Swimming is a difficult workout for someone with two legs, let alone for those who only have one. While I am able to compensate for my limitations with most other workouts, there's no hiding them in the water. Running, biking, volleyball... they're all done with my prosthesis ON. Because my leg can't get wet, I have to swim without it. Do you know how hard that makes flutter kicking!? It's like riding a bike with zero resistance. I kick and kick and can't manage to go anywhere! Talk about wasted energy. With that said, though, I've been able to make adjustments to find what works for me and have found enjoyment in the sport.
In my book, WHOLE: A Leg Up On Life, I discuss how my old swim instructor told me that I swam like a seahorse. All these years later, I'm still trying to combat that issue. If you watch the video above, you can't really even see my legs because they're so far under the water. I swear I'm kicking, people! My arms end up doing a lot of the work, leaving my shoulders burning and fatigued. However, with every stoke I make a concerted effort to use my legs more often. No matter how conscious I am of it, it always feels like I'm fighting against my natural tendencies. When I try especially hard to use my legs, my left leg ends up doing double duty, causing my ankle and calf to cramp up occasionally. I guess that's better than completely giving up on using them altogether, though.
I'll tell you what doesn't help the ego-- watching YouTube videos of Michael Phelps! Even though that seems stupid to try to compare myself to one of the best swimmers in the world, I had good intentions. I was trying to see how his strokes were different than mine in order to learn how I could adjust. However, after trying to mimic his kicking technique, all I got was a mouthful of water. I'm talking the kind that stops you in your tracks and makes you tread water for awhile before regaining your composure. I bet I either gave the lifeguards on duty a good laugh or a mild heart attack. The more I tried to sink my top half of my body in the water to raise my lower half, the more it screwed with my breathing. There goes that method!
Don't get me wrong, I am not going to stop trying to improve. But, what if swimming like a seahorse is the most efficient way my body has figured out to perform the task? Our bodies are intuitive. Maybe in this case, I should trust the adaptation and roll with it. It's not like I'm trying to be an Olympic swimmer or anything, so for now I'm pretty happy with the progress that I've made. If you're a swimmer, I'd welcome any tips or feedback.