and I LOVE that the Aspire pool is kept at a higher temperature than most, to be more comfortable for those with disabilities.

During lockdown I missed aqua classes more than I could ever have imagined. But lockdown is the reason I discovered this passion for swimming! And it's also the reason I've swum EVERY day since the re-opening!

I wasn't a swimmer before lockdown and now I'm verging on being obsessed - I HAVE to swim every day! I have good swims and not so good swims depending on how my body is working that day but even on a 'bad day' I'll swim half a mile.

I consider myself to be 'in training’ now… I'm a 'TRY Athlete'!! My goal is the four mile River Arun swim for Aspire in 2021, so I have a year to build up my stamina to be able to accomplish that.

I find fundraising somewhat uncomfortable, particularly with the financial struggles which people are going through as a result of the pandemic, but I am thankful for the use of the facility and wanted to be able to 'give back.' Aspire is such a worthwhile charity that even small donations can make a difference.

Going to Aspire reminds me daily that, although I have spinal issues and live with pain, I am still more fortunate than many… so why wouldn't I do what I'm capable of doing, to show my appreciation in some small way and potentially to help others.

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