Every day, I do my stretches and strengthening exercises, and my back, shoulder and neck are being slowly restored....even (hopefully) exceeding their previous state to enable me to continue swimming long into the future:
A month or so ago, I got the go-ahead to get back in the pool, albeit in a carefully controlled and modest way....every other day, only 30 mins at a time while we assessed my progress. The process was not with hiccups, especially psychologically, when I began to really appreciate the depths of my loss of fitness over the last year or so, and particularly over the last few months of non-swimming treatment. Feeling the stiffness in my shoulders the day after only a 30 minute swim felt very sobering and ageing. Being right back at the beginning is hard when I think back to the many fantastic years of long swimming I've been able to enjoy, but I'm trying to focus on starting from where I am, and am working on relishing the steady build-up to fitness rather than regretting what is lost (and without going mad and wrecking all that hard work); I do my drills diligently in the pool to try not to slip into old bad habits. To date, I'm at 45 mins of swimming in the endless pool, 4-5 times a week, without negative consequences to my neck / back, so that's progress indeed. I'm still doing Pilates at least once a week, and I've resumed running, following a beginner's 5km programme (on a treadmill primarily but hoping to venture outside once I've got my confidence / capacity up). I''ve also introduced some cycling on the turbo, with a view to buying a mountain bike in the new year so that I can get out into the hills around our house, and I've rediscovered the joys of walking, with many trips to the Lake District, and up into the Yorkshire Dales - who knew that there are far more ways to enjoy the outdoors than from the water....?
If I've learned one thing this year it's that having all my eggs in one basket in exercise and activity terms is a mistake, so these are all good outcomes coming out of a difficult situation.
But perhaps the greatest impact of my slow but steady recovery is the return of sleep. I've been suffering from terrible insomnia for the last few of months, mostly as the result of work-related stress, but compounded by not being able to exercise it off in the usual, water-based ways. Anyone who has suffered from the inability to sleep in a consistent and sustained way knows how awful and grinding it is, and how it only compounds the stress that you so desperately need to sleep off. The half-hour dips weren't doing it for me, but it turns out that a regular 45 minutes of swimming (plus a bit of running etc) is what it takes to break the sleep log-jam and I'm finally sleeping through most nights. This is a quality-of-life changing development, and as a result, I feel much better placed to manage some of the other challenges that life is throwing my way. If ever there was an incentive to keep up with my rehab and recovery, it's that 45 minutes....and there's hopefully more to come.
So, it's been a tricky few months, but in 21 days, I'm off to the Canary Islands for 2 weeks of sun, relaxation, recovery, and hopefully more swimming. And sleep. Lots of sleep.