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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Courage Comes In All Distances And Ways In The Water

Channel swimmers are the apex of the open water swimming world.

They swim the further, sacrifice the most, endure the longest, and encounter the toughest conditions possible. Whether in the English Channel, they face the cold, or in the tropics, they face sharks and jellyfish. In some locations as in the Cook Strait or Cape Town, they face everything: cold, currents, marine life.

They epitomize courage, commitment and character. They are the pillars of the open water swimming community.

But on the other end of the spectrum, new adult swimmers also show courage, commitment and character. At a corporate swimming wellness program in Long Beach, California, adults who had never before learned how to swim bravely faced their inabilities and previous fears. Knowing they cannot swim and knowing the threat of drowning for themselves and their children, they stepped up to the pool deck and committed themselves to become water-safe.

It takes courage. It takes determination and fortitude to start something that has gripped you in fear for your entire life. For some, it is sky-diving. For others, it is learning how to read or drive. Whatever it is, the new skill or activity makes your heart pound or your skin perspire. Your breathing becomes shallow and you stress on everything that can go wrong as you step up to face your fear. It's scary, no two ways about it.

For some who have never swum in their adult lives, their fear comes from a traumatic experience in their early lives. Their fear is deeply embedded in their DNA and may have been rooted they were at a pool with their friends or at the beach with their parents. At some point, they entered the water - willingly or unwillingly - and nearly drowned. They felt themselves sinking with a desperate feeling that their chest was caving in and life as about to end. After they were either saved by a friend or a parent, or came to the surface by their own frantic efforts, they vowed never to swim again. They saw their life nearly end in the water. They would do anything to avoid a similar situation and happily said on land. Even the thought of standing in ankle-deep water causes hyperventilation, perspiration and palpitations among those with the greatest phobia.

Others, just never had the opportunity to learn, and simply fear the unknown. Rather than take a chance, they played it safe and take onshore or on the pool deck never to even purchase swimwear, let alone change into a swimsuit.

And a few simply have aquaphobia, a persistent and abnormal fear of water - one of the most common types of phobias. People suffer aquaphobia in many different ways and resolve their fears through different means. In Long Beach, we found several women who feared getting water splashed on their face even while taking a shower or while taking a bath. Others covered their face with a towel while bathing.

So when these individuals vow to finally learn how to swim and endeavor to become comfortable in the water, the process will take time, but it is refreshing and encouraging to see their courage and willingness to face their fears. They are, at once, both hopeful and disbelieving they will achieve their goals. Patience and understanding are the key to helping these individuals learn how to stay afloat, breathe and move safely in the water.

They are often joined with similarly-minded friends or co-workers. They may walk away from the pool on their first try. They may stifle a cry or shed a tear when they first step into the pool. But with a drive that can only come from within, they gradually get over the mental obstacles and learn the basics of movement in the water.

Just as the marathon swimmers show a rare, fierce courage to cross a channel and overcome cold, tides, currents, marine life and waves, the newbies are similarly courageous to take their first stroke.

And just as the smile of channel swimmers are so wide and genuine as they stand onshore after a successful swim, so too are the smiles of newbies who cross the pool for the first time en route to joining the global swimming community.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:
https://www.worldopenwaterswimmingassociation.com/preview-open-water-swimming-almanac


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