This year I signed up to do the Great East Swim. 5km in open water to support The Mintridge Foundation because they do some truly incredible work increasing sports participation and improving physical and mental health of young people.
It’s not that I just dislike the cold, but it makes my pain levels much worse. I can’t handle it like most people. Even in spring I dress as though I’m ready to tackle the Arctic Circle. This is because my life is a carefully balanced operation where I avoid things that exacerbate my pain so I can achieve the things I want to do.
I was super worried how the cold water would affect me. Whether I was even going to be able to do it, whether it would cause me to cramp up half way round – or even if I was going to be able to walk afterwards.
But with the 22nd June getting closer I couldn’t put it off for much longer, so I persuaded my brother-in-law Stu to take me – if things did go wrong I wanted somebody I knew there. He arranged a trip to Capernwray Diving Centre with his running partner.
That morning doubts crept in. A part of me thought I’d made a horrible, horrible mistake in signing up to this. That I’d completely lost the plot.
At speaking events I talk a lot about fear and its impact on our ability to perform. The same emotional response that can protect us from harm can also be disempowering – paralysing even. It can take a single thought and distort, manipulate and magnify it until the challenge in front of us looks impossible to tackle. Fear is powerful enough to chain us to the safety of our comfort zone and stop us from taking action.
But we don’t have to listen to it. We don’t have to let it rule our decisions or limit our lives. Confronting our fears head on is the best way to put problems into perspective, stretch past the limitations that we put on ourselves and redefine what we think we are capable of.
So that’s what I did.
I got in the water and I really enjoyed it. The cold wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought - although two wetsuits, dry socks and warm gloves probably helped. The lake was stunning and far more interesting than bobbing around in a pool, and I’m stoked that I did it. It is easy to listen to our fears, but when we do things that scare us it feels so exhilarating and so rewarding.
Having amazing people around us also helps. My family is the best; I was joined by my Dad, my sister, brother-in-law and my dog, and I can’t thank them enough for their support. Stu kept me company, kept me laughing and stuck with my tortoise crawl, my sister leant me her wetsuit and Dad was chief photographer.
Dad also fixed up hot soup in the camper for when we’d finished, knowing that this was where I was most likely to suffer. My goals, both personal and professional, would be so much more difficult to achieve without these guys and I am so enormously grateful.
I honestly can’t praise Mintridge and the work they do enough. The impact that they have on developing grassroots sports and giving opportunities to young people is extraordinary. You can learn more about the wonderful work they do here.
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