Fitmark Ambassador, Jaime Michelle, talks about overcoming fears.
When I think back to the first triathlon I competed in back in October of 2009, I am immediately taken back to that emotional day. It was a frigid morning, with the temperatures in the low 50’s and a slight breeze, with temperatures in the chilly 30’s. I remember feeling very confident and prepared for the events that day. After all, I had practiced as best I knew how, and I was in pretty decent shape to begin with. What I wasn’t ready for, were the elements of the swim that I could not have prepared for in advance.
When the start gun sounded, I was in the water in nothing flat, sprinting full speed ahead. At that moment, the level of confidence I had on land, quickly turned to fear, panic and anxiety. When I put my face in the water, my breath was instantly gone. I couldn’t breathe. I forgot how to swim. I was being kicked in the face. I was swallowing water. It was freezing cold. I thought I was going to drown. I tried to stay afloat and not give up, continuing to advance in the water. Just moments later I made the decision to scream for assistance from the safety kayak, as I cried out in fear. Fear of drowning. Fear of not finishing. I hung on to the kayak to regroup and compose myself. I ultimately finished the race, but was completely embarrassed by my performance.
After the triathlon, I vowed I would never, ever swim again. Just thinking about the experience brought tears to my eyes and brought a physical reaction over me. I had a traumatic experience, and I didn’t know how I would ever recover from it. About 6 months later, my husband encouraged me to go to a practice triathlon with him out at the lake. It took a lot of convincing and encouragement to get me out there, but I eventually made it. I completed that night’s swim, crying the entire way. The following summer, I took swim lessons through my gym, simply to get more acclimated with the water and to become more comfortable. Since my first triathlon, I can say with pride, that I have completed 8 triathlons, including one in the ocean waters of Santa Cruz. It is an amazing feeling to know that I faced a fear head on, took action, and overcame it.
Overcoming fear is one of the most rewarding gifts we can give ourselves. When we live in fear, we are left powerless over whatever it may be. For me, it was a fear of the open water, and ultimately a fear of drowning. To overcome that fear, I had to DO IT. I had to practice and expose myself to the fear itself. For lack of a better phrase, “I had to face my fears head on.” It all sounds so cliché, but it is a cliché for a reason. The statement is true. A person does not make progress by standing still or avoiding their fears.
Fitmark Ambassador 2013