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Guest blog: Preparing for your first open water swim

Posted on: August 15 2019

Photo of Laura MayToday's guest blog is from Laura May, our Communications Manager, who is taking on the Swim Serpentine this Autumn with #TeamPurple. This is Laura's first ever open water swim, so here she shares some of her 'newbie swimmer' top tips...

Last year I went along to the Swim Serpentine to cheer on our amazing supporters as they took part - I was blown away. The festival atmosphere and the fantastic efforts of all the swimmers really inspired me. 

As a rule, I'm not one for sporting activities. Last time I did some fundraising for MS-UK I sat in a bath of baked beans - it didn't exactly need high levels of fitness! But that was some years ago and I felt it was time for a new challenge so I decided to take on the Swim Serpentine this year. As I work at MS-UK, I know that every penny makes a real difference to people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). I also get to meet people affected by this condition in lots of different ways and I am always so in awe of people who live life to the full with MS. It feels great to give something back by fundraising, but also it feels great personally to take on something new. 

However, it's not all plain sailing when you take the plunge, so here are my top tips for new open water swimmers...

  • Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise. You need a swimming hat, ear plugs and goggles to get you started. I actually went and got some prescription goggles from my opticians which are excellent. If you struggle with the cold, swimming gloves and socks are a must. When you go for your first open water swim, remember to take flip flops too...the drive home for me with soggy trainers was not pleasant!
  • Don't just stick to the pool. It's really important to try swimming in the open water before the big event arrives. I found it so different swimming outside, with tides and wind and rain all round you. It's actually lovely being out in the open air, but more importantly it will prepare you for the big day when all sorts of nice creatures and plants will be touching you!
  • Photo of legsMake sure your wetsuit fits. I learnt this the hard way by purchasing a wet suit a size bigger that I needed. It meant I was really chaffed on the back of my legs when it bunched up - check out the photo to see just how bad it was!
  • Ask other people to encourage you. I found it really hard to get motivated to actually go out and swim. But I spoke with the MS-UK fundraising team who said 'you can do it' and who gave me a massive cheer the day after I swam my first one mile in open water. My partner keeps suggesting I go for a swim and it helps me motivate myself to leave the comfort of my sofa. My friends and family and colleagues all keep pushing me as the event draws ever closer and I feel excited to go out swimming because I know I'm raising so much for MS-UK
  • Listen to the experts. MS-UK have been brilliant at directing swimmers to local coaches, open water venues and top tips. At first I was reluctant to be told 'how to swim' but I have now learnt that all the advice is worth listening to and you can take what you need and leave what you don't

There are so many more tips that other swimmers could share, but here's my top five. For everyone taking on the Swim Serpentine this year, good luck and I will see you there.

Just keep swimming!

Laura 

Visit Laura's fundraising page to read her whole story

Last two places left in the Swim Serpentine!

Posted on: August 07 2019

Photo of swimming man at Swim Serpentine 2019Hi everyone,

We have just two spots left in #TeamPurple for this year's amazing Swim Serpentine event - do you fancy taking the plunge?

On Saturday 21 September the annual Swim Serpentine will be held at Hyde Park in London. It’s a one-day open water swimming festival where many swimmers will take part and raise money for charities - and you could take on the challenge for MS-UK!

Not only is it the same location as the open water swimming competition that was held in the London 2012 Olympics, there is an array of amenities that will help the brave swimmers through the two mile swim. These include a dunk zone, heated changing rooms, hot tubs and a pontoon start and finish.

With over 6,000 people diving into the challenge last year, we can only expect more success in 2019.

To register, just complete our online application form or give me a call on 01206 226500 to have a chat. You can also email me if you like, I'm always here to help.

Until September, just keep swimming!

Best wishes,

Jenny

Events Fundraiser, MS-UK

Apply today!

Daughter 10 takes on triathlon

Posted on: August 06 2019

Lizzie Selby.jpgMummy hasn’t been very well recently, and she has had lots of symptoms like the ones people with multiple sclerosis (MS) get. After she found out more about MS, Mummy thought it would be a nice idea for me to fundraise, and we chose to fundraise for MS-UK.

I took part in the UK Kids Fun Triathlon York on Saturday 13 July. First, I had to swim 75 meters (three lengths of the pool), then I cycled 3km and finally, I ran 1,400 meters. This was the first triathlon I’ve ever done and it was lots of fun. I trained as hard as I could for it and everyone was so proud of me when I had finished. Mummy was with me on the day and she helped me a lot in the transition area.

