Andy's Story: Part 1
I wouldn't have thought my story is massively different to that of most middle-aged men, but maybe the fact that I suffered a heart attack aged 48 - which nearly killed me - is the factor that makes me slightly different to the man that sat next to me on the train this morning. That said, you never know what somebody else's story is, and the more I discuss matters of the heart (as I call them) with people, it becomes ever more apparent that lots of younger people suffer heart problems such as arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke and much more.
At 8 years old, I was relatively late in learning to swim but I did seem to develop quite a knack for it. And within no time at all, I joined the local swimming club, in Grimsby, in the north of England. Joining the swimming club was quite a defining moment for me because it did a lot for me - not only did it take me into peak physical fitness at a very early age, it also deprived me of learning other skills that my local friends were busy perfecting in the streets of my hometown, in particular, that of football (or soccer for our American friends). Because I didn't build this skillset, nor did I ever pay any interest in watching the actual game on TV, in fact, I still don't watch football or have any interest in it, this is quite something really when you consider that my older brother was really quite good at the sport ,and all my friends around me seem to be football mad.
So, between the age of 8 and 13 my life was somewhat of a blur, travelling to and from training sessions at the local pool all the time. Training at night was between 8 and 10 pm, and training in the morning was between 6 and 8 am, although if I did train in the morning, I tended to leave slightly early so that I could get to school on time. The amount of training that I did leaves me with questions, now as an adult, as to whether that intensity of physical stress on a young body is actually best practice, given that the heart is still forming at this age. I'm not sure ‘training through the pain barrier’ was a good idea. This method of training was designed to push the kids as hard as physically possible, regardless of any ‘stitch’ or pain they may experience. It was described as being the ‘pain barrier’ and I'm sure other athletes and people that have taken part in sport at a high level have experienced this unusual episode. Obviously, not all the kids in the training session would push themselves to such a degree, but I personally seemed to enjoy the challenge and would push harder than most. I have no doubt that this level of training, mixed with a certain amount of natural ability, produced the results of me being a great swimmer at County and National level.
So, life was a mixture of training sessions and travelling to and from swimming events all over the nation. My dad was a fantastic support, he used to drive me up and down the UK, with my mother in tow, to support my swimming efforts. I'd always travel with the squad on the bus, but I would return back home with my mum and dad in the back of our car. My dad, being the practical kind, got a small roll-up mattress, sleeping bag and pillow and he would drop the back seats in the car down to make space for a little bed, where I would snooze away the miles as we travelled home.
These are happy memories for me, probably the happiest of my childhood, little did I know that at this point in my life, things would take a dark turn when I hit 14 years old...
Click here to read Andy's Story: Part 2!