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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nadia Ben Bahtane Takes Her First Step To Gibraltar

Nadia Ben Bahtane has a life story that could be like many others.

But she has an inner drive that is rare.

Nadia dreams of becoming the first Moroccan swimmer to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. In addition to her role as a mother and Marketing Director at an international corporation, she has set her sights on crossing in 2014.

But first, she had to prove to herself and her coach Daniel Pagés that she could take the first step. So Nadia entered the 6 km event at the Swim the Costa Brava event, and completed the swim with flying colors and a huge smile.

Relentlessly upbeat and always positive, Nadia shares how the traditions of her native land and the customs of her culture are compatible with open water swimming training and consistent with her dream to achieve her personal goal of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.

Aida Molina for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is your position within the company you are currently working for?

Nadia Ben Bahtane: I am the Group Marketing and Communications Director for the Moroccan leader in the outsourcing Industry with about 3,300 employees in 8 locations around Morocco and France.

Aida Molina for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How does having an important job position and being a mother at the same time affect your daily routine?

Nadia Ben Bahtane: I will be very honest … the dual roles are not impossible, but it is often tough and sometimes frustrating when I have to drop my training sessions because of other constraints. But my priorities are very clear. My little girls always come first especially because they are still very young and they need me at home.

I try to be very well-organized. I know in advance what I have to do in terms of training during the week. I try to fit them into my global schedule. So depending on my girls’ schedule and work constraints, I train very early in the morning when I don’t have to take care of school.

Sometimes it’s at lunch time or after 8:30 pm when my girls are already sleeping. I train when I can. Usually long sessions are left for Saturday mornings. Sunday is completely free and fully dedicated to family. But sometimes, I have to skip a session because of a family gathering or because my girls need me or because of work emergency or a meeting that lasts longer...I try to recover the session somehow. If not, it is lost and that’s it. These are the moments when I have to remind myself that I am not a professional athlete training for the Olympics. Also I try to have objectives that are consistent with my current position as a mother and my professional status. Of course I´d love to do more. It will come someday.

The toughest part is finding time to recover from hard sessions. Once a session is over, I am again a mother and a Marketing Director … and I rarely can afford rest time. Sport is not just a hobby for me. It is the key to my global life balance. Since last year I have been trying to set little challenges. So if I want to keep swimming and running I just need to deal with all the rest.

I think I am fortunate to be addicted to sport. And I am aware that it’s a chance to be able to have great experiences combining travel and participation in sport events. Finally, I am very lucky to have inspiring people around me or stories I hear about great sport achievements. But the most important of all, I am blessed to have the support of “my special ones”.

Aida Molina for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is your personal opinion if all of this effort is often worth it in the long run?

Nadia Ben Bahtane: Definitely yes. The commitment brings a healthy balance to my life at both the physical and emotional levels. And it’s very self-rewarding when my goals are achieved. Training for a goal also helps to establish personal discipline and to build determination and willingness. And I am proud when my girls say I'm athletic and that they also want to do the same. I am deeply convinced that sport contributes positively to children's upbringing.

Aida Molina for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do the religious practices, such as Ramadan, affect your performance?

Nadia Ben Bahtane: Last year and this year I had a training program during Ramadan. It was a bit difficult due to fasting during summer. The days are longer and sometimes very hot. And training after fasting (that is, no food and water) for 16 or 17 hours and waiting for one hour before being able to drink and eat. This can seem impossible. But it is possible. We discover the resources we have hidden inside ourselves. Two years ago if you would have asked me to swim 5 km during Ramadan, my answer would have been NO WAY. But now I can tell it is fine. It’s definitely tougher than during normal days, but it is doable.

Of course, some extra precautions should be taken, such as being more attentive and to listen to your body. Definitely it’s not the moment to take any risks or try any unusually intense training sessions. If you feel weak, then skip the session or leave it for after breakfast. Some extra efforts are also to be made in terms of nutrition in order to correctly refuel the body.

Aida Molina for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Is it difficult for women in Morocco to overcome these sorts of challenges?

Nadia Ben Bahtane: Well, a great phenomenon is taking place in Morocco: more and more people are training for half marathons and marathons. Unfortunately, swimming and more specifically open water swimming is not a common sport. Very few people are aware of it or practice it. There are no organized open water swimming events in Morocco despite its beautiful coasts along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea so there are almost no opportunities to train in real conditions. I hope it will change with professionals who may have interest in [swimming in] Morocco.

Aida Molina for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When do you foresee you will take up the challenge of swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar Strait?

Nadia Ben Bahtane: I have been talking about this for years, but I was not ready yet. However, I know I am now [after the 6 km Swim the Costa Brava event].

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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