There is so much, about swimming the English Channel, that is out of the Swimmer’s control… the tides… the weather… the wind… the water temperature… the boat… etc. This makes it vital that anything within our control is at an optimum. Hence (amongst other things) the value of knowing your feeding schedule and having a well informed / experienced support crew and the all important training!
Training is something well within my control and as they say… “Failure to prepare is preparation to fail!”
When I enter the water to start my Channel swim I want to know that I have a strong foundation of training behind me, both physically and mentally. I will know that I have put the hours and distance into the pool (over Winter) and open water (from Spring). Someone far wiser and more experienced than myself recommended… “Have a plan… Stick to the plan!”
So I have a training plan. And so far, bar a minor set back last week which was illness induced, I am proud to be sticking to it. This takes commitment and dedication. I didn’t want to go training tonight. A combination of an emotionally draining day at work, the early, dark evenings, rain and ‘just one of those nights’, unusually, it wasn’t with enthusiasm that I thought about the training set ahead. But I still went to the pool. I still forced myself to get changed into my costume. I still ignored the voices in my head saying I didn’t want to do it. I still resisted the temptation to not bother and go home. I still made myself get in the water and I still made myself start those first few strokes. Now… once I had… I loved it! Which I knew would happen… on the drive there I kept saying to myself… “I love swimming. I love being in the water. I might not feel excited about it now… but I will love it once I am in.” And I was right. It would have been easier, though, to just go home!
What made me force myself to the pool tonight then? I wonder about this sometimes. Am I dedicated to swimming the English Channel in August? Yes! Am I committed to the hours of swimming that this involves? Yes! Am I passionate about my goal and what it takes to achieve it? Yes! Am I addicted to the training??? I’m curious where the boundary lies between being passionate and committed to something… and addicted to it.
Do I feel incredibly guilty if I don’t make training… even if I have a very valid reason, like being ill? Yes! Am I willing to sacrifice other things in my life, to put the distance in? Yes! Do I make myself turn up and swim… even if I don’t feel like I want to? Yes! Is this driven by dedication to the end goal? A love of the water? An addiction to it?
I remember a very good friend (and now successful solo English Channel Swimmer… woop!!) Saying to me last year, during her training… “I have to go to the pool and do each training session because I think, if I miss this one swim I will not make it to France.” I remember thinking (quietly to myself, and perhaps a little out loud to her!) that’s madness!! This one session won’t make a difference. It won’t matter if you miss one night in the pool. You will still get to France…
And then I started training ‘properly’ and my countdown began… and I find myself thinking exactly the same thing. I have to finish this whole set… or I won’t get to France. You can’t miss this one session… you won’t get to France. If you allow yourself to miss this session… you’ll start missing others… and then you won’t get to France.
I believe I will get to France. Because I will have done the training that I need to.
It’s important though, I think, to also keep a balance! I don’t have to train to the complete detriment of every other area of my life. My passion, commitment, dedication, whatever word I use to describe it, has to involve some sacrifice, that’s part of the challenge, but not a complete sacrifice.
I was lucky enough a couple of years ago to attend some training, at a school, by Jenny Mosley, (click on the picture below to be taken to her website).
Jenny has a theory for supporting good morale in adults… or a way of thinking to help adults have emotional wellbeing. She talks about the ‘five wells of well being’ and our need to visit and ‘top up’ all of them regularly in order to have balance in our lives. Her five wells are:
Emotional, Creative, Physical, Spiritual and Cognitive
This is similar to a lot of theories around ‘5 ways to well being’ which are:
Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give…
I thought about these a lot this weekend. My ‘Be Active’ and ‘Physical’ wells are definitely being taken care of… and a lot of time and effort is put into topping them up… I think they are actually overflowing! I decided though, that sometimes I neglect the others. Or don’t put as much emphasis on them. So I did a little, personal experiment! Over the weekend I tried to do something that would add a little to each well…
Emotional / Connect: I spent some quality time with family and with a good friend over the weekend. And I am teaching myself to be much better at the ‘quality’ aspect of this. Training means I have far less time for friends and family than I’d like, so I want to make the most of the time I do have with them. Because they mean a lot to me. This weekend that meant turning my phone off / leaving it in my bag, instead of being distracted by it when I was with other people. It was great. I was far more present. Instead on constantly multi-tasking… I did one thing. Well.
Cognitive / Keep learning: I actually started the books that have been downloaded, and untouched, on my Kindle for about 6 months now. I didn’t get loads read, but I enjoyed a chapter of a book that I have been really looking forward to, about how outdated our education system is and how it could change to better meet the needs of our children today. And for a change I actually watched the news!
Give / Spiritual: I found out (quite by accident) that my Mum was helping at our local Church Christmas Fair, to raise money for the Smile Foundation, running projects in Romania. So, instead of rushing off to be somewhere else, I went along with her and helped out on a stall. It was fun and meant I got to hit two wells at once!
Take notice: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about slowing down in life and enjoying journeys rather than always rushing to the next destination or to tick off the next thing to do. It’s amazing, when you do slow the pace, the things you didn’t even realise you were missing. Driving back from Chesterfield, to Manchester, the sun was shining through the Peak District. So I stopped at a few places on the way, and enjoyed the view. It was beautiful. It reminded me of being in New Zealand and going on long drives just to enjoy the beauty of nature and the scenery. I particularly loved watching gushing waterfalls and over flowing streams that were bursting from all the extra rain. The sound was fantastic!
Creative: A couple of weekends ago I changed a room in my house to be able to help with this one. I do love being creative. I love to paint and collage and use clay… but I don’t often make time for it. Now I have everything out, instead of in boxes, so I can get stuck in when I have a spare ten minutes. So instead of being in front of the TV, after a long session training, on Sunday night I started a collage inspired by the views from my earlier drive. It was really relaxing… and meant my head was much clearer when I went to bed… so I slept well.
It’s fair to say the weekend, in all, was one of the happiest I’ve had in a long time. I got my training done and put in the km but kept some balance on everything else too. I don’t manage this very often… but am hoping I can get more successful at it with practise!
I love to swim. I am fortunate enough to be able to train for something as exciting and fantastic as the English Channel… but I don’t want to look back and think I lost sight of myself, or other important things in my life on the way.
So… dedication? Yes! Commitment? Yes! Passion? Absolutely! Addiction? Maybe. Balance… hopefully!