Swimming Through Life


Photo by: Colleen Yancy. See her flickr stream.

I started training for swimming a month ago. For a sprint triathlon, one will have to swim 800 meters without stopping.  Alright, that’s my goal.  I’ve calculated the length of the pool I use: 25 meters. Okay, 32 laps it is!

On my first day I started with great optimism. “Okay Tina, you can do this! 10 laps without stopping! Go!” By the end of lap 2, I was collapsed over the edge of the pool lane, huffing and puffing to catch my breath.  My performance was pathetic and it brought with it the clarity I needed to practice harder. I continued to swim laps every other day, stopping only to catch my breath when needed, until I’d finished a cumulative of 32 laps.

Two weeks later, I overheard an older lady talking about her experience with a sprint triathlon, and I went over to ask a few questions. She said for the swimming leg, I’ll need to prepare to be able to do 40 laps, since it’ll be in a lake and the measurements are not very exact.  And also that it was important that I train myself to be able to swim all 40 laps non-stop, or risk drowning.

Forty LAPS??? Holy Crap!

I recall hearing a small voice in my head whispering, “I‘ll never be able to do that”, and then a few pulses later, I heard Tony Robbins’ voice yelling, “If you can’t, then you must!”

Well, all I can say is that there’s nothing like the threat of death by drowning that motivates one to get creative.  With that in mind, that very same day I was able to swim the 40 laps without stopping.

Four to Forty Laps in One Day

For one thing, I noticed that I had been experiencing breathing issues when I did the freestyle stroke, which made me super tired and in need of catching my breath at the end of every two laps. So, I started to do back strokes – something I am more comfortable with.  My goal wasn’t to look like a professional freestyle swimmer, my goal was to stay afloat and swim the length of 40 laps continuously, so that in an emergency situation, I wouldn’t drown.

Now I do 40 laps each time I hit the pool.  Here’s what I’ve observed:

I start with enough confidence and energy to complete all 40 laps.  The first 2 laps are easy.  But then I start to feel tired.  The next 10 or so laps are the hardest. I start to witness my mind looking for excuses to stop. I feel it finding and pointing out the discomfort in my body so that it can maybe convince me that I’m too tired to continue.

Once I get myself to complete 10 laps, things gets significantly easier, and my body is just riding out the repetitive movements.  Laps 20 to 30, and from 30 to 40 are a breeze.  When I actually hit lap 40, I feel that I can easily do 10 more laps.

Life Patterns

Upon further thought, I have noticed that this pattern of easy-difficult-easy can be seen in many other aspects of life: starting a business, starting a blog, learning a new skill, long distance running, etc.

Let’s take blogging as an example. When a blogger first starts out, they are enthusiastic and hopeful for the future. Pretty easy so far. But all bloggers will go through a period near the start of their blogging career where they experience friction. They may feel discouraged that it’s tough to attract new readers or to market themselves. Or they may run into technology issues and they feel the urge to quite. But if they just hang on and persist through the discouragement and friction, they’ll reach a certain threshold where blogging and marketing become natural and easy, at which point they will be capable of continuing on indefinitely.

The same is true for starting and running a successful business. It starts with fresh enthusiasm which makes the job appear easy. But soon, we experience some form of hardship or problem where we have to work long and challenging hours. The friction makes it tempting to quit, but more likely than not, if we soldier on, staying innovative and persistent, we will succeed.

Take Away Lesson

What I’ve learned through this observation is that persistence is the key! The ability to hanging on, when others have easily given up separates the failures from the triumphs.  In life, it isn’t about finding the most comfortable route, but rather finding destinations you want to arrive at and keeping moving until you get there.

No matter how insurmountable a goal may seem, if you just keep trying, one step at a time, there will be a point at which the steps necessary to get there become an easy and effortless trek.

Anything is possible.

Leave a comment?

Like this post? Subscribe for free updates. (What's this?).

