I am no water baby….I like my feet firmly on the ground but like most kids in my early youth I spent Sunday afternoons in the swimming pool, did a few courses…achieved a few badges and managed to do the ‘mushroom’ fully clothed.
The course started at 7, so after picking up one of my friends we grab a coffee and head off. The lake is beautiful…and big. We sign in, get our electronic wristband and try out our wetsuits. Well, first we had to get them on, much to hilarity of the other more experienced open-water swimmers (who by the way, were so lovely and so helpful!).
Once they were on, we wandered across from the changing rooms to our classroom. There are about 10 of us – everyone there for various reasons, some to get a boost for triathlon training, others just like myself and my friend – experimenting with something new. We spent the next hour learning about swimming, equipment and ‘warming-up’ for the swim.
After the classroom session, which had made everyone a little more relaxed and prepared (I was kind of glad to see that other in the group were as nervous as I was!) we made our way down to the lake.
Our instructor was fantastic and advised us to dip out feet in a littler to get acclimatised to the water (which wasn’t actually that cold) before we slipped into the lake. I said before I was no water baby…actually I am scared of water, very. So I decided the best course of action was to jump in.
Once in, it didn’t seem as bad as it had from the outside, the wetsuits made us more buoyant and it was almost relaxing. We did a quick test before we went out – holding our breath and putting our heads under the water – which we all passed. It reminded me to the ‘mushroom’ test I had taken as a kid for my ‘Dolphin swimmers’ badge …except that this time we had wetsuits on, I was 30 and we were in a lake.
We swam in stages – to one buoy then the next, each time our instructor gave us advice such as how to improve our sighting by identifying markers and giving general advice as well as correcting our swimming technique.
To be honest I was struggling and reverted to breast stroke instead of front crawl, and yes, I have to admit, I eyed up once or twice the possibility of getting out and back to the shore – but I wanted to stick with it…I was learning… and all of a sudden it wasn’t the water that was scary – I just realised that it was my swimming technique that sucked.
After about an hour in the water we headed for shore, the other guys in the group carried on and went for a longer swim…I was just happy to feel the stones beneath my feet, despite the fact they were a bit slimy…it was ground!
Looking out over the lake once I was washed and dried, I must admit it was beautiful, there was something so peaceful watching the smoothness of the swimmers as they made their way around – without lanes, or walls, or the smell of chlorine overwhelming the senses.
Everyone else in the group was confidently moving through the water. I was one of the occasional course attendees who would need further instruction. Ironically after that morning I realise that am not actually that afraid of the water anymore. Once your head gets full of thinking about techniques and how to swim better, the feeling of fear sort of slips out.
Its almost like, when given no other option, fears have to make way for more productive thoughts. Its all about where you focus the thought energy in your mind.
There is something to be said for the fact that the mind is both our greatest asset, and our most dangerous enemy…