"I'm with the local Veterans Advisory Council. I'm on the Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission. I'm active with the Keystone Paralyzed Veterans of America, Wreaths Across America, the local VFW Honor Guard doing military funerals down at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery." You can see why Connie describes her retirement as "a little too busy."
How does a senior – one living with multiple sclerosis – maintain such an active schedule? She stays fit, flexible, and active with regular therapeutic exercise, almost daily in her Endless Pools® WaterWell® therapy pool.
A retired Army veteran herself, Connie seems to enjoy keeping busy. It hasn't always been easy, particularly when she was suffering from multiple sclerosis symptoms well before it was diagnosed. Now with her WaterWell therapy pool in her basement as a convenient therapy pool, she's developed a regimen that keeps her more mobile than many retirees her age.
Working through the Fatigue
Connie's symptoms didn't seem unusual to her initially, so she did her best to take it in stride. "I was in the Army, so I kept on trucking along. There weren't a lot of options. If I was feeling fatigued … I still had to go running and working out to stay in shape to pass my physical fitness test. So, I just kept on doing it."
She admits now that it was exhausting. "Fatigue has always been an issue. I've been known to go home and fall asleep on the sofa at 7 o'clock. …Looking back, I can think of fatigue issues back into the early '80s, and I would just think that I'm not getting enough sleep, maybe need to pop more vitamins, and it would get a little better. So, just keep on going."
Her fortitude speaks volumes about her character, but with MS, that level of activity couldn't be maintained forever. "I was able to complete 23 years before I was finally medically boarded out. I didn't want to go."
Choosing Home Therapy
While in the military, Connie discovered that aquatic exercise suited her MS better than running; but after retirement, she no longer had access to the Fort Meade gym. "Now I don’t have a nice big pool at the post to use, and I'm out running again," she recalls. "My neurologist told me that if I want to keep walking, I need to stop running." She knew that she needed to get back in a pool.
"There's the YMCA I could join, and there's the pool at the VA, but there's nothing like just going downstairs, getting your workout, coming back up, getting dry, putting on your pajamas, you're done for the night." That convenience is critical for her to maintain her regular pool workout schedule.
"It's harder to get out in the cold winter. You're out at the pool, and now you're trying to dry off and change real quick in the locker room to go back out in the cold and dark to go home. You've lost so much time."
With her WaterWell therapy pool in her basement, "I can do it whenever I want, and I don't lose a lot of time going to and from the gym." The consistency keeps her feeling her best, as does no longer running on dry land. "I'm not getting the pounding on the pavement anymore."
Connie's Therapy Pool Routine
"I usually try to be in it at least five, six nights a week," she says. "I can just play whatever water aerobics DVD program I'm in the mood to do. I have a little TV hanging on the wall across from the pool, so I just do the water aerobics."
Connie also does water running and other aquatic aerobics routines using flotation devices. "My pool's deep enough that with the suspension belt or the water horse, I can get my feet off the floor and be suspended."
Usually, she works out in the pool for 30 to 40 minutes a day. It's a quick way to maintain her health and, she feels, to boost her self-confidence. "As a woman, I guess I'm through middle age now, it's just harder to keep the weight off; so if it wasn't that I needed to keep mobile, I'd [still] want to work out."
Dipping in for a Better Life
Based on her years of experience with aquatic therapy, Connie now says that she "definitely" recommends it.
"I've had people come to check out the pool that have MS to see how it would benefit them. I tell them exactly what I believe: that it's a good way to keep on working out – it's beneficial, it's easy on the joints, so if you are getting older, and your joints are getting a little creaky, it's a lot better to use. It's important to keep on moving, so it's a good way to do it.
"It's beneficial for anybody that has mobility issues," she says, before responsibly adding, "that can get in and out safely on their own. I had stressed to them that you really need to talk to your therapist about what's good and what you can do, because it's a lot different in water. You don't think you're working that hard until you're done; then a little bit later, you find out how hard you actually worked."
With years of experience in her WaterWell therapy pool, Connie knows just the right workout intensity to keep her fit and active. She knows firsthand that it's good for her, and as long as she keeps her active volunteer schedule, it's good for area veterans too.