Earlier this year when I decided to participate in a triathlon I had two primary objectives: to overcome my fear and to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I’ve always secretly wanted to participate in a triathlon. My inability to swim and my fear of swimming in anything besides a pool really paralyzed me. So far, the main thing propelling me forward has been my desire to experience a feeling of accomplishment. Not just any feeling of accomplishment, but the one you get when you know you did something that you NEVER thought you could do. I know from past experience that when I do something I never thought I could do, it gives me the confidence to try even more things.
Since I made this declaration in January I’ve taken a series of small steps to help me reach my goal of completing my first sprint triathlon in June. First, I joined the Atlanta Triathlon Club. Next I started following the training calendar with the planned workouts. The last big step is what inspired this blog. I showed up for my first swim practice.
This was the HARDEST thing for me to do! I procrastinated for three weeks before I mustered up the courage to show up for practice. Aside from putting on a bathing suit, which I haven’t done in years, I was mortified to walk in to that swim center as a grown woman who can’t swim. I knew I’d likely be the only one. I feared I would automatically stand out. When I walked in I was terrified and intimidated. I was 15 minutes late and everybody was already in the pool swimming laps. The coach asked me to get in the “beginner’s” lane. Well, it was not what I’d imagined because all the “beginners” were coming towards me at full speed – just like the “experienced” swimmers in the other lanes. I was literally gripping the side of the wall trying to get out of the way. It was then the coach realized I was serious when I said I couldn’t swim. For my safety, and to avoid disrupting the practice, he knew I needed to get on the other side of the pool. Forget swimming laps, my assignment was to just get acclimated to the water.
When I was in that water watching the other swimmers practice, two things happened. First, I kept telling myself, that I could do it. That I would do it. So, I just started putting my face under water, kicking off the wall, and practicing floating. I gradually became more comfortable.
The second thing that happened was I began to visualize myself swimming laps with the team. The more I saw them pass me, the more convinced I became that I will soon join them. That was the most empowering thing. My entire attitude shifted. Just by showing up I knew that I’d taken the first step to realizing my dream. Showing up was half the battle; the hardest part of the battle. So, I guess my take away is – the most important thing we can do when facing our fears is to just show up and do it afraid. After all that’s what courage is, doing the thing that you’re afraid of in spite of fear.
By the way, what sealed this experience was the swimming coach volunteered to give me a quick swim lesson after practice. He reassured me that I would get there. He reminded me that at some point everybody in that pool was in the same position I found myself in at that moment. He dispelled my greatest fear of being judged. Nobody there judged me. They cheered me on and encouraged me to stick with it.
Even now, I’m not practicing with the team yet, but I’m getting there. I have a friend who is a former swim instructor who has committed to work with me. My goal is to be swimming on my own by April when the club starts the open water swim practice. That gives me about three weeks. I will do this! The video of me swimming laps is coming…stay tuned!
Question: Can you recall a time you faced a major fear and overcame it?