In adaptive sports it is incredibly important to find the right equipment to avoid limitations.
One of the most prominent symptoms Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is difficulty with balance and coordination. The severity of this symptom varies widely from person to person. Some kids are in wheelchairs at a very early age, often before the age of 10. I was diagnosed with FA at age 17 and have been using a wheelchair since about 2009 (I am 32 now). I still have plenty of power left in my legs, but my coordination is greatly affected. This limits, for example, the speed that I am able to spin the crank on my trike, or the speed at which I am able to kick my legs when I swim.
Ever since I was very young on swim team, I have not had a very powerful or fast kick. I never attributed this to FA until now. However, it makes sense that even though I was still able to walk, run, and play similar to other kids, the symptoms of FA were still showing up in ways we did not recognize, such as the speed of my kick in swimming.
Today, my kick is almost nonexistent. This causes my lower body to sink and slows me down as I drag through the water.
For a while now, I have been struggling through my swim workouts hoping that my kick would improve but my lower body continues to sink. So I ordered wetsuit pants (XTerra Lava Pants). They are not as hot and are less restrictive than a full wetsuit, and they float my lower body to compensate for my weak kick. They came in the mail yesterday and I tried them out for the first time in the pool last night.They worked like a charm! My speed improved partly because my body is now floating on top of the water and partly because they are really slick, like shark or dolphin skin, allowing me to slip through the water. Because they are just pants covering only my lower half, I am able to wear them in the pool without overheating.
I was feeling pretty good last night, and I swam 1000 yards (farther than usual) with less effort than ever before. Sometimes you’re only as good as your equipment. In adaptive sports, it is incredibly important to find the right equipment to avoid limitations.