As this is my first blog, I’d better give you a quick rundown of who I am, and why I’m doing this challenge.

In a nutshell, I dislocated my neck and shattered two vertebra eight years ago while playing rugby league for the amateur team Hull Dockers. My road to recovery has been a long one, but it’s been made easier thanks to the support me and my family have received from RL Cares and the benevolent Fund.

My physical state at the present is that I can walk again (after initially being told that I never would) with the aid of crutches. This may be as good as gets for me, but I’ll never give up on improving even further.

So, why the swimming challenge?Pete Stephenson

Well, let’s face facts, I’m not going to be running any marathons any time soon and I see this as the best way of challenging myself physically.

I began thinking about doing some sort swimming challenge at the turn of the year for two reasons. The first being training or rehab is always easier, or more enjoyable, when there’s something to aim for and you have a goal to reach.

The second is I’m always up for raising funds and awareness for this charity because I know first-hand how important it is. Rugby League is the toughest sport on the planet and those that play it at any level could get seriously injured, it’s vital that should this happen, the player receives the support that I did.

Whatever the amount I raise will be split between RL Cares and the Steve Prescott Foundation. Precky inspired a lot of people, me included, and the Christies charity that the SPF foundation supports is another one I feel strongly about.

Hydrotherapy has played a big part in my rehabilitation, even in the first few months after my accident when the physiotherapists would take me to the pool in Pinderfields Hospital. At first, it would just be to help me stand and aid with my stretching. When I was discharged, I carried on getting in the pool as often as I could at the gym were, to this day, I carry on my rehab. Up until last summer, the only stroke that I could do is best described as a sort of ‘dying frog breast stroke’. It wasn’t pretty looking, but it was effective in that it gave me a decent enough workout.

I then met a guy at the gym who has since helped me improve the way in which swim dramatically. I can now swim freestyle and the only aid that I use is a small floatation device, called a Pull-Buoy, which is placed in-between my legs to stop them sinking. The reason for this is that when I’m laid horizontally in the water I have very little leg-kick. So, nearly all of the effort is upper body but I have devised a technique that when I take a stroke I use my core strength to sway me from side to side and this helps generate some movement from the ‘pins’.RL Cares

The other issue that I have is breathing correctly. At first, I was holding my breath for way to long between strokes; which is not ideal when doing exercise of any kind. The reason for this is that I still have movement restrictions in my neck due to the surgery on it. But, I’ve found a system were now I’m taking a breath every four strokes while exhaling under water, which seems to be working out for me.

So, where am I at?

I’ve been swimming 150 lengths a week, which is split over three days at 50 lengths a session. My time per session is currently around one hour to do 50 lengths of a 25 metre pool. My target is to hopefully be ready to do the challenge by the end of April/beginning of May time, however, I’m not going to rush things. 5k might not sound a lot but for someone with my physical impairments it is and then there’s squeezing everything else in around it such as work, family and our eight-year-olds social life!

But, seriously, I’m enjoying the training and when I’m in the water I feel like I’ve been released from my shackles! I can’t wait to challenge myself and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve what I’ve set out to do.

Please take a minute and visit my just giving page, any donations, big or small, are massively appreciated.

Well, that’s the story so far. I’ll be updating the blog with my progress as often as I can but in the meantime please have a look around the site and check out what RL Cares does for the greatest game of all…….

State of Mind would like to wish Pete all the very best in his swimming challenge!!!!