Subscribe by email:

StumbledUpon Save to del.icio.us Digg it! Comments (21)

21 Responses (21 Comments, 0 Trackbacks ):


  1. 1

    I have been trying to find a pool in Seattle that i can do laps. I hate sharing a lane with others because i normally swim looking down instead of forward. Do you normally have to share lane with others at the pool that you go to?

  2. 2

    Hey Tina,

    Nice to see another update from you. I’m quite surprised it gets easier as you go on, i thought it would be the opposite.

    Keep up the positive work! :)


  3. 3

    Thanks for the link! I really like your blog. Let me know if you need some advice on the sprint. Prepare to be hooked on triathlon! :)

  4. 4

    Oh, and like you said, anything is indeed possible. I started out with a sprint four years ago. I was 55 pounds overweight then. Now I have lost 50 and have done two Ironmans! :) You will surprised what can happen when you set your mind to something!

  5. 5

    Thanks for sharing your learning through swimming! I can relate to it from the perspective of a moving meditation practice I do. Starts off with enthusiasm, then go through tiredness, then battle of the mind looking for excuses, then boredom, then finally relief as the end is in sight! :-) After keeping it up for some time now though (daily for 5 months or so) I look forward to the calm repetition and relax into the movement and enjoy the sideshow of the mind’s grumbles… which have reduced considerably! (actually tend more to daydreams than strictly ‘grumbles’, which are actually harder to be mindful about!)

  6. 6

    Hey Tina,
    Congrats on your swimming and sharing what you’ve learned. I agree with persistence and have a similar challenge for myself once this baby is born! Since this will really be my first major physical challenge, I have a feeling I’ll be visiting again when the mind and muscles are looking for excuses to quit. Best wishes – let us know how the rest of the training goes.

  7. 7


    I go to All Star Fitness by the bank of america tower in downtown. I have shared a lane before, but mostly I don’t have too. People at the gym tend to wait until one opens up, except the hard-core swimmers. I really don’t like sharing a lane either, especially with a big guy splashing all over…. Makes me nervous.

    @Brett Cornwright

    Thanks for the offer to help answer questions. I think I’m gonna need to take you up on that offer. :)

  8. 8

    I have just this week started sea swimming with 3 guys who do this every day and are in Training for a mile swim in Hawaii
    yesterday was day 3 for me and after day 2 when I swam in rough sea 400 meters, I wondered if I would venture back in, maybe I would just keep walking and swim a little, then yesterday I started out before the guys and when I was half way I felt so free and just kept on and made the 700 odd meters from one end of the beach to the others- gave me a great feeling of achievement.

    So I understand why you feel that way when you get to 40 laps
    I like the analogy with blogging

  9. 9

    Hi Tina,

    Great article and very timely… i have just installed wordpress on my website to redo my portfolio and perhaps start a blog… but on what and to write about what I have no idea. Which is why your blog is such an inspiration – taking things from everyday life and digging a bit deeper to find that insight. I’d just like to share my appreciation of what you do. Keep it up!!

  10. 10

    Ahh, I miss swimming. I swam every other day during the summer, and it felt great! Unfortunately they are closing the pool I was going to, and now I need to find another one.

    I like your analogy about blogging though – it’s so true! It’s all about overcoming the friction.

  11. 11

    Hey Tina,

    You are so on point with your observation. I often experience this same thing when running, cycling, studying, cleaning, and well…. a lot of things. It gets hard until I get in the zone, and then I’m coasting.

    I find the middle point is often good, because my self-talk just says “one more time.”

    When I ran an 8k, I remember just saying 1 more mile, 1 more mile, 1 more mile, and that got me through it.

    Tony’s voice works for you, other voices work for other people — it’s all about finding that voice, the one that makes us ‘Just Do It’.

  12. 12

    Hi Tina!

