I was asked this past week…
“John, what challenge do you believe is the hardest mentally?”
Without a thought, I uttered, “My swimming challenge”.
I’m now 7 lessons into conquering my fear of water, and preparing for my 1.996km swim (just under 100 lengths) in aid of Guide Dogs, and I’m starting to love being in the water thanks to Wessex Swim School.
It’s overwhelming thinking this. I’ve feared water for most of my life, and yet, when losing my best friend, a sudden urge of motivation spurred me to take this on (You can read more about this here).
Is it love? Has the love I have for my brother, best friend, showed me the way?
I’m on my back. The front. Position doesn’t matter. I think about him when I’m swimming. He saved my life. It’s time I saved other people’s lives. I’ve spoken to so many people since starting swimming, whom have shared they also fear water. How strange?! Many people I spoke to about the idea originally were shocked I never learned. I’ve never really had a reason to.
I’m John Sennett though! I don’t need a reason to do something. My story tells itself. It shows how I’ve grown as an individual, and I don’t want a quiet life.I want to use my voice. I want to feel excited about life.
*From here on, you’ll read a weekly insight into my lessons since lesson 2*
I was excited to be back in the water after lesson 1. I was waiting for what felt like a century for lesson 2, but actually was only 1 week after lesson 1. What has happened to the guy who feared water?
Turning up for lesson 2, I was eager to get started. I was excited to see what I was going to do, and the butterflies started.
I noticed there were less floats on the side of the pool, so I assumed I was going to learn how to float. This is when I tensed up. This was a worry of mine. I was worried I was going to go under. I was determined not to. I was determined to be confident in myself. This is part of the reason why I’m doing this. I want to show the confidence I now have in life, and to bring it to the pool.
Even though the pic above was at the end of the lesson, I had to share it. I’m incredibly proud for yet again getting into the pool, and for actually floating. I’ve never been able to relax enough to learn to float. I ACTUALLY FLOATED!! This is why 1-2-1 for me is the best option to conquering my fear. Having the focus on me has given me a new lease of energy in the pool.
OK, I’m still hesitant on my front, but I’ll get there. I’m determined to be able to do lengths on my back before Christmas! I’m optimistic. I’m motivated. I’m ready. I’m ready to swim. I WANT TO SWIM!!
This journey is to take me out of my comfort zone time after time, and the way Wessex Swim School teach is exactly what I need.
“John, you’re going to wrap the float around your front, and I’ll have hold of your hands. We’ll do big strokes, and when you’re ready, I’ll let go of a hand.”
I was scared. I started to overthink. But when I relaxed (well sort of), I believed in myself. I put my trust in Emma (my instructor). I had to. I wanted to. I want to progress. I want to develop every week. I haven’t got loads of time.
I found out I might be missing 2 months of lessons in January and March (due to other challenges), so the pressure is on. It’s a good thing I love pressure. It’s a good thing when I’m taken out of my comfort zone, I become the unknown.
The pool was the unknown in lesson 1, and I’m already floating after 2 lessons. How? Why? I’m very comfortable with the instructors. I might be focused in the pictures, but when I’m in the pool and we’re cracking a few jokes (ok, I crack jokes way too much!), I think about the future. I think about what’s ahead.
I don’t just want to learn to swim. I want to share it. I want other people across the UK who might have a fear of water to be on this journey with me. I want people to take steps just like I did. We’re all different, but we have similar goals.
I woke up one day with the hunger to let go of the past and to use it as influence. I might have nearly drowned as a child, but that’s gone. It happened. It’s not happening now.
I’m slow in some ways, and in other ways, I’m progressing fast. When you want something so bad in life, don’t hold back. Keep going. It’s scary at first. I still get butterflies on poolside. I’m not fully over my fear, but I’m getting on with it. I don’t want restrictions in life.
Lesson 3 (no pics, sorry), something changed. Well a lot is changing, but not in the way I thought. I went into these lessons believing I’d struggle to feel comfortable before Christmas.
3 lessons in, and Emma stepped out of the pool. OK, it was towards the end, but I was on my own. I REPEAT, I WAS ON MY OWN!!! Emma loves testing me, and I think she knows by now, I’ll just knuckle down and get on with it.
With my phone in her hand, it was time to complete a length. It was time to float with no-one in the pool with me. I had been learning to use my arms in this lesson, and she had confidence in me. I believed too! I was scared, but it’s now or never.
As I pushed off, my head was back, chin was up, belly was up, and I was moving. My legs were kicking and my arms were moving. I was doing it! I was FREAKING DO IT!! How? John!! 3 lessons! 3 hours, and that’s all it took!
You can imagine how big my smile was when I left the pool, and I was slightly emotional. I knew I could do it! I knew I was ready! I was doing what I’ve always done. The past is the past, but boy, can it influence the future?!
With a week off due to illness, lesson 4 came up, and I knew it was time. I knew it was time to start doing lengths on my back. 15m was as far as I got last time, and I had my sights on 100m. Time is ticking down every week, so the stamina has to be built! Especially, if my challenge will see me swim 100 lengths!!
My walk training had taken a toll on my body. Balancing walk training, swimming and the gym isn’t easy. I found that out when I turned up last Saturday with a slight niggle in my knee. I carried on though. I didn’t have to, but I did. I’m not letting anyone down, especially myself.
It turned out I couldn’t do 5m on my back. My knee was playing on my mind too much. What I found comfortable in lesson 3, I didn’t in lesson 4. That’s reality. Not every week is going to be my week, right?
How about 100m on my front though? Some funny expressions might have gotten Emma laughing, but whatever my legs were saying, wasn’t a match for my mind. I could have gone home, but I wanted to push past it. I wanted to feel more comfortable on my front. Yes, I was still using floats, but progression in progression.
The first 20m was a push. Once I got moving, Emma knew and I knew I wasn’t going to stop. My legs were burning, but my mind was on something else. I even put my head in; not just the once.
Funny enough, when I always talk about this fear I have for water, it’s more stemmed around being underwater. Underwater to me is the unknown, but lesson 4, I felt I was making friends with it. I felt I was waving at the unknown and making my own destiny.
20m, 40m, how about 60m? How about 100m? Yep! 5 lengths completed in the pool on my front. I know! I’m shocked! But this is only the start…
Once my head was under, I was moving faster. Apparently, I was more relaxed? Wait, what? Am I hearing this right? Are you reading this right?
The 21 year fear was being conquered. JOHN SENNETT was taking ownership. JOHN SENNETT was in control. I am in control! I can do this! Head under, arms moving, legs kicking, I’m ready!
When I left lesson 6 just before Christmas, I didn’t expect to be where I am.
I certainly didn’t expect to be on my front, FLOATLESS!! I didn’t expect to be more comfortable underwater, than I am on top.
I know it’s possible! Especially with the help and support from Wessex Swim School.
Who would have thought my first lesson of 2018 would have seen me get back to the stage I was at before I left at Christmas?
Who would have thought I would have regained my confidence on my back, and completed a few lengths without floats?
Who would have thought I would have ended my lesson on my front with no floats?
Every time I’m in the pool, I feel another person is being helped. I feel Flash’s life-saving smile, and my suicidal thoughts as a child is doing good.
What is going on with me? Why am I feeling good when I exit the pool? Why am I smiling?
When you love someone. When you love what you do. When you have incredible support. The only thing that matters is why you’re there.
Disclaimer: Wessex Swim School and I have agreed to blog posts being written in exchange for lessons.