A few weeks ago I asked my personal trainer Jennie if we could have a training session in the swimming pool. As soon as I started saying the words, little terrified L (who lives in my head) started screaming at me;
Why are you asking her, you know she’ll say yes! and you can’t do it, you’ll make a complete idiot of yourself, your body will disgust everyone in the pool, they’ll all laugh at you and then you’ll DROWN…. so shut up, just STOP TALKING!
But it was too late, Jennie had already said what a great idea it was, and I was committed to going.
Now, me and swimming pools don’t have a good relationship history. Oh no. The first time I went in one, I was 6 years old. The PE teacher had us all sit on the edge of the pool with our feet dangling in. I quite liked the coolness of the water on my skin and the smell of chlorine. But then one by one she and her trusted assistants pushed each of us in….
So you’ve heard the saying sink or swim? Well I didn’t do either, I just kind of thrashed around and kept going down into the water and back up again. The water hit my eyes and went up my nose with quite some force, and I took a big breath in. The next thing I remember is being sat in a grey plastic chair with a dirty white towel wrapped around me, coughing and crying, the sound of laughter echoing through my ears and the teacher telling me I was stupid for not holding my breath like she had told us to.
That’s when terrified little L (who lives in my head) decided that I wasn’t to put my face in the water again, and to be honest that seemed pretty sensible to me. We didn’t have many more swimming classes at primary school, and I refused to join in at secondary school (I was a bit of a rebel anyway). So I’ve not been in swimming pools much over the years. I did jump off the side of a boat in Thailand a bit worse for wear (it’s OK I had a life jacket on) but that’s another story.
Anyway, this is a fear I would like to conquer, so that brings us back to now. Well last Wednesday to be precise.
Challenge #1 – The swimming costume: Not the most comfortable piece of kit for most people I imagine, but for those of us with extra fat in certain places they can be a real pain in the butt – literally. I was convinced that my black costume was completely see through and that my boobs were going to bob up out of it in the water, so I wore a sports swim bra underneath. I could feel my back fat spilling over the sides of it. I don’t like my back fat, can’t wait to get rid of it. Jennie said I looked fab and didn’t pander to my self-loathing. That’s exactly what I needed – I think I looked awful, but I’ll never get to looking fab and (more importantly) feeling fab if I don’t get over my fears of what other people think of me. To be honest I’m sick and tired of letting what I think other people think about me hold me back from doing stuff I want to, aren’t you?
Challenge #2 – Breathing under water: No not breathing IN, I learnt my lesson about that a long time ago, breathing OUT. Jennie showed me how to breathe in through my nose, then bend my knees until my face was in the water and breathe out through my mouth. Little L was not happy about this I can tell you, but I did it anyway! I didn’t like it, it felt horrible, and I was terrified I was going to breathe in by mistake. It got slightly easier the more I did it but I know this is something I will need to practice, and I am determined to do it.
All the while, we walked lengths of the pool, which is 25m long and 1.2m deep, chatting about all sorts of things to take my mind off it and help me get comfortable being in the water. Did you know that even just walking in the water is a really effective workout? It’s really low impact for your joints, as the water holds a whopping 70% of your body weight, and it gives great resistance to strengthen your muscles as well as get your heart rate up. I can vouch for that – we worked out that we walked over a mile in the water.
Challenge #3 – swimming with a float: Yup I swam with a float. It was pretty scary having my face so close to the water, seeing it all around me, but I kept looking straight ahead and paddled my legs as fast as I could. ‘Am I moving?’ I kept asking Jennie. It honestly felt like I was staying on the spot I was moving so slowly. Sure enough though I made it from one end of the pool to the other! I realise that I must have looked like a right numpty, but I was so flippin chuffed with myself that I didn’t care! I think that’s what happens when you take steps to do something you’re scared of – no matter how small those steps are they chip away your fear and lift you above it. Courage breeds confidence.
Challenge #4 – getting out of the pool: Deep breath. Boobs inside costume – check, retrieve costume from bottom cheeks – check, suck tummy in and climb up the steps out of the water. This is when I realised that I had really worked out, my legs were like jelly. To be honest, it was a bit tricky getting out of the pool, I suddenly felt really heavy and very aware of being nearly naked, but hopefully this will get easier too.
Challenge #5 – the changing rooms: I don’t know about you, but I’m not good being around naked strangers (kudos to all of you naturalists out there), especially super fit toned women. And there were many of them, looking comfortable and confident in their own skin. I’m not going to lie, I did find the changing rooms intimidating. Thankfully the facilities were good; with individual shower cubicles and a few private changing cubicles too. Of course I grabbed one of those! But you know what I noticed? Despite feeling that everyone would be staring at my fat body with disgust, no one was actually looking at me, they were too busy looking at themselves, and I don’t blame them they were gorgeous! If, no when, I’m
fit and toned body confident I shall look at myself in changing room mirrors too, no matter what size I am.
So that was my first time truly tackling my fear of swimming, and in spite of everything that I was worried about and scared of, I’d actually had fun. Having Jennie by my side helping and encouraging me made all the difference. I did much more than I thought I would be able to do.
What are you scared of doing that you’d like to do? I challenge you to take a step towards it, you might just discover that, like me, you are stronger than you think!