If you are anything like me, the pool is your happy place.
Even before learning I had Lipedema in 2007, and finding out that being in a pool was one of the best things I could do for my symptoms, actually one of the only physical activities suggested back then, I was (and remain) a mermaid at heart.
Which made the global pandemic even harder, as not being able to get to the pool for over a year, due to closures and fears of exposure to Covid-19, my legs took a big hit. But even more than that, my spirit took a bigger hit.
Emotional fitness is one of the challenges of Lipedema, and at a time when we all needed extra emotional healing, to not have the pool as a resource, was only adding to the difficulties of living with Lipedema.
The pool has always been more than just a workout, or a fun physical activity to help my legs; it is more of a spiritual thing for me - soothing, healing, uplifting, I can literally feel the weight of my world fall away as I would ease into, and glide across the surface.
I love it so much, when I clorox the kitchen sink I usually drift off to pool memories, the scent alone takes me to my special place (yep, I'm that person who likes the smell of bleach, but almost purely because it reminds me of the pool).
My husband and coach could see the changes to my spirit, and to my legs, as the months went on. He brought up my rebounder (mini trampoline) from the basement, which did help to keep the fluid moving, and I also made sure I had my compression (and sneakers) on every day. Which can be an easy thing to brush off when working from home.
But the spiritual component was still missing.
My husband is not one to give up easily. He kept trying to think of ways to get me into the water, and as a huge gesture of love, for our anniversary last fall, he purchased us an inflatable hot tub for the backyard!
How romantic, right?
By the time all the components arrived, there were only a few weeks to a month at best before our winter would be starting, and past experiences with closing up inflatable pools, made me suggest we put off setting it all up until the spring.
Reluctantly he would agree, but went forward with getting the surroundings ready, and here is where the fun began...
Our property butts up to several neighbors in our backyard, and finding an oasis, a place to add to the soothing nature that is a hot tub, presented some challenges, especially given our budget was tight.
The first item he put up was a large portable shelter, like the type you can use to keep your outdoor equipment or even your car protected! We went with a smaller 10'X10' model and it was under $200 off Harbor Freight; the hot tub fits perfectly inside, with room for the heater, motor, etc., plus extra space up front by the door for a couple cubicle style storage bins on either side, that are being used for towels, hot tub accessories, etc.
He used the shelter for storing some of our workout equipment, and all his bicycles last winter, and it even had enough space for him to have his bike repair stand inside, where he could tinker all winter long.
But before he added anything to it, our daughter decorated the space and set it up for a Halloween Fright Night sleepover with some of her friends. Big hit!
As the weather was warming up, he cleared the shelter and he and my daughter plotted the perfect location of the hot tub and the two of them ensured the ground was level (a step not to be overlooked, something we learned with our prior inflatable pool days when our daughter was younger).
The hot tub he went with was an Intex 6 person model (the same manufacturer as those inflatable pools we used to get). It is 85"W X 28"H, and at first we discussed what steps/ladder we might require to ensure I could get into/out of the tub, but we found we didn't need anything, I can step over the edge and easily get in and out, with a hand on one of the storage cube stands (or a loving husband's hands).
Here is my Amazon Affiliate Link for the Hot Tub we purchased. It is under $1,000, which is not entirely cheap, but way better than any other option we could come up with, and they have smaller sizes for even less. As an example, we looked into a swim spa, and found out they can range from about $10,000 - $30,000 (which is quite a bit more, and still less expensive than a typical backyard pool). If you use the affiliate link provided, I may receive a small incentive, which will cost you nothing extra for using.
Now it is not comparing apples to apples, I cannot stand in the hot tub and get my deep water aerobics in tha I love so much, but purely submerging my body and the emotional healing it provides, I find it is a great alternative. Not to mention being in 2.5 feet of water is equivalent to about 45 mmHg of compression (as an example, my knee high compression is 30-40 mmHg, so it is very similar to that). If you have other ideas for pool substitutes, we would love to hear what worked for you.
For more info. on the depth of water vs. compression, you can check out the blog post and graphic I created here
Which brings us to yesterday... we had our usual CrossFit style workout in the park, and upon returning home I immediately checked the thermostat, it was right at 87F (lower than what most hot tubs are usually set at, and even this one can go as high as 104F), but with Lipedema (and even more importantly, Lymphedema), being mindful of heat is necessary.
Heat raises our body temperature, which can cause swelling, the last thing someone with Lipedema and/or Lymphedema wants. It can also be triggering for someone who might be at risk for Lymphedema, as it can bring it on. Like with everything Lipedema, you have to try things out for yourself and then take time to see how your body responds.
I have experience with hotter water causing swelling in my legs, from my earlier days being in a therapy pool, I would have to be mindful and check the thermostat of the pool before getting in, some days it was too hot for it to be good for me.
Typically public therapy pools can range anywhere from 89F - 96F, and anything over 90F I would not attempt. To give you a better idea of how that compares, a regular swimming pool usually runs from about 78F - 85F. So my safe range seems to be right about 87F-90F. Which is much too cold for a hot tub experience for my family, so we take turns, and adjust the heater accordingly.
Now back to yesterday, the first day for my body to be back in a body of water in over a year... I think my face in this impromptu video says it all...
It really boils down to your quality of life, and how you can get to LIVING with Lipedema. It can't always be just about self care and managing your symptoms, you have to make sure you are having fun, too!