Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Just keep swimming and other life lessons learned at the pool

This summer, I decided to take up swimming lessons. It was one of those life skills that passed me over as a kid. I splashed around in the pool when I was younger, of course, but never formally learned how to swim. I did take a P.E. course in college. Unfortunately, because the majority of the participants were deathly afraid of water, it mainly ended up being a class in how to minimize panic and not drown. Since I wanted to actually learn some strokes and get more comfortable with the deep end, I recently signed up. As with any new movement adventure, I learned several lessons that can apply to life.

Think, but don't think
Swimming is tough at first because it's a total body exercise. You have to engage your core, keep your hips at the surface, your kicks must be fast and hard, but not too big or too small. You have to move your feet and arms one way, while your head goes another. It's a lot of coordination. To execute everything successfully, you have to think about what you need to do next. But, you also can't overthink the mechanics so much that you stop moving. Ain't that a word? You have to be mindful and also know when to get out of your head and into action.

Know when to breathe
Now, it's obvious that in order to engage in any physical activity, you need to breathe. But with swimming, you have to breathe at the right time, because humans have this weird thing with not being able to breathe underwater without drowning. Breathe at the wrong time and you could do just that. Therefore, it's all about rhythm and timing. You have to know when to take a big inhale in, when to brace yourself and hold, and when to exhale everything out. What do you need to do in this very moment?

There's nothing there
The first time my coach took me to the deep end, I was a little nervous. I started with a flotation device and then went hands free. Once we got to the deep end, she prompted me to look at the bottom of the pool. I did. Then she smiled and said, "See. There's nothing down there." I laughed a little because I didn't even realize I imagined something was. That must be a common fear for many people. Just because my feet can't touch the bottom, doesn't mean a monster lies in wait to devour me. Not in a pool, at least. Now, in a lake or ocean, who knows. Swim at your own risk. But seriously, what fearful thing do you imagine lies beneath that might not be there at all?

Just keep swimming
Once I got some exposure therapy in the deep end, I've practiced swimming back and forth a few times. You really have to commit to the path once you move from the shallow to the deep end. You don't really have the luxury to freak out in the middle. So, if you don't want to plummet to your death, you should just keep swimming until you get to the other side. I suppose that Finding Nemo phrase was right after all. Much of life is just that, after all. Just keep moving forward and you'll get to where you're going.

There's a thin line between fear and fun
A final lesson I've learned so far took place when I was learning to tread water in the deep end. My coach looked over and said, "Fun, right?" I just nodded and smiled or maybe grimaced, I can't be sure. While I had relaxed somewhat, glad to still be alive, I hadn't exactly gotten to the fun part yet. After all, I was focused on keeping myself up in 12 feet of water. I was still in survival mode. But I've seen people thoroughly enjoy themselves in the water. I know it's possible. I just have to push through a little more fear before I get to the fun.

What ways are you challenging yourself this summer? Are you pushing your limits? Don't let a whole season go by without trying something new and stretching beyond your comfort zone. There's so much to learn when you humble yourself to acquire a new skill. You might even get a new mantra out of it. Apparently, mine for the summer is just keep swimming.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Don't wanna? Do it anyway!

It's been one of those weeks. It hasn't been bad, by any means. I've just felt drained and low energy and haven't wanted to do much. Unfortunately, for me, I've had a lot to do. Blowing things off wasn't an option. I had to push through.

It's been a bunch of small things. I had forgotten I agreed to sub a Zumba class on Monday. That meant I had to cancel my personal swimming lesson, which frustrated me a little. But, I had committed to it weeks ago, and therefore, I had to follow through. I also ended up teaching for just two people for my Wednesday class, even though I hoped we could cancel and I could go home early. But, I had promised a student a special birthday fitness mix and I knew it meant a lot to her. Therefore, I pushed through. I had a few other appointments this week that aren't usually on my schedule, making for longer days and less personal recovery time. And even as I write this, I'm facing some other upcoming obligations that I'm not looking forward to. But once again, if called upon, I have to step up to the plate and fulfill those as well.

Part of the issue is that I over-extended myself. I obligated myself to a bunch of extra things and found myself resenting it later. That's on no one but me. I'll modulate my time and energy better next time. In the meantime, I have to honor my commitments.

I recognized the value of this even more when I was talking to friends on Twitter this morning. We were discussing how frustrating it is when people don't follow through or make good on their word. It not only erodes personal trust; it bodes poorly on your professional brand. All we really have in this life is our name and our word. Why sully them by being a flake?

If courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway, then discipline is not feeling it at all and doing it anyway. Let me assure you that I have not perfected this and I don't always execute it well. I just come from a long line of relatives who instilled a suck-it-up-buttercup work ethic, which has served me well in life. Feelings were seen as a luxury and weren't taken into consideration at all when -ish had to be done. You just did it. It's about duty and honor. It's about maintaining integrity in a world that doesn't seem to require it as much.

I still have growing to do, for sure. I need to not only do what's needed but also be positive about it. And if not positive, at least neutral and not mean mug my way through it. There are no brownie points awarded for doing stuff with an attitude. But hey...progress, not perfection right?

It's hard to do what you don't want to do and to not do what you do want to do. Human nature would rather only do what feels pleasant. It would rather do whatever it feels like doing in the moment, regardless of what previous commitments were made. But a disciplined person, one of honor and integrity fulfills commitments even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4). Basically, he or she intentionally does what needs to be done whether it's easy or not.