Tag: motivation

Open Water Swim

I’ve sat down to write this post several times but each time I’ve struggled to find the words to describe my experience in my first open water swim.  When I try to sound triumphant it seems cloying, when simply describing the event it feels ordinary.

Nevertheless, I will do my best to give you an idea of what the day meant to me.

Walt Disney once said that “the real trouble with the world is too many people grow up.  They forget.  They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.”   While this may be true with some adults, it is not the case for those of us who grow up overweight.

Believe me we remember what it is like to be 12 and fat.

I wish I could forget the searing images of being bullied and called terrible names. I wish I could forget being looked over and marginalized because of something that I had little control over.

How might you ask did I emerge from childhood with a happy disposition (the blog is after all called Smiling LDS girl!)  and confident demeanor?  There are many answers including most importantly my faith but one small answer is that I found swimming.

I have always loved to swim.  In fact, anything with water has, and always will, make me happy- whether it is boating with my family or spending the afternoon at a neighborhood pool there is something about the water that is freeing.  It was also the only athletic activity which I felt competitive and that did not flair up my asthma/bad feet.

me in high school swim team photo. We changed uniforms my sophomore year which is why I got to take home the jacket I still have.

When I was in high school I decided to join the swim team and thankfully they had an open enrollment policy- meaning every student who wanted to participate could.  In my 3 years on the team I learned how to do strokes properly and competed in races where I actually turned in decent times. (I was one of the only girls that was willing to swim butterfly so that became a bit of a specialty for me!).  Its amazing how once those strokes are in your head you never forget them.  I still do my freestyle in the S shape that Coach Cowperthwaite taught me (yes, that was her name!).   In fact, it is very difficult to change any part of my stroke because it is so ingrained in my body.

Seared in my memory is also the feeling of weightlessness (a big thing for a fat girl to experience) that would overtake me upon entering the water.  I still love nothing more than diving into water, and I agree with my sister who once said- “swimming is the closest thing to flying we have on earth”.  It is freedom, it is lightness, it is happiness!

In my sophomore year I took a life guarding course and believe it or not obtained my certification.  I can’t explain what that meant for a fat girl- to complete a certification in something so difficult.  I remember in particular we had to tread for 10 minutes with a 10 lb brick, and I did it!

Anyway, back to Saturday.

I awoke bright and early to face my challenging swim.  I was a mess of nerves and emotion- what if I failed, what if I got a cramp mid-race and had to stop, what if my paddler didn’t show up or what if they had to cancel the race?  (You get the idea).

As a nod to my former self I wore my old high school swim team jacket.  (Yes, for once my pack-rat tendencies paid off! I have my old swim cap also but it has a rip).

this is my old high school swim team jacket. It says Middletown Knights on the back.

After arriving at the race I met with my paddler who was amazing.   Despite having never met, he seemed to get my story and believe in me. I am so grateful for his sacrifice of a Saturday morning sleep to help me. I told him he was my ‘guardian angel’ for the day.

My paddler Neil.

Everyone associated with the race was wonderful and encouraging.  Again, they seemed to all get that this was more then just a routine event for me. (All together I think there were about 65 racers- plus paddlers to accompany them, so it was a pretty big crowd).

Me with one of the awesome swimmers Erin

Once we gathered to begin the race the day started on a good, surprising note!  They had a raffle and I won the big prize!  (I tell you fortune was smiling upon me the whole day!).  I won a kayak!  It is a one person seated kayak that will be great for future races and trips to the lake.  I never win anything! (Thank goodness I have a van to take it home in. :))

Then the 10 mile swimmers started (can you believe that! 10 miles!), 10 k, 5 k (most popular) and finally it was time for my race.  There were 10 other swimmers for the 1 mile swim including a little girl who proudly announced “I’m going to win. My sister won and so will I”.  I think she came in second but still I admired her confidence.

With the sound of the whistle into the water I went swimming with all my heart.  I was significantly slower than my competitors but that didn’t matter to me.  I had the encouragement of my paddler and a lifetime of love for the water pushing me forward.   Plus, I could just feel the prayers and thoughts of my family, friends and trainers who have invested so much in getting me in that water.

An open water swim is both a mental and physical game.  I had done one mile swims before but never one quite like this.  About 1/3rd of the way through it felt like I would never get to the 1/2 mile marker, and the same for the last stretch.  It almost seems like a mirage and the end does not feel real until you are minutes, mere feet away.  Thankfully I had my paddler and cheerleaders on the side pushing me to keep going.

