Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Saturday, December 08, 2012
I recently volunteered to help at my local county recreation center in an Adapted Aquatics class for people with Multiple Sclerosis. We work in the shallow end of the pool doing strength and range of motion exercises with a number of students. There is an instructor and one or two volunteers for each student. On Friday another volunteer and I worked with a lovely lady who arrived for class in a wheel chair. We moved her into a waterproof chair and down the ramp into the pool, where she floated out of the chair as we supported her. She had limited control over her right hand and arm, and little ability to move her legs. MS also affected her speech so that she had difficulty articulating words.
One of the first exercises we did assisted her to do the movements for the elementary backstroke. You probably remember this – up, out and together with the arms and legs. I moved her legs while she moved her arms as well as she could. For the arms we called it “tickle, T, and touch (your thighs).” Then she started calling it “tickle, T and wiggle.” Every time she extended her arms she would wiggle her hips in the water and laugh.
Our next exercise was “crunches”. We put a flotation “noodle” under her shoulders and another one under her knees. She grabbed the lower “noodle” and pulled her knees towards her chest, crunching her abdominal muscles. This required a lot of effort on her part, but she was doing well. Then she started to sing:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.
Her speech was labored, but she could sing quite clearly! The other volunteer and I sang along with her.
After awhile it hit me. She had a tough boat to row, fighting MS, but she was doing her best to be active, and she was laughing and singing as she rowed.
I don’t know what kind of boat you are rowing. Probably you don’t have MS, but you may be a diabetic, or have arthritis. You may be fighting depression or anxiety. You may have small children or 3 jobs. Life is hard sometimes. All we can do is keep rowing, and try to laugh and sing along the way.
If this lovely lady can get to the pool in a wheel chair to work out, what’s your excuse for not exercising?