Niall Strawson contemplates his fit-for-summer body

Recently there has been a hint of spring in the air, not quite sunbathing weather, well at least not top-off sunbathing.

But it got me thinking about the ‘summer body’. Let’s not be under any false impressions. I’m no Brad Pitt but even though I am a wheelchair user I still don’t want that farmer’s tan and I do want to show off the few big muscles I do have.

This means getting in shape. I guess if I am being honest I have a great confidence in myself and my personality but now that I am permanently disabled my body confidence has taken a hit.

When you are standing it tends to slim you out, it’s only the most slim and the most gym dedicated that look good, or at least belly free, when seated. It’s quite well known amongst the spinal injured that weight gain is the norm and a belly is pretty much guaranteed.

Me being me, I like a challenge so I am continuing with my exercise regime and in fact adding to it.

My exercise of choice is swimming. There are a few reasons for this.

One it’s easy – pools are ubiquitous and don’t require any specialist equipment other than a hoist to get me out of the pool – which (I think) is written into law.

Disabled people rarely have bodies that look ‘normal’. Some of the issues are scarring, muscle wasting, missing limbs, etc.

All of these things can easily be hidden by clothes so getting in the pool can be quite exposing. It would be easy to remain clothed and get gradually fatter. I’m lucky, my scarring from surgery is minimal and some of them are covered by my body hair.

Others are not so lucky.

Also I have enough ability in my legs and spasms that maintain my muscle mass in my legs so actually when I’m in my swim shorts I look like most of the other pool users.

Once I’ve made the transition from dressed to the water things change. There is something really nice about bobbing about in the water.

I feel like everyone else. Only my head is visible and the water gives me such a sense of freedom of movement that is impossible on land. I guess it’s a bit like a seal or a penguin – an animal that is awkward on land and graceful in the water. Maybe I’m trying to compensate and no-one really cares how I look lying in University Parks in the sun, but if it forces me to the pool and gives me a break from the frustration of being mobility impaired then that’s no bad thing. Bring on the tan.