I’ve already blogged about how swimming can help fibromyalgia and it’s always been the most important part of my pain management toolkit. So the last year has been really hard as UK pools have been closed for a significant chunk of that time. For me, the effects of not being able to swim have been tangible – increased pain and consumption of painkillers and sleep quality which is even poorer than normal. Although I have been doing lots of walking and some yoga during lock-down, nothing comes close to swimming for me in terms of helping me manage my pain levels. Immersed in water, my body, which feels like lead most of the time on land, feels miraculously lighter, I can move so much more easily and in a largely pain free manner. In short, when I’m in the water, I feel more normal.
Needless to say, when I took to the water again in April for the first time since November, I was really excited to be back. Whilst I’d love to be writing that I got into the water and effortlessly glided off like I’d never been away, that definitely wasn’t the case. It was more a case of an aquatic version of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz as my back and neck were so stiff. A couple of weeks later and swimming has become slightly easier although I feel there’s a long way to go to get back to where I was pre-Covid.
Returning to the pool has been impacted by some of the processes which have been put in place due to Covid, although I totally understand the need for this.
There are fewer swim sessions available, fewer swimmers allowed into each slot, with booking and payment in advance being required. It seems that everyone is very keen to get back into the water and so sessions are generally fully booked on the day that the sessions are released (usually a week in advance). Living with fibromyalgia means that I never really know how I’m going to feel tomorrow let alone a week in advance so I just have to book and hope for the best. But feeling too ill has meant missing a couple of swims so far, which is both annoying and costly.
At my local pool, the showers are currently out of bounds. This means that after swimming, you have to dry off, get dressed, return home, undress, shower, dry off and get dressed again. For non-spoonies, this is probably irritating but largely insignificant. However for those of us living with fibro, it is something that needs to be taken into account, as it’s a drain on those oh-so-precious energy resources.
After a few weeks back in the pool, I’ve realised that swimming is really important to me not just from a pain management perspective but it’s also vital in keeping my mental health and self esteem on track too. I’m already feeling the positive impacts of being back in the water, especially after putting on weight during the various lockdowns we’ve had, which has had a knock on impact on how I feel about myself, my body and my capabilities.
I just need to work on banishing the Tin Man now…