When I finally crossed the finish line I was overcome with emotions and actually started to cry.  The ending could not have been more sweet if I had finished first.

(Btw, I did make my goal to finish in under an hour by 6 minutes.  54 minutes!)

It was as if I was giving a high-five to the 12-year-old and 16-year-old me- saying we did it!  I can tell you one thing- never was any medal more well-earned or more proudly displayed than the one I received for simply finishing!

At the risk of sounding cheesy I would just like to say something to the young girls out there who feel they are without worth- you can do great things in your life.  You are valuable and important.  If I can swim a mile today and could pass that life guarding test years ago, then you can do whatever you dream of doing.  Just set a goal, gather a team to help you and go and do it.

There is no doubt that the year and half of this fitness quest has been full of difficulties but Saturday made it all worth it.  It was truly one of the best days of my life.  Thank you to everyone for your support and love.  Now on to the next race- Slam the Dam in Vegas on October 1st.  Life is good!

Thank you also to everyone who worked hard to make the event a success.  Thank you especially to my paddler Neil and to Jim Hubbard who went out of his way to make sure I could race, as well as organizing the race for everyone else.  Thank you so much.  (Also, thanks to those who donated the kayak!)

Am I Motivating?

So true!

First thing- in writing this post I am not begging for compliments or praise (not that I will refuse either :)).  It is a sincere question- Does my story make you want to get in shape or does it scare the heck out of you?

What made me start thinking of this was a conversation I had with a few friends the other day.  I realized after, I had talked about exercise a lot (my goals, upcoming race, trainer, routines, etc) and that I didn’t make it sound very appealing.  I’ve never been the kind of person that can put on a nice face, and I find it particularly hard to do so when I’m in physical pain. Like my father, I can’t seem to ‘fake it until you make it” with anything.

Exercising is HARD WORK!  It is honestly more painful and difficult than it is rewarding and exciting.  At least that is my experience. Of course, it is completely worth it and the pain does make the rewards all the more meaningful but make no mistake it is tough.

The difficult question I am having is how much of these challenges do I share with my friends and family?  I never want to discourage anyone from beginning an exercising quest, but I also feel like I would have benefited from someone giving me a heads up on how hard it was going to be.  On the other hand, I might have been scared off by people being too graphic.  (You can see how torn I am with this question!).

It just drives me crazy on television when they make it seem so easy.  Like all you do is make a few changes and poof 2 months later you are 100 lbs lighter.  If only it was that simple for me.  Granted I had some unusual health problems that may have happened regardless of my fitness quest (such as my eye surgery) but it has been one terrific obstacle after another.  (I am also by no means finished.  I have many years of hard work ahead of me to get to my end-goals and then after that I will have years of maintenance. )

I have the same struggles when talking about my mission.  I loved my mission but it was also a serious testing period.  Never was I lonelier in my life or more daily-tested mentally, spiritually and physically.  Through the loneliness I learned so much about myself and God that it was without a doubt worth it, but it was super hard.

People tried to warn me about the difficulties of a mission, but I mostly ignored their advice.  That said, most of the warnings concerned all the rules and the rejection, which to me were not the true struggles.   My mission was like a personal crucible of everything God could throw at me and as a reward He helped me find some amazing people and refine my testimony and character.

I wish someone had told me a mission was like that…

However, again I am torn because not everyone has the same mission experience.  Most people I know did, but not everyone, so who am I to warn them of something they may or may not experience?

Back to the dieting what if they get lucky and lose the weight fast (it usually is so much easier for men!  No fair!)?  Maybe my discourses will only prepare them for something they won’t experience…I don’t know?

Its the balance between preparation and discouragement which I struggle with…It truly has me puzzled?

In the end, I just want to be motivating.  I want people to look at my example both as an exerciser and a missionary and be encouraged, not discouraged.  I am sorry if I make either seem too hard or painful.  The rewards are awesome!  Nothing could be better than teaching my investigators or surfing in Hawaii.  The sweet moments make the struggles worth it one hundred times over.

How do you give advice? I know many people face the same challenge when talking about parenting.  It is easy to sound like you hate being a parent because it is so difficult but of course it is worth it to raise your children. I am sure nobody would want to dissuade people from having children when they are ready but its really hard.

How do you find that balance in giving honest counsel to friends and family? I would really love comments on this one.