What do you fear?
Avoidance of fear takes its toll on our mental wellbeing. The more we avoid the things we fear, the more we retreat into ourselves, resulting in anxiety and depression.
I hated swimming as a child, the school pool in Oxford England was not heated and the summers not warm enough to make the water luring. It was my move to Australia twelve years ago where I found my love of surfing that finally made me go to swimming lessons.
I was in my late 40s and terrified of swimming. I had never worn goggles and terrified of putting my face under water. Surfing I was ok with as you only go under water when you are thrown off your board or jump off. Somehow I was ok with this, but not swimming where your face is under water a fair proportion of the time.
I read a lot about facing fears and how to move closer and stay longer. Being competitive and always pushing myself, I took a different approach to swimming. It will take as long as it needs to, I will go regularly, will not force myself to put my face in the water. The lack of pressure on myself, meant I could relax. A few years later I completed my first 1Km freestyle swim.
Friends took me out on an ocean swim at Clovelly , which was exhilarating, but my technique needed more work. So I am now back at stroke improvers swim school. Three months on, my swimming has improved, I also completed 25 meters of dolphin (pre cursor to butterfly).
The fear has not gone away, but my regular practice in the pool, has made me more confident, I never thought I would say this, but I enjoy swimming. Once I get going, I find the pace that works for me and I love the feeling of moving through the water.
A month ago I did an Ocean swim clinic at bondi. As we sat on the beach learning about the surf and how to manage swimming, I could feel my anxiety rising, knowing we were swimming out on the north bondi rip. As we stood waist deep in the rip with my goggles on, I started freestyle and before I knew it we were out the back of the waves. I relaxed, how difficult was that? Not at all, in fact it was an amazing feeling as the water acted like a motorway.
The next hour of exercises were challenging but fun, the highlight was the body surf back to the beach. At the end I felt a sense of accomplishment and felt so pleased with myself that I persisted with the swimming.
It’s easy to give into fear, its harder to face it, move closer and stay longer.