Shawn Swims to Resolve Hip Pain & an Identity Crisis (1 of 2)
Sidelined by injuries, Shawn reimagines fitness in her new basement pool.
Shawn has been plowing snow. Over a foot of it fell on the mile-and-a-half of road on her Vermont farm. After, when she slips into the warm water of the Endless Pools Performance pool in her basement, she says, “I feel so grateful."
Besides providing a respite from the New England winter, the pool relieves the pain of an ailment that came as a complete surprise to the thirty-something former runner.
An Athlete, Sidelined
Shawn was "a competitive athlete in college" and an "endurance runner" after that. "I always found enjoyment and stress relief and just good health from being athletic," she recounts. That included skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
She'd already suffered hip damage long before it was diagnosed. She consulted five doctors and consistently heard the same thing: "'You really need a hip replacement. We don’t want to do it because you’re so young and you're so active.
"'The best thing in terms of physical therapy is going to hydrotherapy,'" the thirty-something Shawn now recalls being told. "'And long term, swimming is going to be a great form of athletics for you. That was ultimately the incident that changed my athletic life.'"
Therapy in Public Pools?
"We live in rural Vermont in a community that is a minimum of 45 minutes to the closest swimming facility," she laments. Including travel, "It was almost three hours of the day plus the cost." Depending on the facility, that was up to $20 per swim!
That's a lot of time and money for someone co-running a working farm. "We started looking at options. What can we do at home?"
Comparing Endless Pools Models
Shawn and Melissa discovered the E500, the 15-foot Endless Pools Fitness System, at their local dealership. "Whoa! This is cool," Shawn recalls thinking.
"We were all ready to pull the trigger on it. The problem was, because of my condition, one of the exercises I need to do is a frog kick. I could not do a frog kick because it wasn’t wide enough.
"My central nervous system has become super-sensitive because I’d been living with chronic pain for four years. Even when my foot would lightly touch the side of the pool, it would be excruciatingly painful to me."
The swim spa also presented a site challenge. The E500 provides plug-and-play convenience because it arrives pre-assembled, so it could not be installed in their basement. An alternate location was unappealing because Shawn also has "a thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s [disease] so I’m cold-intolerant." She didn't like "the idea of bundling up, leaving my warm house to walk across the farmstead to where this E500 would have to go."
After researching the Endless Pools product line further, "I realized there was another option." The Performance model could be customized to 8-feet wide, giving Shawn plenty of room for her frog kick. Because of its modular construction, it could be assembled in their basement.
"It took no time at all for me to realize that that’s really what I needed," Shawn relates. "As much as I wanted the E500, it just wasn’t going to work. But this modular one, we found the space [and] made it work. I’m glad that there was another option."
An Attitude of Gratitude
"I’m thankful that we have it," Shawn says now. "I can put my hip in positions that I can't when I’m out of the water, not without a lot of pain and deep breathing. It's important for me to do that so I don’t get seized up."
In her Performance pool about five times a week, Shawn swims and does exercises that she learned from her physical therapist. She uses aquatic gear such as ankle weights and foam dumbbells.
"Sometimes I use the treadmill, not for running, just to try and expand my gait and walk with a normal gait. When I’m not in the water, I limp very badly; it’s screwing up my posture. When I’m in water, I work on a normal step so I can retrain my brain what that feels like."
Adapting to New Realities
"Anybody who's dealing with some kind of physical challenge – whether it’s aging or an accident or something like mine that’s chronic – you have a lifestyle change, and you’re also confronted with an identity change," she's found. "I’m not the same person I used to be.
"I have a whole chunk of my life ahead of me, and trying to figure out who I am going forward, swimming is a big part of that.
"The pool has given me a space to have total movement freedom without pain. It also allows me to get my endorphins going and feel a little like an athlete, so psychologically and emotionally it’s been really helpful too.
"There’s so much you can do in the water, and the modular pools really open up all possibilities. So I love it. It has helped me in a lot of ways."
How did Shawn and Melissa transform this basement into their own private pool retreat? Read part 2 of this post to see how they planned the perfect pool for their farmhouse.