Affirmations. Funny little things and not something I had ever really thought about or paid any attention to until I was introduced to them by the wonderful Sherryl, a friend I met on my coaching course.
Apparently, affirmations work by reprogramming the subconscious mind which doesn’t know the difference between fact or fiction. It’s the reason why you feel scared whilst watching a scary movie or cry at an emotional one because the brain can’t differentiate between what is your reality and the non-reality of what you are watching on the big screen. If affirmations are said (or written) often enough it reprograms the brain into believing it’s true.
As I was struggling to get the hang of ocean swimming I was willing to give anything a try!
I absolutely love swimming and having done a fair amount of swimming while growing up I was a confident swimmer. Family holidays would find me spending ‘just a little bit more time’ in the pool or sea. trying to persuade my mum that it wasn’t time to come out, and no I wasn’t cold despite my blue lips!
And then things changed.
In December 2013 I heard the tragic news about Buffy, a wonderful friend from uni who had lost her life whilst playing in the sea. Buffy was the friend I used to surf, swim, longboard, laugh and study engineering with so although we hadn’t been in touch for years I really was knocked for six.
I wasn’t aware of the other impact this news had on me until I arrived in Sydney over a year later. As I waded into the water for a quick dip I realised that rather than enjoying playing in the small waves I was terrified of them. My healthy respect for the ocean and ease in the water had been replaced with sky-high fear levels.
Keen to rediscover my love of waves and to get into ocean swimming, something I theoretically knew that I would love, I needed to find a way to conquer this.
So I tried every trick I could think of…
Affirmations, listening to inspiring podcasts on my way to the beach, focusing on my breathing as I was swimming, telling myself I was okay, telling myself to relax, telling myself to enjoy this amazing opportunity. I talked it through with Sherryl in a coaching session and also worked on my swimming technique through swimming classes at my gym. Step by tiny step I did improve, hitting some key milestones along the way.
On Saturday as I swam out to the first mark on my second ever ocean swim race at Toowoon Bay I felt an unwanted and completely unwarranted bit of panic bubble up. I couldn’t quite see the mark, there were swimmers all around me, we had only just started and already I was feeling tired, how on earth was I going to make 2km? Maybe I was silly to have thought I could do this whole race freestyle, I would just do my more comfortable but slower breaststroke.
Then the words ‘I am an ocean swimmer’ popped into my head completely unexpectedly. Seems that all that time I spent using that affirmation had had an impact on my subconscious! Ha ha, yes I thought, I am an ocean swimmer, I am going to do this!
From that point onwards I relaxed in the water and enjoyed my swim. As I crossed the top marks on my second lap I got into a tussle with another swimmer, she was overtaking me but seemed determined to overtake on the bit of water I was already swimming in! Buffy came to mind and I wrily pushed back against this cheeky swimmer for a while before letting her overtake on the bit of water she seemed so desperate for, I was here to finish not to compete! However, with Buffy and her competitive nature in mind, I did speed up and push that little bit harder for the rest of the race.
In my blog last week I looked ahead to the race wondering how I would get on.
- Can I beat last years time? Hell yes, by 13 minutes 47 seconds!
- Can I not be the slowest in my age category? Yes! I was 4th out of 5 ladies this year, compared to 11th out of 11 last year. I wonder where all the extra 30-39-year-old ladies went!
- Can I swim the whole 2km freestyle? Yes! which sets a record for me as that’s by far the longest distance I have ever swum freestyle without lapsing into a bit of breaststroke
More importantly, I enjoyed the race and felt completely comfortable in the water for the vast majority of it. And completely unexpectedly I was only 14 seconds off 3rd place!
So, fact check… I’ve got the goggles, the swimming hat, the swimming costume tan lines, a group of amazing ocean swimming friends, I swim in the ocean regularly and I have completed two 2km ocean swimming races… I guess I AM an ocean swimmer!
Buffy, that swim was for you! I’m working towards a third place next year with you in mind.
I specialise in helping people overcome their fear, procrastination and overwhelm so they can develop a winning mindset and take on challenges that once felt impossible. If you could do with a little mindset boost then get in touch and let’s see how I can help you out!
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right” Henry Ford