Do Not Be Afraid or Discouraged...

my son Grant practicing his butterfly in Timothy Lake

by Jodi

I am abnormally afraid of snakes and drowning.  Both have consumed many a nightmare over the years.  It's no secret that nothing about swimming comes naturally to me.  There is not a swim workout where I don't try to talk myself out of going.  I'm nervous the entire drive to the pool.  The pool deck and lap lanes intimidate me.  Before I even get into the pool I'm already anticipating the joy of getting out.  Like Adam Sandler in the movie Happy Gilmore I feel like I need to tell the lifeguard, "I'm a runner but I'm swimming today." if it's not painfully obvious.

When I'm swimming I panic over the dumbest things.  Water in my nose, water in my mouth, shortness of breath, an inability to swim the distance I sent out to conquer, tired muscles, or watching the depth of the pool drop off below me all have potential to induce wave after wave of panic.

Fear lies.  It whispers to me, "You will not be okay.  When you swim in that triathlon you will not make it out of the lake alive."   If I give in to the mental turmoil that fear creates when I swim, it tortures me up and down the lane.  Sometimes it's intense enough that it chases me straight out of the pool.

I spent hours (and hours and hours) in the pool during 2009 and 2010 learning how to swim.  On an epic day in early August 2010, my husband and I completed an Olympic distance triathlon.  I thought I would continue swimming and participate in more triathlons, but those nagging fears kept me away.  I stopped swimming.
Coming out of the water alive with my husband by my side.  It's still hard for me to look at these photos and not well up with tears.  I am so blessed to adventure through life with this man.
Over the past three years I've made a few meager attempts to get back to the pool but they sputtered out quickly.  It boils down to this: I know I am capable in the water, but it's exhausting mentally to continually look fear in the face and kick it to the curb.  So I stopped practicing. Until recently.

Carissa has been diligently training for her first triathlon.  She asked me if I would join her.  Without giving it much thought, I said, "Sure."   When she picked an event in the middle of September my flippant response instantly became real.  Carissa expects me to have my butt whipped into shape to be able to complete this triathlon.  It means swimming just under a mile in open water.  The thought of the lake on race day makes my stomach sink.
peaceful water
Two weeks ago I went back to the pool.  The same lifeguard who watched me flounder through swim lessons and eventually link laps together is still working the morning shift.  He recognized me immediately, gave me a warm welcome and asked, "You training for another triathlon?"  Turns out he's a five time Ironman Triathlete and knows a thing or two about swimming.  In the days that followed he offered to help me with my technique so I can be more efficient in the water.

 Of course I was thrilled to receive his help, but I have a problem.  For me, swimming is as much of a mental discipline as it is physical.  I can't even think about working on technique until I know that I can cover the distance and won't drown.  I have to train my mind first before I can train my body.

Day One back in the pool I struggled through a half mile of swimming.  It took every fiber of my being - physically and mentally - to finish.  It was a huge wakeup call.  I have my work cut out for me.

Day Two I swam an additional four lengths of the pool.  Baby steps of improvement, but I'm just so slow.  The senior citizens I was sharing a lane with kept lapping me and there was nothing I could do about it.

Day Three I floundered.  I almost quit at every touch of the wall.  I panicked about water in my nose, about how tired I was so early into an endurance swim, and pulled my head out of the water multiple times because I kept thinking I wasn't going to be able to catch my next breath.  It wasn't pretty.  

Fear lies.  But the truth is that I am not alone in the water.  I quoted Joshua 1:9 over and over and over in my mind. "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."  The LORD my God is with me in the water.  He whispers truth and encouragement.  "Don't be afraid.  Don't be discouraged.  I am with you Jodi."

The more I trained my mind to embrace this truth, the easier it was to swim.  When I got to twenty laps, I challenged myself to swim five more.  Then five more.  As my hand touched the wall at thirty laps there was no doubt that I would swim the additional five laps to hit one mile.  After all, I was not alone in the water.  My God was breathing life and determination into me.  It took great restraint not to hoop and holler and beat the water when I finally finished a mile.  

Paige's concept of "swimming" is in line with my thinking.  Splash in the shallow water and call it good.
Now that I know I can cover the distance, I can happily embrace the coaching my lifeguard buddy is offering.  Mental training.  Physical training.  Together, hand in hand.

What about you Sole Sisters.  Does fear have a paralyzing grip on you?  Remember - you are not alone.  God is with you.  And you have an army of Sole Sisters supporting you too.  So don't be afraid or discouraged.  

Running (and now swimming) through life... together,


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