Contributed by Dave Diehl, President of the Lake Heritage Swim Club
If you have any physical challenges, don’t let that prevent you from exercising (particularly swimming) for health and fitness. It is amazing what your body can do to overcome physical issues. As an example, in the early 1990’s I lost the use of one lung due to a viral infection that killed the phrenic nerve which paralyzed my diaphragm. With continued swimming, I got past that as the other lung must have picked up most of the slack (I carry spare parts). Around thirteen years ago, I had a stroke (cerebellum) which put me into the hospital in intensive care for a few days. I lost all my sense of balance for a few days but nine days later I walked out of the hospital and three months later was back in the pool training for summer nationals to be held ten months later. The doctors credited my being in good physical condition because of swimming that resulted in a rapid and thorough recovery (some people think I am still a little unbalanced but that is another story). A year later, after cataract surgery, I suffered a detached retina and because of a number of rare complications and six surgeries I lost most sight in one eye which resulted in my being legally blind in one eye (again, spare parts came into play).
Despite these conditions (one eye, one lung and three quarters of a brain) I still swim up to six miles a week in my training for swimming meets (including at least one national championship each year). I am not suggesting that it is easy. It takes will power to get started but once you get into a routine you will be hooked and start feeling better about yourself as well as more physically fit. Don’t hesitate to use resources such as United States Masters Swimming (USMS) to not only help you get started but also USMS has a Fitness Committee which can help motivate you with suggested workouts and motivational material. Also, consider joining an exercise group as a means to keep you motivated. There are a few run by members, free of charge to the association, that you can join here at the lake.
At the pool where I swim I have gotten to know people who help motivate me to keep working and training. One is a 98-year-old woman who water walks almost every day and another is a 34-year-old, who had a stroke at age four, that swims at least two plus miles three or four times a week. She struggles due to partial paralysis which affects her stroke mechanics but her positive attitude, perseverance, and a smile that lights up a room is very motivating. Another inspirational person swam over 1200 miles last year and is in the water five days a week. She has lost more than half of her total body weight (150 pounds down from 310 pounds). In addition to my swimming, I teach water and low impact dry land exercise classes of 60 to 90-year-old men and women. In one of my classes, a 78-year-old with Parkinson’s (tremors and difficulty walking, etc.), who works hard to do whatever I ask everyone to do (hand/eye coordination, routines to improve balance, upper body strength and stretching). She also is an inspiration to all.
Although my times have gotten a little slower, I feel physically fit and my quality of life is still very good for a 75-year-old. The bottom line is don’t let any physical issues keep you from swimming and exercising. You can overcome many health problems with a positive attitude and by keeping active. You will never regret that.