[first published 6th Jan 2012]
This week, in the name of rehab, I’ve been back to the pool. I’m not a bad swimmer, all things considered, though I have perhaps relied overmuch on the grunt my shoulders are capable of supplying … or were capable of supplying. It’s a salutary lesson to learn that one can no longer power one’s way through life. Well, maybe not life, but at least through certain parts of it. I have been guilty at times of using whatever powers are under my command, be they physical strength, rhetorical adeptness, intellectual prowess, or sheer force of will to fight my way out of whatever sticky situation I may find myself in. I have also been guilty of getting myself into an awkward spot merely so that I may escape when I perhaps ought not be able to. Sometimes wittingly.
Swimming is particularly good for rehabilitation because of the nature of the resistance offered. Weights have a certain amount of uncontrollability: you can over-estimate what is a good weight to use; they change stress at different points of the movement; and you can slip, leading to sudden stress on the area being rehabilitated. Sudden stress is effectively trauma. Throughout my rehab thus far it’s been the sudden slips which have really hurt. The instinctive flinch when you drop something. The wrench of a sneeze. The occasional shudder. It’s smoothness which counts.
Because of the nature of hydrostatic resistance, the possibility for sudden jolts is greatly reduced. This is because the greater the force applied, the greater the resistance. You can still bludgeon your way through the water, but ultimately it smoothness of technique which is really where it’s at. I used to practice kata in the pool, because the water supported the limbs while simultaneously resisting.
Swimming is the only exercise my shoulder will take at the moment, only so much weight … nothing much heavier than a cup of tea. When I swim I can limit the resistance by limiting the force applied. So, I must concentrate on technique, not power. Which is a very good thing.
But this also means that I wallow in the shallow pool, competing with the occasional pensioner. This sadly adds to my feeling of disability. I feel very much reduced. I am not the man I was. And yet I am.
I am not what I am.