‘First times’ are often very daunting and challenging – and whilst I always have to push myself to do something new and out of my comfort zone I’m always so pleased I did it once the event has passed. So here goes with my first blog about my first open water swim….
I finally managed to find time to go for my first swim in the local lake last week and knew I would find it a challenge as I have a severe fear of ‘what lurks beneath’ the water – not being able to see terrifies me. I’m a fairly confident swimmer in the pool but I knew I would fall to pieces in a vast lake, and how right was I…?! My friend kindly accompanied me and we decided to brave it without wet suits. We completed the 700m circuit (and could thankfully still feel all our limbs by the end ) but I certainly wouldn’t describe our swim as speedy! Every bit of weed or grass that slid against me elicited a child-like scream followed by complete panic and then a fit of giggles. I wouldn’t let my friend drift further that a metre away from me as the feeling of being isolated in that mass of water terrified me! When we decided to brave a sprint of front crawl it wasn’t long before I had an overwhelming sense of anxiety as I physically couldn’t force my head under the water without flinching – I simply could not function properly. The rest of the circuit was completed at a slightly faster and anxious breaststroke with constant chit chat to ensure my mind was distracted from ‘what lurks beneath’ !
When we emerged from the lake I spoke to the duty lifeguard explaining this had been my first time open water swimming – he informed me that his young son had experienced similar fears during his first few sessions in the lake until his confidence grew and he now does laps of the lakes’ circuit independently.
This made me reflect on own my two daughters reactions to being exposed to new experiences (both girls are currently terrified of the beach as they think the waves will ‘float’ them away, not to mention scary creatures lurking under the surface!) and I now realise I’m not so different as an adult when stretched out of my comfort zone! To overcome my fear of ‘what lurks beneath’ and to learn how to stay calm I need to practice and build confidence by stretching my comfort zone little by little. I may have a few breakdowns along the way but no one can take away the sense of achievement once the challenge is completed! And lets face it…there’s been no news about open water swimmers being attacked by monsters (has there?)! I’m obviously reading (and believing) too many of these fairy tales my daughters love! It’s all in my head…this alone is fascinating, how can my mind have such power over my physical abilities? I guess that’s what young children struggle with too, causing all sorts of seemingly absurd meltdowns over something which appears so straight forward and reasonable to my (mostly) mature mind!
Panic attacks aside, my first open water swim was the most refreshing (literally, the lake was freezing!) thing I have done for years and whilst I was admittedly terrified I am so pleased to have pushed myself to experience this new sport (I haven’t giggled so much for a long time either).
Thank you ‘This Girl Can’ and Henley Swim for giving me this opportunity. I would not have pushed myself to face my fear of swimming in open water had I not won a place (I would have put it down as another thing I would like to do one day). With a few more practices mission should be accomplished and swimming the Henley Mile will undoubtedly be the icing on the cake. (Spectators – bring your ear plugs because I’m not sure I’ll ever stop shrieking at weeds and fish)