Over the last few years, I’ve dipped in and out of blogging about my quest for a healthy lifestyle.
There’s been food changes, and activity changes, particularly in recent months my new found passion for running.
Through it all, I’ve always swum. I’ve always been a swimmer.
Even when I did no exercise at all, I’d say I was a swimmer.
I was quite good as a child but chose not to go down the competitive route as I didn’t like the idea of 6am swims, but it’s always been part of me.
So when Chris started going open water swimming, and a few friends suggested I give it a go, I don’t think anyone was prepared for me to react the way I did.
In private there were tears, terror and full on sobfests.
Because open water swimming has always terrified me.
There is no rational reason for this fear, I’ve never had a bad experience. It’s just always been with me.
I’ve managed sea swimming before, but something about a lake totally terrified me.
So one week I went along to watch, and totally fell in love with the location.
So the next week I decided to have a go.
I put my swimming costume on inside out.
I put the wetsuit on inside out.
But I got in the water and swam.
Face in, front crawl wasn’t working so I switched to breast stroke.
I was swimming. The water was nice.
I still had to stop at each buoy as I could feel the panic rising.
The current didn’t bother me, the weeds didn’t bother me.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I got out to calm myself down, and catch my breath.
Chris kindly took a photograph.
After 20 minutes of giving myself a talking to, I got back in.
Yes, I was terrified, and still got back in.
This annoyed me. I’d gone along with the rationale of ‘I’m a swimmer, I have no reason to be afraid, once I get in the water I’ll be fine and love it.’
So I got home, and had a good chat with my Shabbasister Lozza who has experienced similar issues in her journey to become IronLozza. She helped me see that I’d done well. I’d faced my fear, I’d got out & gone back in while I was afraid, and that should be celebrated.
Then last week she asked me to join her, and her friends Sarah & Liz (who I also chat to on Twitter) at their open water session.
I was still afraid but I will not allow myself to be restricted by fear, especially one with no grounds and is all in my head.
She also gave me a tip.
Write two lists. One listing things I’d be leaving behind, and things I’d be taking with me, metaphorically speaking. And then on the day, leave the ‘behind’ list at home and take the ‘take’ list with me.
I arrived with nothing more than butterflies. And a big smile & a ridiculously small back pack.
I met Sarah & Liz who are gorgeous & lovely.
I got in.
I swam, lost my breath, switched to breast stroke. But I didn’t panic.
I did a full lap.
After a rest, we went again.
This time I thought about my technique and what I was doing with my swimming.
I enjoyed the second lap (apart from cramp, but the water was only 18 degrees!).
I lost my rhythm but I switched to breast stroke, then switched back to front crawl.
I started to enjoy myself.
Lozza, Sarah & Liz went off for a third lap. I chose to stay In the shallows just being in the water & enjoying the quiet, the scenery & reflecting on where the panic had been coming from.
My conclusion – although I’m a strong, experienced swimmer, open water requires a different rhythm from pool swimming, just as a sprint is different to a marathon. Finding the rhythm hadn’t come naturally to me, therefore my brain panicked.
After our swim, we went to the local McDonald’s for a coffee & a chat.
I’m not sure, but I think I sat there with a massive grin on my face.
The girls were brilliant. They hadn’t pressured me, they hadn’t made me feel bad for holding them back, they didn’t coach me, the were patient, kind and understanding. They let me figure it out myself. And for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
I’m going again next week, in my new wet suit, which has the logo ‘No Fear’.