The experience of training for my first triathlon has been such a journey. It has its share of ups and downs. For the past couple of weeks, there have been less ups and more downs. In particular, the swimming portion. Let’s face it, when you decide to participate in a triathlon you know it’s going to be difficult. Factor in the fact that you can’t swim and it becomes daunting.
So, I devised a strategy – eat this elephant one bite at a time. First things first – learn how to swim. I was scared to death when I showed up for my first lesson. Nevertheless, I faced my fear of getting in the water and just did it. The next lesson I progressed exponentially, I actually swam. I learned the basic techniques and was able to move from one side of the pool to the other – with my coach right beside me of course. By the time I made my third visit to the pool, I was in the water on my own. I finally realized that the likelihood of me drowning in four feet of water was pretty slim. That revelation helped me a lot.
It’s now mid May and it feels like my progress has halted. This week it feels like I hit a wall. My confidence has faded and I feel like I’m back to square one. The defeating thoughts I’m battling in my mind have begun to get the best of me. All I seem to focus on is what I’m not doing right. I can’t swim the length of the pool without stopping; I can’t breathe; my form is bad, etc. The entire time I’m in the pool I’m consumed with these thoughts.
It wasn’t until I shared my concerns with a couple of friends that they help me come to a few realizations. First, all I’m focusing on is what I consider are the negative things. They reminded me that a few weeks ago I wouldn’t even get in the water, and now I’m swimming on my own.
Second, this is still new to me and it takes practice. I compared this experience to when I learned to drive a stick shift. It seemed so hard! There were too many things to focus on. Once I got the hang of it, it was a breeze. It felt so easy and I wondered why I complicated it so much.
As it was the case when I was learning to drive a stick shift, learning to swim is going to take practice. Therein lies my problem. I am not practicing enough. When I look back over the last two weeks I have swam once, maybe twice. I need to swim more. Unless I make it a priority I won’t get better. So, I’ve adjusted my strategy. I typically workout 5-6 days a week. I’m going to add swimming on at least three of those days – more if possible.
Furthermore, I’ve been judging myself so harshly and I need to stop that. I was so insecure about my limited swimming abilities I allowed it to hinder me from going to the pool. If there were other people in the pool I’d get anxious and self-conscious. I believe that has affected my performance.
Today as I was swimming – all the lanes were full. I even had to share my lane with someone. So, if I wanted to get in practice time I had to do it with an audience. It’s actually pretty narcissistic when you think about it. Those people are not there to see me, I’m not Michael Phelps. They’re doing their own thing. But when you’re self-conscious these are the tricks your mind plays on you.
As it turned out, having an “audience” worked out in my favor. The other swimmers were very nice. Most of the people in the water offered me constructive criticism. I knew my technique was bad, but I didn’t know how to correct it. So when they offered feedback I wasn’t embarrassed or insulted. I was relieved.
Each of them were able to give me feedback that will help me. If I were swimming alone, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’m sure I’d learn through trial and error, but it would take me much longer. Unfortunately, time is not on my side. I’m trying to complete my first triathlon at the end of June, so I don’t have time to waste. I’m grateful they took the time out to help me.
This experience is teaching me so much about myself. It’s helping me face my fears. It’s forcing me out of my comfort zone, and it’s teaching me to be compassionate with myself.
So, that’s where I am for now. I will keep you posted as I continue on this journey. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any suggestions to help me on my journey. What has worked for you when you encounter challenges as you pursue your goals?