    Very good post!
    I especially could relate to the part of being a blogger.
    I had a few blogs in my time and every time I would quit when things weren’t going as I wanted.
    Things like; reading back and realising that I wasn’t the same person that wrote that anymore or I didn’t have enough people reacting to my posts, the layout, etc

    A few months back I started up a new blog with the realisation that people change and that it is wonderful to see and learn from what I did before, how I reacted to certain situations.
    And that it didn’t matter how many “friends” I had that would react to my posts.
    I now have my blog for me and I see it as a bonus if people want to react and share their visions.

    Thanks ever so much for inspiring me and being the wonderful person which I believe you are!

    Hope you visit some day and enjoy married life! :)

  13. 13

    this was a great read. I go through many ups and downs with going to the gym, trying to balance my workouts. I used to do too much cardio (running), now I probably don’t do enough, but there’s always a setback. If its not injuries, there’s something else, like having pneumonia in November. That put me back a few weeks. But when I am going, I can totally relate to what you said about finding excuses to stop for the first little bit and if you make it past that, its smooth sailing.
    congrats to you on reaching your 40 laps + . Now all you have to do (if you haven’t already), is go to Van and do the Grouse grind!! = )

  14. 14

    Hi Tina,

    I find this article very encouraging. I’ve been trying to loose weight since I had my three children and it hasn’t been easy. It’s only with determination that we will accomplish our goals. I love your articles so keep up the good work.

  15. 15

    FYI, officially one swim lap is two lengths of the pool. The pool at All-Star fitness is 25 yards, not 25 meters. 25 yards is actually about 22.9 meters.

  16. 16

    hi, just wanted to say i enjoyed reading this blog and im looking ot continue reading blogs from this site, im not used to this but your stories have cought my eyes, i wanted to express my grattitude and hopefully you will continue all these amazing stories and experience with the likes of people as my self.best of luck. lee

  17. 17

    Self-help motivational thinking and swimming is a fierce combination. The “whoooyaah don’t give up, never surrender” mentality suggests a crowbar approach to master a skill. Just do it, make it a habbit, do it long enough and it will come to you.

    Unfortunately, this does not work well with swimming. Swimming (for more than running or cycling) is about deal with resistance and not breaking it. You kinda need a more Zen-way to get better in the water.

    I strongly recommend “total immersion”-swimming. It was especially developed for long endurance swimming and triathlons. It is not about fighting the water, but reducing resistance. In the water, you get faster by being long and smooth. No will and force needed.

    This is the beauty of swimming. Its a wonderful parable to life. The harder you push the water, the harder it pushes back. You can be the greatest motivational artist of the world, the water will always outmatch you. You have to go with the water. You need to respect it. No motivation required.

    It sounds silly, if you are troubled with water and swimming you whole life. But once you get the hang of the right technique. You just need the motivation to learn to swim the right way. After this it becomes like a walk in the park. The less exhausted you are after a “workout” the faster you have been.

  18. 18

    Absolutely love this post. Especially the part where you say that “Anything is possible.”
    My mom tells me that whole the time, and it feels great to hear that coming from another person :)
    I just started making some serious life changing options. Recently I’ve started running early in the morning. It’s been very difficult to maintain the rhythm, but I enjoy it so much: that’s the feeling that keeps me running even when my legs are unwilling to obey.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    P.S. I’m Portuguese by the way, so please forgive if my writing isn’t perfect.

  19. 19

    Hi Tina, thank you for the inspiring wisdom. I was raised as a swimmer and now started to realize that I can learn many lesson from it. :) Thanks. Love life live love!. Greetings from Indonesia!

  20. 20

    Tina you inspire me! You give such good advice, run a successful blog while running a family and household. And now you’re talking about preparing for a swimming race! Amazing, makes me wonder what I myself am also capable of as a woman! You’re a good role model and mentor :)


  21. 21

    In the water, you get faster by being long and smooth. No will and force needed.Informative post share by you,Thanks or sharing this post with us…

Your Thoughts?

Add A Comment

We'd love to hear them! Please share:

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Trackbacks (0)

Return to Top Return to Top