Suzi can forget about her impairment whilst swimming

I saw an advert on Facebook for the Aspire Channel Swim and decided to sign up as I’d just taken up swimming again and have been really enjoying it, so I thought it would be fun to set myself a bit of a challenge. I have swum very regularly since my pool re-opened, before that I was always on and off; I’d go for a few months and then stop for a few months.

I haven’t always enjoyed swimming. When I was about eight, I remember begging my mum to let me quit my swimming lessons. I liked playing in the water, but I hated actually swimming. I found front crawl (which was always the go-to stroke) very hard and would always end up doing a bit of a doggy paddle, struggling to keep up. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) at 20 that I realised why I probably found swimming so tough.

Suzy 2

Because of my FSHD, I am limited in terms of which stroke I can do. My natural instinct is to do front crawl, but my shoulders won’t let me, so I do a weird cross of breaststroke arms and front crawl legs.

Swimming is the one activity where I completely and utterly forget about any impairment I have and feel total freedom.

I find I can keep going for ten times longer than any other exercise, whilst working every muscle in my body. When swimming I can totally let go and enjoy it as I’m not constantly thinking about what I can’t do.

I really missed swimming when pools were closed. It’s the one thing that there weren’t really any alternatives for. If you’re a gym goer or take part in classes, there were so many online options and home equipment available. But unless you live near the sea or are lucky enough to have your own pool there weren’t too many alternative options.

It felt really nice to be in a pool again. It just felt like a bit of much needed normality.

I was apprehensive about how it was all going to work, but I was confident that the leisure centre would not be opening if they couldn’t adhere to the government guidelines. I swim at Bulmershe Leisure Centre in Woodley and I feel very safe swimming there. You have to book in for a 45 minute session and there is a one-way system on entering and exiting the building. You queue outside two metres apart whilst staff check you in and then lead you to the changing rooms, where there is hand sanitiser to use before entering. The staff encourage people to use the same changing rooms before and after the swim and to turn up ready to swim. Instead of six lanes there are three much wider lanes to ensure distancing and numbers are limited. It’s a great system and I actually find it a lot more relaxing. I’d be happy to carry on booking swims.

I actually found that I easily got back into swimming and swam 40 lengths without stopping on my first swim which I was really happy with. I’m by no means a fast swimmer but that for me was quite good. Losing weight and fitness are massive incentives for me, but also just general health and wellbeing. I like to feel like I’m doing something that is benefiting my body, but I also love taking the time to myself a few times a week.

I’m nervous about fundraising. I think raising money for charity is an amazing thing, but I find it hard to advertise that I’m doing something and ask for money. This is the first time I’ve fundraised in about 15 years, but I’ve set up my JustGiving page and plan on using Facebook and word of mouth.

I don’t know anyone with a spinal cord injury, but a charity which helps people find independence after one of the most life altering injuries is an extremely worthy cause in my opinion.

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