Last Friday, with a sudden burst of dutch courage (the same one that makes me do some crazy things once in a while!) I decided to go to the 50m county pool instead of my usual 25yds.
To get used to the cold, I tried the bobbing in water technique suggested at OWS clinic (not really that cold at 81F, but as usual it felt so to me at first dip.). It helped a little, but not too much so I did some backstroke to warmup. After a felt 1/4 lengths back and forth on back, I decided to make the first full length freestyle swim.
Holy panic attack!!
There is no other word to describe the sheer fear I felt. I swam about 5-7 strokes and gasped! Gasped in the water. Not a good idea. Blindly flailed my arms and tried to grab the lane divider. It took me some eternal seconds (or what felt like it) to remember to even flip on my back. I tried to catch my breath when I flipped and tried again. Repeat panic attack. Repeat flip. Rince and repeat. About 5-7 times until I reached the other end of the pool. If I had a HRM on, I am sure it would’ve been in my Zone 5!
It had taken me 14+ minutes to just get through 50m.
Once I felt that I got my heart rate sufficiently down, I decided to try again. 5-10 strokes in, panic swelled up again.
“Just 3 more strokes and you can flip”. I was trying to encourage myself.
“This is way too long. I’m never going to make it.” Ah. My negative brain just can’t shut up.
“I can last upto 1.5 hours in the pool. This is just a few more minutes.” The positive chatter was pushing back.
“You don’t have enough power. Why this new craziness instead of just swimming in the comfortable 25yds?” Negativity wasn’t giving up that easily.
“I’m strong. I’ve run a marathon. This is me wanting more, pushing for more.” Positivity was digging up a lot of strength.
“OMG. You are insane, this insanity will never end”. Panic was rising again.
“You just have to relax and la-la-la-la. Laaa-la-la-la…” Mind was singing songs to distract and found 2 songs to relax and distract and finally kick off the negative chatter.
Yes, all this conversation over 50m. Yes, I talk a lot, and yes, I took next to forever to get through the 50m.
Once I had completed one length, it wasn’t a mental block anymore. I rested 30sec every end and over the course, gradually decreased the rest intervals to where I could swim 200m without stopping. Every time something negative would pop up in my mind, I’d sing my 2 songs to relax me. Before I knew it, it was time for me to rush out.
In the short time, I did learn some things that I am sure I will find useful for future attempts –
- There will be negative chatter and positive chatter. Listen to the positive and counter the negative. Whatever you chose to believe will be the right one.
- The mind sets barriers, the body follows. The mind is a the strongest part of the human body, but also one that likes sitting back in comfort. When you are pushing your body, it is actually your mind that needs to lead.
- Create power words/mantras that you can call on when needed. Words have a magical power to bring back your mind to the present. My marathon power words have been relax, power, glide. Everytime I repeat those words, I calm myself down whenever I am stressing out during the run. While swimming, I have used “breathe” and “Just keep swimming”.
What an ordeal and mental victory it was! And I can’t wait to do it again sometime soon!!
And I am just a teeny bit excited to go out and swim in the open water too!
How do you overcome panic/fear that you know is part irrational? Do you use power words/mantras or visualization or just power through by sheer force of will?