This is a guest post by my friend Jt Clough at Big Island Dog. Enjoy and be inspired to live a bold life!
Fear stops so many of us from even beginning to get what we want out of life. Most of us don’t even know what our fears are and tend to walk away or hide from as many of them as possible.
I have found that facing my fears head-on leads me to a much more passionate life. Though it has not been easy and it has taken lots of practice, I’ve done it consistently enough that I’ve completely overcome some pretty amazing fears. And now I love sharing how to do the same with others.
The latest one that took a lot of courage was selling my comfortable home in San Diego and giving away most of my things in order to move to Hawaii. I wanted to create my own paradise. My journey to getting through big fears like selling a home and moving across an ocean started long ago, but one of the major starting points in that journey is when I learned to swim.
Learning to Swim at Age 32
Most people don’t take on a lot of completely new activities after age 30 or so, especially not something like swimming.
A friend of mine asked me to do a triathlon with her. I was 32 years old at the time. My friend and I had already been on several adventures together. We had run the Honolulu Marathon, gone to Taos, New Mexico on a road trip, and did things like go snowboarding out of bounds.
I remember her being absolutely shocked when I told her I’d give it a try. I knew that the bike competition and the run would be just fine, but I had my doubts about the swimming portion of a triathlon.
It was only 400 yards, so we didn’t really practice. The lake water was cold and we figured there was no real reason to train for only a 400 yard race. We’d done endurance sports far beyond that, so I felt confident that this would not be that difficult.
Race day arrived and there I was, ready to go with my bike and my running shoes. I’ve always been a runner and I loved riding my bike.
I stood on the swim start line with my nerves going full speed ahead. My heart was pounding. I felt weak. I had to go to the bathroom. I felt sort of sick. I asked myself more than once exactly what I was doing there. The negative talk in my head continued, and then the start gun went off.
I ran for the cold water with about 100 other people at the same time. I plunged into the water, but very quickly started to falter. I started kicking wildly and tried very hard to make my arms keep me afloat. I could no longer feel anything that resembled stability. I was gulping water, I felt like I was going nowhere, and I was getting run over by other swimmers. I started to panic.
I couldn’t touch bottom, I couldn’t breathe very well, and I felt like I was going to drown because I could not get myself to move forward. That’s when my survival instinct kicked in. I starting kicking my feet like crazy and began to dog paddle.
I dog paddled the whole 400 yards. I was scared the entire time. It was awful. I never wanted to feel that way again. I was weak when I stood up. I was dizzy. I felt unsteady on my feet, like I was going to fall over if I tried to move onward. Then I just made myself stop and I started to concentrate only on breathing.
I soon realized that the hard part was over. I had survived! I told myself that all there was left was the easy stuff. I knew I was good at biking and I knew I was really good at running, so off I went.
I ended up second in my age group after being the last one out of the water.
The Quest to the Ironman
I was so excited about the rest of the race that I decided to learn how to swim. I went to the pool and got in a masters class and I just kept doing it.
At first it was really horrible. I still couldn’t get my breath. I was the slowest one. I had to learn a whole new way. It was frustrating. There were times I wanted to just give up, but I persevered, because in the back of my mind, I was cultivating the idea of doing a half Ironman.
So I kept swimming. Even though it was a very awkward, unnatural feeling almost every time I got in the water, I kept with it. Over time, it became less awkward and more natural.
I participated in some small races and then a half Ironman and worked up to entering my first Ironman. It was in Canada. It was beautiful and I truly did not know if I could make the 2.4 miles swim at that point, but I was certainly going to give it my best!
The swim course was set up with huge orange buoys relatively close together. So I made a plan in my mind – I was only going to concentrate on getting from one buoy to the next.
That is just what I did. I was still afraid, but as I put each buoy behind me, I knew I was closer to the finish line and it really wasn’t that bad. I was on my way to the bike and the run, two things I knew I could do well.
I came close to qualifying for the World Championships at that first Ironman and after that, it was on! I wanted it! So I entered my next one – Ironman New Zealand. And I went to work on my swimming technique.
I did it one lane length after the next in a pool, consistently until it became almost effortless. I kept facing the fear. I kept practicing “just do it anyway.” And finally it became easy, I had swam through my fear.
Losing My Fear
I went on to participate in a total of nine Ironmans. Two of those were the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. I had finally embraced my fear and defeated it. I came to absolutely love what I was doing.
Now, I live in Hawaii and swim in those magical waters most days. I swim and feel so comfortable it is as if I have entered a mermaid world and I take absolute joy in the comfort of the healing waters surrounding the Big Island.
I live in a beautiful paradise, but it would not have been possible had I simply walked away from my fear. Instead, I embraced it, conquered it, and discovered that it no longer held any power over me.
Jt Clough is a 9 time Ironman finisher, change maker, lifestyle coach, author and creator of 5K Training Guide | Running with Dogs and writes at Big Island Dog She encourages you to make that change you want so badly today!
The winners of Successful Blogging In 12 Simple Steps are Suzie, Surabhi, and Steven, and the winners of Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions are Christopher and John.
Is there a fear you would like to overcome? How can we help? Please share below.