Amy's Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery
Why she calls her Endless Pools® model "an absolute gamechanger in therapy"
How's this for motivation: "Our motto when we don’t feel like working out or getting wet is this: We have never not felt better after using our pool," Amy insists. "Not once!"
She and her husband, Brandon, put an Endless Pools® Original model in their home. It's a simple, no-fuss basement pool that keeps Brandon active as a 50-something triathlete and lets Amy heal from the ongoing repercussions of a 30-year-old injury.
"My husband loves it," she says assuredly, but clearly, it's something more for her. "It's been an absolute gamechanger in therapy for me many times."
The Long Road to Recovery
"I'm 51," Amy says. "My spinal injury goes back to when I was 19. I had ruptured three discs – L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1 – so I had two surgeries. I have been avoiding another surgery my entire adult life, and it became very clear that I couldn’t avoid it any longer.
"After 31 years, I had the third surgery. It ended up being quite complicated. I had a fusion of my L4-L5 and my L5-S1, so three levels, but two discs were removed. I have two titanium cages in place of the discs, and screws and rods along the side of my spine.
"I'm not approved to swim yet because I have so much nerve irritation that my muscles are very twitchy." What she can do in the pool is "very minimal. For an IRONMAN swimmer, it's insulting! But it's therapeutic to be able to get in the pool."
She has a series of gentle aquatic therapy exercises that she does, including a modified backstroke. "I do snow angels in the pool. When I do that in the pool, I find that I get a lot of movement that I can't otherwise get in my spine and shoulders.
"The best thing I can do for my spine is float after whatever I do. Sometimes I do that with the motor on, hold on to the bar up front, and let the current push my lower body. I can get some mobilization of my spine that, especially now, I don’t have. It allows things to just separate naturally, where after the surgery my whole spine wants to jam up."
Amy and Brandon opted for a 48-inch-deep Original pool, which is three inches deeper than our standard. That puts the water, for her, at "chest height. I can do pretty much everything in it" with water's gentle, 360-degree resistance for total-body results … even if her workouts aren't as vigorous as they used to be.
It wasn't so long ago that, Amy recalls, she could swim a full mile at once, and "I was doing an aggressive drag resistance program" using aquatic barbells, fins, and other equipment that create drag in the water.
"Before my surgery, I had found that I couldn’t sustain a swim for very long. I couldn’t get up to half a mile last year." Now, a couple of months after surgery, "I'm doing a much-modified program. I'm probably months away from doing [drag resistance workouts] again because it is pretty hard resistance. But I do aim to do that, and I do aim to get my mile back, someday."
Different Workout, Same Pool
Her husband, Amy says, is "a stellar athlete. He's in fantastic shape." Brandon uses their Original pool for triathlon training and to do High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT workouts. These workouts alternate higher-intensity bursts of activity with lower-intensity recovery exercise.
When he swims, "he'll do real high intensity, really fast, and then he brings it down. He's probably doing somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes, and he's mostly freestyle. He does do all the other strokes, but primarily freestyle."
He also uses the Endless Pools floor mirror, an underwater mirror made of highly polished stainless steel. "He uses it to make necessary corrections," Amy reports, because the mirror lets you observe your swim technique in real time. It's an excellent tool to let you mentally connect how you're moving with how the movement feels.
Goodbye, Public Pool
Before they made their Endless Pools investment, Amy recalls her and Brandon "being tired of the public pool." She recounts "the routine of going [there] and changing and showering and changing and going home in the cold with wet hair."
For all those inconveniences, the most significant issue was the lack of temperature control in the public pool. "We got so tired of jumping in a pool and gasping because it was so cold." When they planned their basement pool, "We said, 'We're going to keep it as warm as it takes so that we don't have to get in the pool and want to jump out.'
"The heat is major bonus for the therapy aspect for me right now," Amy notes. "We keep it very warm. Therapy is not therapy if it's a cold pool.
"I'm not allowed in cold water because of the neurological issues that remain. If I get in and gasp, then it's too cold, and it's not therapeutic. My muscles will seize up. For me, it’s a necessity."
Planning a Basement Pool
"We're glad that ours is inside. We live in Colorado, so it's super cold." At the elevation where they live, temperatures near or below freezing are common seven months out of the year! Having their Endless Pools model in the basement "eliminates the freeze factor when you're getting in and getting out."
Since they have an indoor pool instead of a backyard pool, "we never have to deal with ice on the stairs. Your hair doesn’t freeze when you're in the water, which it does when you're in hot tubs around here. For us, it was a really good decision."
"The basement was unfinished when we built" the pool. They've since turned it into their home gym. "It has an exercise area, a dry sauna, and a pool all in the same room."
"We absolutely love having it in the house," Amy says confidently. The Original pool comes standard with a mineral-based water quality system, and they opted for a secure pool cover, so "we don't have any odor, [and] we don’t have any mold in the room."
Looking Back and Ahead
Shortly after Amy and Brandon got their pool in June 2015, she recounts, "I fractured two vertebrae [and] separated my shoulder." It was yet another instance "get in the pool was all I could do. Having the variety of what I can do in the pool has assisted with so many recoveries."
Still, she remembers racing a relay with her husband. "I was the swimmer; he was the runner. It was definitely ambitious, but we checked all our boxes." With the medical care that she's receiving, and her home therapy exercises in her Original pool, she's determined to get past her current discomfort and regain her fitness.