When the alarm rings and you struggle to move out from beneath the duvet, do you think of the snooze button or the laps you’re about to do in the pool?

The thought of swimming at 6.00am is difficult for most of us, especially in the winter, but the experience is even more challenging if the exercise brings huge, physical pain.

Colin Stringer though, is a fighter.

After years of leg aches, he was diagnosed with bilateral varus knee deformities and was treated with high tibial osteotomies. He explained that during operations the surgeon cuts a wedge of the bone, realigns it and fixes it with a metal plate and screws, “basically he breaks the leg and re-sets it again.”

He had his left leg operated on in September 2012 and the right one in April 2013. Now he’s training hard to beat his personal time in the Great East Swim, where he swam back in 2011 before his surgeries.

"In 2011 I swam the mile at the Great East Swim in 28 minutes and 17 seconds. This year’s swim is a challenge and I want to improve on my best time. I even considered the 5k distance for the future.”

Colin had always exercised and raced, running competitively on the track and road over a period of 30 years. He took up swimming in his 40s to keep fit, confessing that he is not a “natural” swimmer and joking, “I’m sure the metal work in my legs makes them heavier.”

The 52-year-old draws confidence and motivation from his progress in the pool but still recognises the contribution people have made around him during his recovery.

Colin said: “Following the operations, I had regular physiotherapy appointments including circuit classes at the hospital and gym twice a week, especially for lower limb operations.

“With the help of my coach, four months after the operations I started running in the deep end of the pool and gradually built up to swimming with a pull buoy and then eventually front crawl, including interval work and tumble turns.”

It is widely known that swimming exercises the entire body, it is low impact and there are also the psychological benefits too, as many people find the water an incredibly relaxing place to be.

Colin’s story is just one example of how swimming helps so many people across the UK to recover from major injuries and operations.

He said: “Swimming has been a great way to aid my recovery from these major operations and I wish to inspire others to work hard and do the best they can under similar circumstances. 

“I found it very important to listen to the physiotherapists before getting stuck into all the exercises, carrying on even when it was painful. The Great East swim 2014 is a challenge I'm really looking forward to.”