One might be surprised to hear that after doing a number of Sprint Triathlons, this was still a problem for me – but alas that’s the truth.
Until this spring. Enter J’lene Bradley: water warrior, polar plunger, lifetime swimmer and a very caring and determined friend.
J’lene had witnessed my training for the Sprint last year, and my “technique” was a cross between front crawl and dog paddle – she said she would need a chiropractor if she swam like that for more than five minutes!
When she heard that I completed the swim with a mere 30 seconds to spare before the cutoff time, J’lene was insistent that this was not going to happen in 2023.
“This is the year you are going to learn to swim!” she declared, and then pointed out that I was the author of a book called The Try Angle – A New Slant on Life, she made me swallow my own pill!
We planned a date to meet at our local recreation center; if you were there that evening, you would have noticed us – we were the only adults in the kiddie pool without kids.
I was scared, but J’lene was determined. We sat in the car for a while unpacking my fears and talking about what would happen in the pool.
J’lene had spent countless time poring over YouTube “how to teach an adult to swim” videos, she had drawn up a lesson plan and she even put it in a plastic sleeve so it wouldn’t get wet by the pool – she was so invested in my success that I felt like I really had to try so as not to let her down.
I looked at myself in the change room mirror; with my Speedo one-piece swimsuit, my swim cap and goggles, I looked like a swimmer … even though I didn’t feel like one.
We began from square one: holding my breath, pancake hands, her guiding me through the steps and through the water. J’lene was a wonderful, encouraging teacher and I tried my best to be a good student.
You know when someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself?
It was like that: like her certainty that I could learn to swim properly, that I could overcome a lifetime of fear about it, was so much stronger than my doubt that I couldn’t learn it. I had to do it.
At the end of two hours, I had swum multiple lengths of the pool – full-on head-in, head-out lengths – like a grownup! I was so happy; I was close to tears.
I went back a few days later and the week after that just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming!
I’ve gone to the pool almost every week since then. When I am on the road for work, I take advantage of the hotel's swimming pools. I dress up like a swimmer, leave my nose plugs behind and while I can’t “dive” in (yet), I slide in confidently and begin my laps.
Each time, it brings me close to tears, to be able to do something I had struggled with my whole life; something I never thought I would be able to do. I am full of gratitude for both my friend and the fact that I finally overcame this fear.
My “teacher” said I have beautiful strokes and I’m so excited to make her proud and complete the swim portion of the sprint with more than 30 seconds to spare. I hope she can take great satisfaction in helping me enjoy the water on a whole new level.
Turning the table to you...
What is it that you want to learn? The mindset shift is often harder than the physical shift, but we can do hard things. The best time may well have been 20 years ago, but as they say, the second-best time is now!
Who can you go to for support? There may be someone close who believes in you more than you believe in you. Tell them what you want to do. Tell them how they can support you. Ask them for what you need. Don't have that person? Join a group of like-minded people - in-person or online - it's amazing how quickly people can connect when working on a common goal. Seek and ye will find! When you are ready - make the teacher appear!
Who needs your support right now? Maybe this is your cue to step up for someone else who needs you to believe in them right now.
Cheering for you, as always, Steph : )
PS - Next GoodeNewsLetter I will let you know how the triathlon went!
J'lene and I (and the geese) doing some training. Photo credits Leah Grey