You may know the feeling… Cold water and lack of oxygen jolts you: you realize that you jumped in way over your head. Limbs are flailing, lungs are gasping, and your mind can’t focus on anything but the struggle between fighting to breathe, and giving up completely…Maybe it’s just your morning shower or perhaps as I thought and did, “Hey, triathlons would be a good idea!”
This was my situation as I attempted the longest open water swim course I had ever swum.
The “swim-for-dear-life” technique is not very effective. When you are under the influence of Fear, most of your energy is wasted. I wasn’t swimming hard enough that day to really raise my heart rate. But the most powerful tool fear uses is the endless cycle of “what-ifs” and “negative thinking”.
I was not just exerting myself physically. I was also mentally spiraling back and forth between belief in myself and doubt. There was a distinct moment halfway through when I recognized that my doubts and fear had a cold grip on me.
Fear is between you and your goals and there are two things you must do.
1. Get in touch with your motivation. What is your “why” for racing? I was in this water because I had an even bigger race goal, the following month. I knew that I had freely chosen this event, had trained properly for it, and needed it in order to accomplish the bigger goal. Aligning with your original motivation for the task at hand will give you the needed courage.
2. Focus. Have a “mantra” – something to repeat to yourself that would be encouraging in times of stress. I have a favorite prayer that is short and sweet, and repeating it to myself put my strokes to a rhythm and cleared my mind.
“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” – Dorothy Bernard
About the Author: Elyssa Smith is a triathlete and distance runner. She and her husband own Runnertainment, a sportainment company that provides encouragement for runners and multisport athletes. Elyssa is now pursuing her master’s degree in counseling and sports psychology. Elyssa@runnertainment.com