In this guest post, Haley Shopp shares how swimming has positively impacted her life.
I was born with a leg condition called bilateral fibular hemimelia. Complicated name, but basically I am missing some bones in my feet, and one of my legs was significantly shorter than the other, and one of my ankles developed incorrectly. Because my leg length difference was always in the “manageable” category, it wasn’t corrected surgically as a kid. When I was 13, I did have a surgery to close the growth plate on my longer leg to stop the difference from getting any worse, but I have had a leg length difference of about 1.5 inches since I was fully grown.
I was a swimmer as a kid, mostly because my older brother was, and I thought whatever he was doing was cool. I stopped swimming before high school, and participated in various land based sports. Throughout high school and college, the ankle on my longer leg became a bigger and bigger problem. It developed incorrectly because of the leg length difference and the stress that was put on the longer limb. It was structurally unstable and getting worse every time I tried to do physical activity.
About a year and a half ago, the problems were getting bad enough that I decided I need to go to an ankle specialist. He told me that I needed to have my ankle completely reconstructed, but it wasn’t worth doing that until my legs were the same length. So I needed to have my shorter leg lengthened. I won’t go into the details of that surgery, because they’re not pleasant, but the lengthening process started in October 2015.
Then I spent about 11 months on crutches. That was really tough for me. I generally consider myself an active person. By about February I was losing my mind; I was both stir crazy and really depressed. So I decided to take up swimming seriously, for the first time in about 10 years!
I went swimming a few times and didn’t really know how to write workouts, so I would just swim for a while and see how it went. It was fine in the short-term, but I was getting bored. I learned about MySwimPro and it helped me so much.
I was so motivated to be able to do the longer workouts and swim faster times. Having 4 levels of workouts made me work really hard to move up the different levels. I upped my endurance a ton, and even started open water training this summer (which was hilarious, because I had to leave my crutches by the lockers and hop to the lakeshore).
Having a way to keep being active was so critical for me. I started feeling so much better. I can walk now, but I’m still swimming – and now I’m allowed to use full force when pushing off the wall, so that’s exciting.
I joined a local masters team and I love that after practice I can enter in the workout we did to MySwimPro, and leave notes about how it felt, and just look back at a glance and see broken down stats of how much of each stroke I did or how many meters I swam that month. I think I’m swimming in my first Masters meet next month, and I’m really excited!