Lizzie Selby raised £260 for MS-UK and every single penny will go towards helping those affected by MS. If you would like to do something to support MS-UK, then get in touch with Lucy today! Simply email Lucy@ms-uk.org or call 01206 226500.

Well done #TeamPurple!

Posted on: August 05 2019

DSC01199.jpgYesterday 40 cyclists took on the Prudential RideLondon in support of MS-UK. It was a great day and the sun was certainly shining!

Most of our team members were new to the event and everyone loved taking on the infamous Box and Leith hills as they made their way along the course.

Commenting on his experience of taking part in this year’s race, Jonathan Pike said, ‘Riding the ‘Pru 100’ was one of the best experiences of my life. It was challenging but rewarding in equal measure. I am happy with finishing it incident-free but even more happy to have broken my personal fundraising target for such a great cause.’

Henry Phillips who also participated said, ‘Working with MS-UK has been an absolute pleasure from the moment we signed up. The MS-UK team make the experience a lot of fun by regularly catching up with us while training and also creating a community feel with other #TeamPurple participants. And to cap it all off the ride went amazingly well and we managed to smash our fundraising target in the process!’

MS-UK Community Fundraiser Lucy headed up the cheer point at mile 99.5, with the support of some of our brilliant volunteers. All of them were amazingly energetic the whole day, supporting every rider that came past including of course #TeamPurple and making it a memorable experience for all who took part.

Sarah Russell, a volunteer, said, ‘It was such a great experience. A fantastic opportunity to be loud and proud for #TeamPurple and the rest of the cyclists.’

MS-UK Events Fundraiser Jenny said, ‘I would like to say a huge thank you to all the team for their hard work in training for and completing this challenge. The team has so far raised over £14,000. MS-UK is here for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis, to empower them to live healthier and happier lives by improving the understanding of MS and providing support where it is needed most. The funds raised from this event will go a long way in helping MS-UK to achieve this.’

Has this event inspired you to dust off your bike and go for a ride? The date for next year’s Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 will shortly be announced, so do get in touch with Jenny to register your interest. Simply email jenny@ms-uk.org or call 01206 226500.

Guest blog: 'It’s all for a great cause...'

Posted on: August 02 2019

Photo of David with his Dad
Dad and me

In this guest blog, David lets us know why he and his partner Anne-Marie are taking on the challenge of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 this weekend, and the incredible journey they have been on to get to this point...

I made a promise to my dad twenty years ago that one day I would do a charity event and raise money for multiple sclerosis (MS). My dad is 83 and had relapsing-remitting MS for 40 years and I have seen first-hand how this disease not only affects the person but also the family. 

So, after twenty years of procrastinating, my partner Anne-Marie and I decided to finally hold true to my word. I was already in the RideLondon-100 so we looked at MS charities for Anne-Marie. Thankfully we spoke to Jenny at MS-UK who was enthusiastic and welcoming and that sealed our decision.

I know a lot of people use charity places as a way of getting into an event they wanted to do anyway but if there was one bit of advice I could ever give someone, it would be to pick a charity that means something to you.

For all those rainy days you don’t feel like training, for all the times your bum hurts (even with a litre of chamois cream slapped over it), for all those times you are halfway up a steep hill wondering why you aren’t slouched on the couch chowing down on popcorn, knowing why you are putting yourself through this makes such a difference to your resolve and dedication.

Training went well until one sunny May afternoon, I had a collision with a car whilst out cycling. The end result was a road closure, ambulance, two police cars, a suspected broken leg, injured back and hand, stitches in the chin and my bike was written off.

Subsequent x-rays and MRIs to my hand and leg miraculously showed nothing broken. By sheer chance, the angle of my knee prevented a far more serious long term knee injury occurring so I feel incredibly lucky.

Nevertheless, I was told I would be on crutches for up to 10 weeks and that all cycle events would be out until September. 

This was devasting for both myself and Anne-Marie.

To put this into perspective, Anne-Marie is not a confident cyclist. She has never ridden on her own so the thought of her cycling 100 miles solo scared her to death. 

She continued to train on an indoor bike in the gym but only for an hour at a time which wouldn’t be enough to get her in shape for a 100 mile ride outside.

She also suffered far more than me after my accident. My damage was physical but Anne-Marie’s was mental. From a lack of sleep due to nightmares leaving her exhausted, from having to be my carer for five weeks leaving little time for the bike, to seeing her partner in almost constant pain, her confidence plummeted.

