To compete is to strive to outdo another for supremacy; engage in a contest; to compete in a race. I strive to prevent my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from beating me by swimming competitively.
About six months after I started swimming to stay fit and manage my MS I needed a new goal to keep me motivated. Khosro, the coach for the North Shore Masters swim club, suggested I try competitive swimming. I could use swim meets as a way to measure my times and set new goals. I promptly joined the Masters Swim Association of British Columbia and began training to compete.
Swimming competitively presented some new challenges, particularly around managing stress. Racing is both mentally and physically demanding. Mentally, it can be easy to work oneself into a frenzy the night before and the day of the race. Emotional stress was something I had always tried to manage to minimize MS attacks. Physically, when you race, you are exerting a lot of pressure on your body – some say you are sending your body into shock. I really needed to think about how I was going to compete with MS.
The day of my first swim meet (hosted by University of British Columbia Masters) I reminded myself that my reason for racing was to put a time on the board that I could use to monitor my fitness progress over time. I was not competing against others but rather against myself, and ultimately my biggest completion was my MS. With this in mind I was able to calm myself mentally so I could prepare for what lay ahead physically.
Physically, when I swam my race, I allowed my body to do exactly what it had been trained to do. When the start gun went off I dove off the block into the cool water and swim as fast as my body would allow me to.
Competitive swimming has given me a way to monitor and improve my fitness level and ultimately manage my MS. If you are someone using competitive sport to manage your disease I encourage you to contact me so we can share your story with others.