Why swimming is the best thing for chronic pain patients

Even when I was healthy I wasn’t a huge fan of exercise; I’m never going to be one of those girls who gets excited about a morning swim or an evening run. I used to love a cheesy dance or aerobics class and many of my university days were spent grape-vining to Whitney Houston, but that was the extent of my enthusiasm for exercise. Unfortunately those days are gone, and the only time I get really sad about my health is when I hear an amazing song that makes me want to dance and I can’t.

Anyway, my dream of dancing is a post for a different day. Today, for the first time in over a year, I went swimming!

It’s widely known that swimming is meant to be one of the ‘good exercises’ for people with physical impairments, but I just find it so incredibly and unimaginably boring. And such a faff. And not only that, I look nothing like the woman in the picture above. In fact, I think I am the least attractive swimmer in the world; I have very bad eye sight so squint, stumble and feel my way around the changing rooms looking for the doorway to the pool, I swim with a float which just seems to irritate the fellow swimmers on either side of me, and I’m so slow I sometimes wonder if I’m actually moving at all. I think the woman in the picture below is a more accurate portrayal of how I feel in the pool – just she looks more happy about it.

Older women learning to swim

I may not be the most beautiful swimmer in the world, but I do have some plans on how to make this whole experience a bit more bearable.


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#1 – Get a noodle

I didn’t know that the long tube float was called a noodle until very recently, and now I love it even more. The noodle is brilliant for resting one half of your body on whilst the other half does the work, then switching. The down side is that you can’t shrink it to fit in your bag, so I felt like a weirdo on a packed tube with a massive blue noodle.

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#2 – Get a waterproof iPod 

I did it. I splurged on something that I hope is going to make a massive difference to my life. The waterproof iPod shuffle claims to be 100% waterproof and I plan on using it to listen to audio books, pod casts and motivational music. This could be the answer to all my swimming nightmares… I’ll let you know how I get on.

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#3 – Find a time that works

I joined the ‘general swim’ at 7pm this evening. Apparently so did loads of other people, along with many of their children. I will be trying the ‘lane swim’ and the ‘ladies swim’ next week to see if these times are any quieter. Me and my noodle need space.

On that note though, what is swimming etiquette? I thought if you saw someone swimming towards you, it was your duty to be typically British and politely stop mid-swim so that you could both get by without splashing/kicking the other person. However, if today’s behaviour is anything to go by, it’s every man (woman) for himself (herself), and I’m not sure I like that.

I’d love to hear your tips for sticking with exercise you hate. Perhaps I’m missing something really obvious. Until then, me and my noodle are off for a lie down – I’m shattered.

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4 thoughts on “Why swimming is the best thing for chronic pain patients

  1. You are right, there use to be etiquette when swimming but i have found it’s every person for themselves. In my local pool i have found women only swims tend to be quieter and women tend to be nicer to me when i’m trying to swim slow widths of the pool as the length is just too long. Although i have never tried it they do a disabled person and carers swim once a week as well.

  2. We love swimming! Here’s some tips…
    1. You can get RX goggles for pretty cheap (I looked into it a few years ago and they were only €15 at Specsavers)

    2. Lane swimming is pretty boring, if you can steal a child and get into the kiddy swim time it’s much for fun 😉

    3. My kids are in swim classes and we call the Noodle the Woggle (Alex sometimes things long ballons are woggles and throws himself on them, only for them to pop!) there’s so much you can do with it–float on your front, on your back, have horse races with it between your legs! You can kind of tie it up in a knot like a pretzel and it’s a little easier to carry home. When mine is tied up it’s fits in my big pool tote bag. It will kind of curve, but can be easily stretched back out in the pool.

    4. Are there any hydrotherapy pools you can go to? They are usually as warm as a bath (which is amazing in the winter) and the local one to us runs aquarobics courses that may be more fun for you.

    But seriously swimming is so great for you! y mom’s godmother was a quadriplegic and had a special pool in the back yard (her wheelchair could be wheeled into it and then she just floated out!) and it made such a difference for her and was amazing to watch her move unfettered. Have fun!

  3. Ha! Thanks Lauren! I don’t have any kids to steal and my boyf hates swimming, but I think finding a swimming pal is a good idea – horse races and all. I’ve been on a hunt for a hydrotherapy pool for a while but when I move I’ll see what I can find closer to home.

    Thanks for the good tips!

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