Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic

It has been said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I definitely have this incessant need to plan and re-plan and re-work a plan. (It’s just necessary when things don’t go according to…er…plan!) Well, that’s partially from my parents too (they are expert planners) but I think I just like to plan because without a plan, I get uneasy about the unknowns, and thus just panic.

And I’m not the type to panic on the outside. I think I’ve done it once and it was not about swimming or anything. It was a trauma trigger but I can remember a few physiological changes — my breathing got shallow, my hands started getting clammy, my head was pounding, I had an impending need to remove myself from the situation and get a move on. Once I was en route to my escape I felt a little better but took some time to regroup and reflect.

Well, my panic in the water is a little different. It’s taken me a long time and many, many laps to get comfortable in a pool that’s only 4 feet deep. I can still remember when I tried to swim by myself at the Hollywood 24 Hour Fitness and I’d generally only stay 15-20 minutes at a time. Huffing and puffing, I’d “cheat” by doing the backstroke for half my laps. I remember feeling uneasy if other people were in the pool, so I’d make it a point to head there really really early before the rush of actresses and models made their way to the gym.

I put off swimming for a long while, focusing on my run instead. (The times and deadlines themselves to cross the finish line induced far less panic. And technically I could take my sweet time!) However, when I moved to Seattle, I vowed to do things differently. I wanted to get in the pool more frequently. I wanted to get more open water swimming in. I wanted to get over my fear of the water, and I think I’m part of the way there. I started working with my coach to get myself in the pool more regularly, and have a pair of scrutinizing eyes on my form. It’s helped a lot, and without him I certainly be where I’m at today.

This coming weekend there’s an open water swim that I’ve been eyeing — the Animals Only swim in Puget Sound. 55 degrees sounds freezing but the swim is short (only half a mile) and it says we hug the shore. It also seems like a fairly organized event, since they have a series of outdoor swims throughout the summer. I’m trying to muster up the courage to register but I keep procrastinating. Procrastinating is the opposite of planning. Or somehow I’ve managed to plan to procrastinate this entire week.

Anywho, my main takeaway about open water swimming is — whatever you do, don’t panic. The minute you allow yourself to be engulfed by your irrational emotions, things go sideways. Stay calm, breathe, do what you’ve been trained to do, and push through it. There’s no time for panic when you’re focused on the task at hand and you know what to expect.

To help me conquer these irrational fears that still quell under the surface, I’ve been looking at joining two different open water groups — one meets on Tuesday mornings, the other on Thursday evenings. They also happen to be in different parts of town. It’ll be a bit time consuming and expensive to have to shuttle all over Seattle but I think the trade-off will be worth it. The more you do it, the less scary it seems. Well, if it doesn’t get less scary at least I will just know what to expect.

Fingers crossed! What do you do to get over your irrational fears?

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