Swimming & The Feel Good Factor

When the alarm went off at 6 something this morning I groaned. I was stiff everywhere and my back was so painful I must have looked like a 90 year old getting out of bed. I couldn't bend over properly and found getting dressed very painful, but still, I decided that I would go to the gym anyway in the hope that a swim might loosen me up a bit.

This is now week 4 back at the gym after a break of several months due to bad health. I used to do weights, had just started running again and doing classes, then that all stopped when I flared. Then I remembered swimming and after a few weeks of thinking about it, I finally did it.

Week 1 swam twice

Week 2 I swam three times

Week 4 I swam four times (2.2 miles in total)

Week 5 - who knows?

Fast breast stroke doesn't seem challenging enough already as my fitness has shot up again in such a short time, i'm not great at swimming, I admire the human dolphins in the fast lane with their heads under water doing a graceful non stop front crawl, but today, I decided for the first time in months, that i'd start mixing in some lengths of front crawl too.

It's nowhere near the level of activity I used to do, but i'm comfortable and happy with what i'm doing and already feeling able to push. It's done wonders for my sense of wellbeing and has halted my decline into depression.

If you think you can't do something you can't.

If you think you can, then you can.

Within reason of course, i'm not talking about climbing a mountain, though metaphorically even swimming a few days a week can feel like that with RA!

Swimming is awesome for your cardio vascular health, the warmth of the water is soothing and my body has quickly adapted to it.

Even on a high pain day, i've learned that I can do it and that's a good feeling! :) xxx

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  • Hi ShellyWelly,

    Thank you for such a positive post. It is lovely to hear about your experience with swimming.

    I have put a link here for anyone reading your post to our section on exercise, including a section on swimming that people may find useful:

    nras.org.uk/exercise

    Good luck with Week 5!

    Best wishes

    Sally (NRAS helpline)

  • Aw thanks Sally :)

    I think it's very easy to fall into the trap of letting the pain stop you doing things and believing that you can't. I know everyone is different and I was fairly fit beforehand, but swimming is so gentle and good for you too, even if you can only manage a few lengths, its a great way of keeping your muscles strong and looking after the heart too.

    Great link too!

  • I completely agree. I honestly think the worst thing any of us can do is to take to the sofa, unless of course that really is the only option at the time. I exercised a lot before I got PsA so it's easy-ish for me to exercise now, it's a life-long habit. For those who haven't done any form of exercise before I imagine it's much more difficult. But so, so worth it as you post makes abundantly clear.

    Joints under stress need to keep moving - movement helps with pain, it can help minimise damage, and counter-intuitively it helps lessen fatigue. I know that some of us can do with advice from a physiotherapist before embarking on any form of exercise, but having said that I think we should all be out there making ourselves feel better by swimming and walking and Tai Chi and cycling or whatever floats our boats ......

  • I think you've hit the nail on the head there. If exercise is already part of what your life and already a habit when an illness like this hits, then even though you'll have to moderate your activity, or as in my case during the early days before you get treated, find something totally different, it does help so much and must make it easier.

    I'd imagine the barriers (mostly perceived rather than real) that exist otherwise make it much harder to get into the habit once you get poorly.

    Part of what is driving me on isn't just because I know i've more a chance of staying fit and healthy if I can at least get some exercise, but that I'm determined that my snowboarding holiday booked months ago for this coming season won't go to waste! Even if I can only manage a day on and a day off, i'm determined i'll be able to do it!

    My ankles are pretty bad, so I find anything weight bearing incredibly painful, just standing still hurts a lot right now so swimming is just fab, but absolutely, the key is to finding something that 1) you CAN do and 2) you enjoy doing....

    You never know what you are capable of doing until you try!! :)

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