Doing Hard Things

Here’s what I wrote in my journal this morning:

Very good sleep – though I almost stayed in bed. Not because I’m tired – but because I was looking for an excuse to not go and do my 3,500 meter swim. But I’m up and getting ready to go. Bit slower than planned, but I’ll get there and do it. Swim goals for 3,500 meters: bilateral breathing (remember to breathe out of my mouth), punch in the gut (tighten core), relax (no reason to panic, I can do this, this is mental more than physical).

And then when I got to the river I sent Marc a text, I wrote:

Starting in about 10 minutes. Feeling nervous.

When I got in the water I had to give myself a big pep talk and remind myself of my goals. And then I just started doing it. Right arm. Left arm. And repeat. Thinking about being long, relaxed, and streamlined. At points during my swim I was aware of everything – the bubbles on the water surface, the weeds, the rocks, the shoreline, and the sky.

And then at other times I was fully in the zone. It felt like I was gliding across the water with zero resistance. My breathing felt natural – like I was walking and not face down in the water.

It takes me a long time to swim 3,600 meters. Today it took me 1 hour and 41 minutes. This is a long time to be alone with my thoughts. There is no one to talk to, no music or podcasts, or anything to look at.

It’s me, the water, and my brain. I had the usual fight with my brain, working hard to quiet the irrational shouting about drowning (I wasn’t drowning!) and the weed alerts (it’s just grass under the water). For most of the swim I simply talked to myself.

Remember what Josh said about to get better you have to push through where you are. At this point, to improve you need to push your limits a bit.

Confidence comes from experience.

Imagine you’ve been punched in the gut – try to stay on top of the water.

Slow down your kicking and relax your legs. Think of your Sunday walking pace.

You’re doing it. This is awesome. Two years ago you had never swam in the open water. Three years ago you weren’t even swimming.

Reach. Relax. Breathe. Head position. Alligator eyes. Legs together. Breathe on the left side now please. Don’t forget to look where you’re going.

And then it was over. I had planned the swim so I would finish it at the buoy across from the dock. This gave me 50 meters of coasting and chilling out when I was done.

So, why am I telling you about this?

Because I think it’s important to have a reminder that everyone has doubts and struggles when they’re trying to meet goals and push their limits. I need to remember that if it’s hard for me, very likely it’s hard for those around me. It may look easy, but believe me – it’s not. There is a lot of practice and training that most people don’t know about.

This applies to everything – sports, art, writing, teaching, and anything you do for a job or fun – every day is a bit more practice, a bit more struggle, a bit more learning, and slowly you develop advanced skills that allow you to keep practicing, struggling, learning, and developing.

And here’s a photo because every blog post needs a photo…

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