Saturday, 11 June 2016

Finding the right exercise for you!

All through my childhood and into my early adulthood I had always been very active. 
I started going to dancing lessons at the age of three and I was hooked from as early as I can remember.....and I wanted to do it all. I not only went to ballet classes but I did modern/jazz and tap as well as learning national dances from around the world. I was down at my dance studio most evenings as well as the weekends, then I heard about auditions for the local pantomime and I wanted to be involved in that too! I remember I was eight years old and I had auditioned for the junior chorus but I didn't get chosen for that.......however the director asked myself and another girl if we would consider sharing one of the main roles, I was so excited......the pantomime was Goldilocks and the Three bears and I was going to be playing Baby Bear!! 

Paignton Pantomime 1981/82 Goldilocks and the Three Bears! 

That was to be the first of many, I enjoyed it so much that I was involved with Paignton Pantomime for the next nine years too, I went from playing Baby Bear to the junior chorus, then on to the senior chorus and then on to playing principal roles and I have to say it was a wonderful way to get experience plus it was great fun and I made some lifelong friends along the way! 

Junior Chorus! 

Senior Chorus! 

Senior Chorus! 

From dancing my way in to my late teens, when I was eighteen I moved to London and went to a dance college where I did a musical theatre diploma......this involved, amongst other things, dancing every day! 

Keeping active was just a way of life for me! 

Martin and I moved back to Devon in 1999 and once we were settled, Martin decided that he would like to get involved with local amateur groups so that he could be in plays as well as musicals. I would say that for him acting is his first love although he has got a singing voice to die for so I love it when he is involved in musicals! We actually met when we were working together, professionally. We were part of the entertainment crew on one of the cross channel was a huge Stena ship called "Stena Normandy" which carried around 2100 passengers! 

Martin got involved locally first, because he was joining the society's that I had been a part of all those years ago and I wanted him to be known as Martin Southard as opposed to "Amelia's husband". I did go back and was a part of some of the shows as well, up until 2002. 

Performing and rehearsing were not my only forms of exercise though, I also loved swimming. I had been a strong swimmer for as long as I can remember and I know throughout 2001 I used to go two or three times a week, in the mornings, before I went to was a great way to wake up lol! 😋

When I was diagnosed with MS, my mind was all over the place and, to be honest, my diet and fitness were at the bottom of a long list of things that I needed to think about........that's when my weight started increasing. When you go from being someone who was so active, to not being able to just walk in a straight line without falling over, your world kind of falls apart. 
I was so busy worrying about not being able to work, to trying to go back to work and it failing, miserably, that I wasn't thinking about looking after myself. 
I had a big relapse in 2003, which is when I was officially diagnosed with MS. It affected my legs very badly and I've been on crutches ever since. I was referred to see a Physio and as we talked, I told her about my love of swimming but that I hadn't tried it since my diagnosis. She offered to take me, so I went......or at least I tried to go swimming but I couldn't just get in and swim and that completely threw me, so after that I didn't swim again for around eight years! 

We have a friend, actually we are friends with the whole family and they have a swimming pool. While it was being built, they said to us that, if it would help, they would be happy for us to go and use the pool. I was pretty nervous about it at first but I wanted to give it a try to see if I could rekindle my love for swimming again. The great advantage of going to their pool was that there was no one else there when I went so it was the perfect situation for me to see what I could or couldn't do and not have anyone watching me! 
It was a slow start and I couldn't just get in and swim but I could get in and not need my crutches or wheelchair, in fact, I could walk around in the pool and that in itself was me working my body without any effort! I built up a bit of a routine of different exercises that, because it was weightless, were easier for me to do in the pool rather than out of it......although I always paid for it when I got out of the pool......and that always seemed to surprise still does......ouch!! 😜
Once I realised that I could swim......or my version of swimming........I started going once a week because I was comfortable with what I could do in the pool. I had figured out how to do a stroke that would allow me to swim, in such a way, that would cause me the least amount of pain.....I would do breaststroke arms but my legs would lock straight out behind me. It is something that is so hard to explain to anyone, without it sounding like I'm whinging, but one of my worst symptoms is neuropathic pain & altered sensations over most of my body so going in the pool, while it is a great form of exercise, it still causes me a lot of pain. I don't necessarily feel it while I'm in the pool but it gets its revenge when I get out. I struggle because swimming physically hurts but the neuropathic pain is, for me, a lot skin will feel very prickly and it starts buzzing all over, as though someone has plugged me into an electricity socket.......and that really is "Ouch!" 
I know, deep down, that going swimming is helping me. It is keeping me moving, even if it is still very slow
 and yes, it causes me pain but it also gives me a lot of pleasure. A psychologist I was seeing explained it to me like this, it is opportunity cost. I have the opportunity to go swimming but I also know that it's going to hurt so which is more important to me, which, outweighs the other and for me, the pleasure and mental satisfaction I get while I'm there is more important to me than the pain I feel. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm shattered afterwards and I'm grumpy because I'm in pain but there is a reason for it and that makes a difference! 

In 2012 I decided that I was in a place where I knew what I could do in the pool now. I was happy that I was able to do something and I was enjoying being in the now I needed a challenge. I was talking to my best friend one day and I mentioned that I would really like to do a sponsored swim.....I needed to have something to work towards and a sponsored swim might be a mad enough idea for me to do. She said that it was a great idea and that she would really like to do it too....we could train together and help each other with it. We discussed various ideas of how we would do it and she had heard a saying that was "Walk a mile in my shoes" and that said everything about what we were doing........I wanted to raise money for MS and Joe would do it for The British Heart Foundation. We worked out how far a mile would be in the pool and it turned out it would be 120 lengths, so we would do 60 lengths or half a mile each! We laughed......a lot.......60 lengths.....really.......who's stupid idea was this?!?! 
I knew I wouldn't be able to swim 60 lengths without stopping, that was asking for failure before we'd even started. We came up with a plan, we would do the lengths in a kind of relay, one of us would start by doing six lengths, when they had done those they would rest while the other person does six lengths and we would each do this ten sounded so easy! 😜 
Straight away we decided that we wouldn't have a time scale, we didn't want any unnecessary pressure. We would just train until we were nearly there and then book a date and get some sponsorship! This was exactly what we did.....we completed the swim and between us, raised around £500 which was very satisfying! 

It's been a bit hit and miss over the past few years because of my health but I have managed to go fairly regularly this year, so far and I'm thinking that I'd like another challenge over the coming months so watch this space!! 😜 


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