A master class in dealing with fear

A master class in dealing with fear

My UK-based running girlfriend Katha never ceases to amaze.

Despite being aquaphobic, she has pushed herself to overcome her fear, so as to be able to compete in triathlons.

Please read this excellent from-the-heart account of the latest milestone she has achieved, and we can all of us apply the message she shares here – “beyond fear there’s success”!

Whether it’s running or swimming or rock-climbing – whatever the challenge – we ALL have moments of fear and doubt.

Can I do this? Am I strong enough? Can I go the distance? Will I succeed? Will I fail? Make a fool of myself?

We’ve all been there.

So Katha’s mantra “Dar ke aage jeet hai” – from a popular Indian ad song, by the way – works for every one of us.

Enjoy this inspirational story from a fellow runner 🙂

I did my first open water swim race yesterday. I managed to swim the 500 m course at one go in Ullswater lake without having a panic attack!

I am aquaphobic. When I realised that I am petrified of deep water, I learnt to swim—back in 2010 in a local school pool in Delhi. I used to wake up at 5 am to do the 6-7 am session before work every morning.

I kept at it even after we moved to the UK. In fact, my husband, Dave and I started to do triathlons after moving here.

Over the years, my technique and endurance improved significantly, but my fear of deep, unfamiliar water (say, even a different pool) never left me. I even considered CBT. But following my research I learnt that the only way to overcome it is to do it.

It is a shame because I actually love swimming. And having recently been diagnosed with a condition that flares up now and again rendering me incapable of even walking, I have found my therapy in swimming. It’s the only activity that helps to alleviate the pain and gets me better. So I now know that if there one activity I will be able to do all my life, it is swimming, even though running is my first love.

Being driven by goals and challenges, last August I decided to ‘crack’ open water swimming. Partly it was fuelled by a sense of competition, jealousy even.

Dave has always been a stronger runner and cyclist. Swimming was my little edge over him. But with hardwork and determination he progressed remarkably and managed to do an Olympic distance triathlon (involving 1500 m swim in a lake) last year.

So last August, with hands on support and truckloads of encouragement from friends and our triathlon buddies, I managed to complete my target—the 500 m circuit in Capernwray. (It is a quarry which is now used as a diving and swimming centre. It’s a beautiful spot where most of our tri club buddies train.)

As it got colder, open water swimming season pretty much ended after that. We got back to it in May this year. I was relieved to find that even though I had a panic attack now and again in open water, I managed to overcome it by trusting myself and my training.

In order for me to keep at it, we signed up for the very well organised and supported Ullswater Epic Swim Events this year. Dave signed up for a mile and me, a doable 500 m.

Leading up to it, we spent a week in the Lake District. We couldn’t have asked for better weather! It has been sunny throughout and every lake was warm and welcoming—very different to the 11-12 degrees in Capernwray where the fear of hypothermia messed up a couple of my swim sessions this year.

So we swam in a different lake every day. With Dave swimming alongside, I managed to go further and further out of my comfort zone.

Our swim in the beautiful Bassenthwaite was the turning point for me. Dave had to do a tri session, so he pretty much left me after the first 10 minutes.

I panicked as soon as he was out of ear shot and I found myself far away from the shore with no one within ‘screaming distance’.
Immediately, I had jelly legs and I started to hyperventilate. Instead of treading water or going on my back, I stiffened up —as if that would help get over the fact that I couldn’t touch the ground beneath me. They were crucial few seconds, I knew what to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew if I didn’t pull myself together soon, I would be in a mess. I pulled my tow float (it can be used as a floatation device) and hugged it to calm my breathing, then I unclenched my body and sort of let it go. With my breathing back to normal, I started swimming again, humming ‘Dar ke aage jeet hai (beyond fear, there’s success)’ until I reached the shore.
Then there was no stopping. I swam for the next 2.5 hours, doing over 2 miles in this beautiful lake. Not that I didn’t have more ‘moments’, but I just knew how to ‘handle’ the situation.

Armed with the confidence that swim gave me, I head to the race yesterday. (I didn’t sleep well the night before as I broke broke into cold sweats just thinking about it. And I went to the loo half a dozen times on the day!)

Dave’s race was first and he did brilliantly. For the first time, he was able to do a continuous swim for that distance.

Then I went in, putting my faith in my training, my new found confidence and the ‘safety net’ of fellow swimmers and the fantastic water safety team around me. And I did it. I completed the course easily without a single moment of panic.
It’s a huge milestone for me. Not something I’d have contemplated even a year back.

I am still far from jumping into a lake when I see one, or even going without the ‘safety blanket’ of a wetsuit or tow float or when no one’s around, but I am super happy. Dar ke aage jeet hai.

WHAT a great story of tackling fears and overcoming them.

Katha, as ever, thank you SO much and #keepinspiring.

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