Spoiler Alert: Chuck wrote this a while back while training for his first Iron Man. And no, he didn’t drown 🙂 He not only faced his fear, but has raised the bar significantly since then. Can you glean anything from how he did it? Share a comment after you read it with your own thoughts.
I have made a commitment to attempt a Half-Ironman coming up in Austin, TX.
In theory, preparation for an event like this is pretty straightforward: Swim a lot, bike a lot, run a lot and repeat often. I am making great progress with this method in the bike and the run and have some confidence that I will be fine in those two portions of the event.
“What about the swim portion?” you ask!
Well here I am experiencing what can only be described as an irrational fear: I am afraid that I am going to drown during the open water swim portion of the event. That’s right…
I am afraid that I am going to drown during the swim.
There, I said it out loud and wrote it down for all to see.
Let’s look at what this thought is doing to me and my ability to perform.
Most of you reading this already know that thinking like that as you enter the water to swim in practice or competition means my breathing is different, my approach is different and my ability to focus on the technical aspects of swimming are greatly diminished as I consume a lot of energy and concentration just persuading myself to continue. My crappy thinking about the swim makes my swimming worse which just reinforces my fear.
You ever let fear have an impact on your performance?
Let’s look at the possibility of my actual drowning…
You probably already figured out that the chance of my actual drowning during an event is very very very low.
I wear a self rescue device on the back of my leg that I can deploy at any time. After all there are divers present, people in kayaks and boats and literally a whole team of people who’s job it is to make sure i don’t drown. It would really dampen the number of people who sign up for their events.
So why would I worry about something that is so statistically unlikely to actually occur?
Have you ever worried about something that didn’t happen?
The truth is that the chance of my drowning is infinitesimally small. But there is a chance!
That chance is what I am focusing on as I swim…and as I train to swim…and as I think about the swim.
I know you think I am crazy for thinking it (and you are right) but does that help me? No. Telling me to stop it is not going to be effective—if I could do that, I would already have done it. I’m not an idiot. I know my thinking is self-sabotaging, but that doesn’t help me stop.
There are several things that I must do to overcome my fear.
First and foremost I have to swim more.
In other words, I have to do the very thing I fear the most.
I can do it in water that is shallow enough to make me comfortable, but I have to build the confidence in my ability to swim to the point that the fear can be brushed aside. I have to build this confidence while working towards more realistic conditions until swimming in deep open water no longer has a hold over me.
I also have to change the way I think.
I am actively overloading my brain with new thoughts about swimming. I have read everything there is to read about long distance swimming, and hired a professional triathlon coach to help me with just the swimming portion. I am swimming in open water during my practices with her beginning next week.
I also have to share my fear, which I am doing here
…and finally, I have to reprogram the way I think about this.
I have been writing affirmations about how much I enjoy swimming and reading them constantly. I have a vision of myself getting out of the water in Austin with a smile…headed up the beach to the first transition with a little smirk because of how relaxed and confident I am coming out of the water.
What does all this mean for you?
Examine what you are worrying about and see if it isn’t the same thing. Most likely what you are worrying about will never actually come to pass and the chances of it happening are very remote. You must
- face the thing you are worried about,
- learn as much as you can about how to prevent it, and
- mitigate the damage if it happens and get on with it.
Worry and anxiety only kill performance and, in the end, create negative stress in our life.
So you must re-frame the situation, write out how you want to think about it, and work to reprogram your brain.
We’re all constantly brainwashed by marketing messages, so why not use the same techniques on yourself?
Turn what you worry about into something that creates peace and comfort.
There is a lot more I would like to say about the negative consequences of all the worry and strive I see that is self induced by people. Most of us are routinely killing ourselves over irrational fears of things that aren’t really worthy of our attention.
I simply don’t have time to say more right now, I have to get to the pool to slay a demon who lives in the water. 🙂
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