But this is where choosing a charity that means something to you is so important. Despite all her fears, she knew she wouldn’t pull out. It was too important a promise to go back on.

Anne-Marie after the Tour of Cambridge (first solo ride).jpg
Anne-Marie after the Tour of Cambridge (first solo ride)

After a few weeks of mental turmoil, she made a last-minute decision to try the Tour of Cambridge on her own. A massive feat for her and one I am so proud of her for.

In the meantime, I had been rehabbing for up to two hours a day. I developed a huge admiration for people like my dad who, because of their MS, have to ‘rehab’ every day just to keep mobile and functioning. 

I remember the first day I managed to do a full revolution of a pedal stroke in the gym. It took me 10 minutes to get my leg over the top of the pedal stroke and it felt amazing. Within a week I managed five minutes on an indoor bike. A week later I double that time to 10 minutes and a week later I tried 20 minutes. Each time I felt exhausted and despite the Physio telling me there was no way I would get to the start line of the RideLondon, the prospect of being there with all the other MS-UK riders really made me want to give it a shot.

Despite everyone telling me not to overdo it, I cautiously overdid it and increased my longest ride from 20 miles to 25 to 35 to 53 to 70 miles on subsequent sessions with Anne-Marie always by my side.

At the end of each ride, I felt exhausted and would fall asleep in a sweaty mess.

So here we are today. My max longest ride will have been 70 miles. I don’t feel ready for the event, my hand still hurts but I’ll give it a jolly good bash. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the importance of the charity, I wouldn’t have tried anyway near as hard on the rehab. Anne-Marie would have certainly dropped out of the event too but she feels a connection to the charity through me and my family. 

Both of us on our first sportive ride since the accident.jpg
Both of us on our first sportive ride since the accident

Seeing the effort families put in to helping their loved ones, seeing the effort those suffering from MS put into daily life means that you can’t help but feel motivated and inspired to put that little bit more into your own daily life.

For those who are reading this who are doing the event, I look forward to seeing you on the start line. I also look forward to seeing you (hopefully) at the finish line.

It’s all for a great cause and the journey has been unexpectedly up and down but also an amazing growing experience for both of us.

Good luck everyone and go #TeamPurple!

David Bint and Anne–Marie Cannon

Visit Anne-Marie's fundraising page

Self-esteem and MS - Part 3

Posted on: August 01 2019

Louise Willis (Headshot).jpgIn the final part of our self-esteem trilogy, MS-UK Counsellor Louise Willis offers some more empowering tips for good mental health...

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword and that is for good reason. With practice, mindfulness can change the way our brains work and instill a sense of calm. Far from its roots in traditional Buddhist practice, mindfulness of today is about taking your focus out from the past which we can’t change and the future which is yet to happen and putting it firmly in the present. This can be done in a number of ways from focusing on the body to the external senses.

Forgive others and ourselves

Holding on to grudges and past hurts has been likened to ‘putting your hand into a fire but expecting it to burn the other person’. It might feel like the right thing to do, but what does it really accomplish? Forgiveness is surprisingly seldom about the other person but about the feelings and beliefs that we carry with us from the precipitating event. Forgiveness is a private decision and it is not necessary to tell the other person that we have forgiven them. Of course, forgiveness of the self is just as important, as feelings of shame can be overwhelming, we are human after all and everyone makes mistakes.

Use positive affirmations

It’s easy to fall into a rut of negative talk, but by changing the wording it can have a transformative effect on how we feel about ourselves. Remember that coach from school or any other supportive and encouraging role model you have had the joy of spending time with? Be your own cheerleader – ‘you can do it, you are worthy and you are loveable’.

Set small goals and complete them

By setting ourselves small achievable goals throughout the week we can begin to see that we can do the things we set our minds to. Whether it is finishing that book, learning to crochet, phoning an old friend or putting time aside for self-care, it shows ourselves and others that we care for and value ourselves.

Keep a gratefulness journal

Log three things you are grateful for every other day, they don’t have to be big things. A smile from the lady in the newsagents, a bird on the windowsill or simply an hour of your favourite TV show. By feeling and acknowledging the small moments in our life that we often take for granted, we can start to build a more accurate model of what our life is really like rather than focusing on the negative parts.

Want to find out more about MS-UK Counselling?

Register your interest

Missed the last two blogs? Read them today...

Read self-esteem and MS part 1

Read self-esteem and MS part 2