Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Pain Bad Pain

This morning when I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, I experienced a feeling that most stroke survivors don't get the chance to feel: sore muscles.  I'm not talking about painful muscles - I'm talking about the good kind of soreness that comes from overworking your muscles doing an activity you enjoy. Yesterday was my every-other-day trip to the Y for swimming.  I go after work, so got there around 6:30 and after a short warm-up, I decided to exert myself a bit more than normal.  I'm not actually able to swim laps, that is up and down and up and down without stopping.  Instead, I start in the shallow end and swim to the wall at the deep end and back to the wall at the shallow end, rest for a few seconds, then swim up and back again.  I do this ten times.  Not much of a workout by swimmer standards, but it tires me out.  Yesterday I felt strong, so decided to stroke faster and rest for a shorter period.  I followed through on that plan, and woke up this morning with sore muscles in my shoulders, back, and hips.  It was a great feeling.

There were regular Y swimmers in the lanes on both sides of me.  On one side there was a hefty guy who beats through the water with a measured polar bear chug, and on the other side a woman with a long, graceful stroke that indicates she may have swum competitively at one time.  My stroke, on the other hand, is strictly homemade. I do okay with my right arm and leg, but to stroke with my left, affected side, I roll over on my right and sort of throw my left arm forward.  As I've come to believe is normal with stroke survivors, no type of coordinated movement can be made unconsciously as we did in the past, so I have to remember to occasionally kick with my left leg.  Otherwise it trails along behind me.  With a lot of practice, though, I manage to go forward, albeit slowly. I've thought about asking Polly to video me swimming, and posting it here, but I really don't want to see how I look.

I'll be eternally grateful that my stroke left me with the ability to do so much - swimming in particular. Because of the spasticity on my left side, I can't run, or even walk very far or very fast, and while I do have a stationary bike, it only works out my legs. Only swimming lets me feel like I felt before my stroke: sore and tired in a good way.