Ten days ago I was on a hen weekend in Berlin and although nervous about my back I made sure I had pain killers and set out to try and forget about running woes. I had a bit of a long overdue blow out with good friends and came back feeling positive. So positive in fact that despite the worries about aggravating my back I came home feeling bouncy.
Early last week I met with my lovely NHS physiotherapy colleague Zoe and she treated my back again. She performed some manual techniques with some active movements and at the time I was worried that things would flare up again. I’m still finding it difficult being the patient and not the therapist. My inner control freak and my own professional experience plus the pain I’m in do not make for me being very sensible about things. I’m still concerned about the pins and needles and intermittent numbness in my leg but Zoe was very reassuring and reminded me it was to be expected. I then proceeded to bug her about exercise. Running is still completely off the table (boo) but she did concede to some cycling or even some swimming.
So with the go ahead from my physio after I’d given her puppy dog eyes about my need to exercise I planned to go swimming. After I’d dropped the children off at school I headed for the motorway and towards a swimming pool (our local one is closed for refurbishment). It was on the way to the pool I hit my first snag. Traffic. Lots of slow moving motorway traffic. I cursed, turned the music up, muttered to myself and considered turning back. This doesn’t happen with running (unless I’m heading to the track). No, with running I can just step outside the door and go. With running I don’t get held up by people.
Nearly 40 minutes later I arrived at the swimming pool, most of my enthusiasm having waned during the journey. I scolded myself and told myself it was for my own good. It was rehab. This would make me better.
Going into the pool it felt alien to me. The only time I end up at a swimming pool is because I’m taking the kids to have a splash around. But here I was and I was going to enter the proper training pool, not the splash around pool. I even bought a swimming hat, which I tried to put on and couldn’t get it on. Embarrassing. I wandered on to pool side and made small talk with a life guard. This young student type probably thought I was launching a cougar bid to chat him up (I’m 32, does this make me a cougar?). Poor thing, I was just delaying entry to the pool, sussing out my surroundings before I started my session.
I edged myself into the pool and swam for about 30 minutes. Front crawl and breast stroke at a continuous steady pace for the entire half hour. I swam for a club when I was a kid so swimming isn’t completely new to me but the last time I went for a swim I was heavily pregnant, tried to do back stroke and flipped onto my front like a beer barrel. After the half hour I decided that was enough as I had no idea how my back would react and that was that. Swim done.
Afterwards I thought I would feel amazing. But I didn’t. I felt a bit robbed. Yes it was exercise and yes it was cardiovascular but there was no post run buzz. There was no happy sweat or the pinky glow that I get from running. I looked in the mirror on the way out and I didn’t have the twinkle in my eye that I have after I’ve done a hard track session. I didn’t have the euphoria that I get from a run and I felt disappointed. I don’t want to offend swimmers but I’m sure if they were asked to do something that wasn’t their own sport they would feel the same. My back didn’t feel half bad though so for this I was/am grateful.
I really shouldn’t complain as during the swim I wasn’t aware of my back or leg symptoms which was a relief. My body was getting an all over workout and I was challenging different muscle groups. My heart rate was raised considerably higher than it has been in months and I was able to swim without too many breaks during the time I was in the pool. I was pleasntly surprised that my fitness hasn’t dropped off like I thought it would. I need to grasp these positives and build on them as I try to get back to running. I may have to give swimming another go. Or maybe get hold of an aqua jogger so then I might feel like I’m actually running, albeit in deep water going no where fast! As far as exercise goes though swimming has nothing on running for me. Running has nothing to fear from swimming just yet.