Walking on water… I mean… IN water

Finally a new blog post! Yes it has been a while and I’ve received more than a little flak for not posting a recent update so here I am.

Last summer I wrote a post about my newfound love for swimming and for being in the water. At the time, I had trained for, and completed, a 2.4 mile open water swim and since then my love for being in the water has not only remained steady but increased.

At the end of most of my swims, I usually spend the last few minutes standing, doing squats against the pool wall, bobbing up and down and playing around, and just trying to move my body in an upright position and challenge myself in ways that I can’t do on land, for fear of gravity getting the better of me and tumbling into the ground. In the past, I would try to walk in the pool by leaning my hands on Brita’s shoulders for balance (and in turn challenging her balance with my sloppy grabbing/leaning/pushing/pulling motions) and she would step my legs for me with her hands and keep me upright with her knees as I tried –and likely didn’t succeed– to look somewhat competent. Not too long ago, one day when Brita was out of the pool and I was lingering in the water, soaking up (pun intended) every last bit of the floaty, weightless, aqua goodness, I tried to give walking a go by myself.

In chest high water, I was able to keep my balance by thrashing my arms and pushing the water around as I would lean forward, back, or to the sides. Then I could concentrate on trying to take steps, which is still the missing piece of my walking abilities on land. It was ugly, and I was probably straining way too many muscles and contorting my body like a slow motion Frankenstein, but I was able to take a few very labored steps. While this has improved a bit over the last few months, it’s hard to work at it consistently because of the logistics of the pools I’m in, the varying depths of the lanes, fatigue, etc.

Recently, I spent a few days at Neuroworx, a state of the art non-profit neurological rehab center that I went to shortly in 2013, not too long after my injury (my posts here and here) and had the great fortune of using their incredible therapy pool. With parallel bars in the water, underwater cameras at every angle, and a floor that raises up and down and functions as a treadmill, this thing is BADASS. After doing some core exercises, we decided to turn on the treadmill at a very slow speed and see how I could walk.

Now let me take a moment to be clear and avoid any misleading or false hope.

I am still cranking and pulling with my back more than I ever should. Pulling my legs forward is extremely challenging and takes all of my effort. I’m holding onto parallel bars for balance. I’m supported by the water and the lack of gravity makes it a lot easier to move. At this time, I am NOT able to replicate this on land. You can’t see my upper body but my walk is still ugly and slightly less, but still undoubtedly Frankenstein-esque.

So with all of that said, here’s my water walking.

Not great, but not bad right? I’m pulling one leg through and maintaining support on the other leg, I’m not falling over (mostly thanks to the parallel bars) and once I get started and in the rhythm, I can keep this going for a couple of minutes.

Everyone always asks me what this feels like, does it feel like I’m walking and the answer is simple: I don’t know. It doesn’t feel completely natural or controlled but it’s also not a random, disconnected, spastic movement. I know that I’m compensating my weaknesses by walking in a very unconventional way, but at the end of the day, I’m taking steps. I’m propelling myself on my own two feet. And it still feels pretty damn good.

36 thoughts on “Walking on water… I mean… IN water

  1. Wow Arash !
    So glad you posted, didn’t realize you are able to move your legs – at all!
    You are an inspiration and I love seeing your progress, no matter what that is.

  2. I am so impressed with your determination, progress, and unwillingness to accept what the “experts” initially told you.

    As you know I am recovering from a 160 mile per hour( 80 mph each car) head on car accident and although my injuries are quite different I really can empathize with how much work it takes to make significant progress. It’s been 1 year for me and I am starting to drive a bit. Driving to Safeway was never such a satisfying experience before.

    You are an inspiration to me and many others, Leslie

    • The little things become so much more important don’t they Leslie? I look forward to the day I can walk around the block as if its the equivalent of running a marathon. Hope you’re doing well on your respective recovery too -AB

  3. That is so wonderful to hear Arash. I’ve never doubted that you will get to your ultimate goal. You have what it takes: hard work, perseverance, commitment, and a loving support system. You continue to make wonderful strides! Have you ever tried Alhambra Valley PT in Pleasant Hill? They too have a pool with the treadmill and underwater cameras. Vaughn got a lot out of it. Keep up the progress!
    XXOO Denise

    • Yeah I have tried them Denise. They were very helpful for me too in those early days of trying the pool before I was a bit stronger. I wish there was a pool like this closer to us though with all the bells and whistles. Hope you guys are doing well. Big hugs to you both -AB

  4. How amazing! Yes, you aren’t where you want to be – I read all of your disclaimers! But all I see is how far you have come, how your determination has led the way and you are committed to the path! Worth the wait for the update! 🙂

    • You notice the disclaimers… 😉 Yes I am told I am the master of downplaying and understatement but I am happy to share this update. Thanks as always for reading the update -AB

  5. Arash! This is really great to see this translation from your on-land training to walking in water. Your hard work and progress is noticed by many. Keep up this good water work and keep believing in yourself. I know many ( including myself) who believe in you. Great video and thanks for sharing.

  6. Wow Arash. that is so exciting to watch.!!! Your hard work and determination is paying off each time you begin a new challenge…now, stepping in the water. It is wonderful to watch your legs take those steps . Good luck as you continue your hard work and meet each new challenge with the determination you have, “Keep on Keeping On”
    Allie Cronk

  7. Arash it was a pleasure having you and your father in our home. Laura and I sincerely hope our paths will cross again. Thanks for sharing your story and for your inspiring optimism. God bless you, Dave

  8. I so love your determination, Arash. You have made incredible strides (pun intended) in your recovery, and it’s such a joy to see your progress. Be proud. 😊

  9. Hello again my friend. Looking good and great progress. Try doing scissor kick motions (abductions and adductions), individual legs and together, legs straight and then with legs bent. Try doing knee raises, individually and together.
    Try doing hip rotations. Try doing ab crunches. !!!The most important part while doing these movements is to get your upper body totally stabilized so that all the thinking and action is concentrated on the movements suggested while no thinking or effort is involved in stabilizing your upper body. Have your upper body strapped and locked in place if need be.

  10. That’s fantastic Arash. By no means do I see a a “frankenstein” walk, I see focus, determination and progress, all which seem to augment your modesty and graciousness.
    #wigglewigglepinkytoe

  11. It is wonderful to see your great progress!! Since you don’t have a pool like this near you, maybe you should consider crowdfunding to build one to help yourself and others who need it. You are in a unique position to know what people with spinal injuries really need, so why not put that knowledge to use and start a rehab facility of your own? Crowdfunding has helped others with many worthwhile projects. I don’t have much money, but I would contribute to help do something like this. Maybe a whole new career path has opened to you. My best wishes to you for continued progress.

  12. Hey Arash, I’m your cousin Sophia, I’m reading your blog and it’s a great to see your progress and so much determination! It’s amazing to see someone so focused on their goals and how step by step you get closer, I’m really touched by your blog and it would be awesome to see you and hear you whole story from you! , I’m back in the bay area. If your free, let me know!

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