Sarah, Kensington Leisure Centre
Hi Sarah, can you tell us about your fitness journey...
My name is Sarah and I really love swimming. I started when I was seven years old and I haven’t stopped since, because swimming is something you have to love and if you love swimming, you never stop.
I think swimming is the most important thing for my mental health because it is the one place that I feel that no one can get to me. You're in the water, who cares if the phone rings, if you get an email - you're in the water, you feel safe, you feel supported and you're focusing on one thing only, that swim. Yes, it’s definitely my time.
I have multiple sclerosis, I've had it since 1981 and exercise is really important because if you've got MS, you have a problem with your nervous system and how the information is being transferred around that. And to be doing any form of exercise, keeping yourself flexible is keeping you supple - it's keeping you moving.
It's that whole feeling of weightlessness, feeling that you can move in any direction you want - there’s never a bad swim.
One of the huge benefits of swimming particularly first thing in the morning, when you have MS is the fact that you wake up all crushed and crinkled into a particular shape that you've slept in. The moment you get in that pool and you start moving your limbs about you are beginning to stretch out those muscles to move that spine back into position to get your shoulders down, level your hips back into position.
I'm not saying it fixes it but boy, do you notice a difference if you're not in the pool in the morning.
How do you benefit from being active?
For me, being active means independence, it means I can do the things I want when I want to do them. I love Pilates, I like strength building, so I do some weights, I do a bit of TRX and I do some very specific physio that challenges my neural pathways. In a normal gym situation, your trainer might say to you do 15 squats, when you're trying to challenge your neural pathways, you'll do three exercises with your right arm, and then you might ask your right leg to slide in and out 12 times and then you'll ask your left arm to do something different.
What has coming back to Better meant for you?
Coming back to Better and back to swimming has meant everything to me. When the re-opening announcement was made, you cannot believe how excited I was. I was the second person in the swimming pool on the 25th of July. I couldn't sleep that night, I kept thinking “I'm going back tomorrow”.
Everyone you spoke to as you got into the water, or getting changed by the side said, "Isn't this wonderful? It's so good to be back." And this was the atmosphere, it was like, well perhaps we'd had Carnival start early!