Sunday, June 20, 2010

All in My Head

Back in the safety and comfort of my local swimming pool this morning, after my rather scary swim in the lake yesterday, I found myself wondering what it was that made swimming in the lake feel so very different.

Some things are obvious: I was wearing the wetsuit for the first time and it will definitely take some getting used to. It makes you more buoyant so you're swimming at a different angle in the water and that feels strange.

Also, it was a pretty windy day and I was swimming back against the wind, which made progress feel very slow and that does feel scary.

My friend David was telling me last night about a time when he was near Dubrovnik, in his early twenties, and decided to swim to an island which looked near.

It wasn't - it was two miles away and he arrived there, very tired, and knowing he would have to swim back again. On the way back he found a pine cone in the water and kept throwing it ahead of him and swimming to it and throwing it again, and that made him know that even though his progress was slow, he was making progress and finally got back. Now that's a scary story!

But there are things that happen all the time in the pool which seem so much scarier in the open water.

For example, I swim breast stroke with my face down in the water in between each stroke, and occasionally I may swallow a bit of water and splutter a bit. In the pool this doesn't bother me. In the lake, if that happened I thought "I'VE SWALLOWED SOME WATER! OH NO I'M GOING TO DROWN!"

When I'm swimming in the pool, I don't stop at the ends for a rest - I just turn and keep going. But I could stop if I needed to - and that, in the middle of the lake, is the scary thing - you can't stop. So there's always that feeling of "I CAN'T STOP IF I NEED TO - OH NO I'M GOING TO DROWN!" And, of course, I couldn't see the bottom either - but I knew it was dark and deep, which is frightening. One thing that didn't worry me was fear of any of the creatures which live in the lake - I know there wasn't anything that could actually hurt me.

Finally, there was a feeling of breathlessness - - of not quite being able to get enough breath. I noticed this morning something that I've never noticed before - and it's that I'm slightly out of breath all the time I'm swimming in the pool. But I don't notice - because it doesn't matter. One of the other swimmers in the lake yesterday commented on this feeling of breathlessness and I think, again, it's that you're right out in the middle of the lake and thinking "I CAN'T GET MY BREATH - OH NO I'M GOING TO DROWN!"

I don't have any of this stuff going on in my head when I'm swimming in the sea, and I think it's because I've always swum in the sea, and I don't go too far out, and I know to watch out for big waves, and I'm used to it.

So I need more practice in open water, so I get used to swimming in lakes too. Swimming in open water can be dangerous, of course - but I need to get rid of all those fears that are in my head and not real, so that I can concentrate on looking out for any real dangers that there might be - - and also, to concentrate on enjoying it.

When I first started swimming a mile (64 lengths) in the pool, back in November, I was slightly nervous about that, because I'd always swum a kilometre (42 lengths) before.

Now sixty-four lengths seems a breeze. This morning I did seventy, and that was no problem either. So I'm going to start swimming slightly longer distances, to give myself confidence.

My friend Ruth did a tandem parachute jump yesterday and raised a lot of money for charity in the process. Jumping out of a plane? Now that, to me, would be frightening.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the temperature of the water could be a factor in the breathlessnes - as a result of the 'gasp reflex' you get when first dropped into cold water. (Google it...)
Seawater may not be so bad... because you probably get in more slowly and also the body is more bouyant in salt water so less scariness about what happens when you stop swimming in the middle.

9:00 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

Since you brought it up I am shamelessly going to plug my page - - for me there was absolutely no fear in jumping/falling out of an airplane. But swimming in open water - that is scary!

10:04 pm  
Blogger Debby said...

"but I need to get rid of all those fears that are in my head and not real, so that I can concentrate on looking out for any real dangers that there might be"

Wow, very deep.

No pun intended.

I think I shall borrow this.

11:06 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

You have described my fears exactly, to perfection.

But just how do you know that there is nothing in the lake that could actually hurt you? Nessie has relatives everywhere, you know.

2:00 pm  

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