Tag Archives: Motivation

What I Learned During Private Swim Lessons

Four summers ago I had just finished the my second half marathon, Seattle RnR. I was on a high and looking for my next challenge so I signed up for adult beginners swim lessons. Learning proper swim technique was something that I had always wanted to do and decided that it was time to do it. I completed two 2-week sessions and learned the basics of freestyle.

This summer, inspired by my incredibly inspiring triathlete friends I signed up another 2-week session, but this time for private swim lessons. I had two very specific objectives that I wanted to address and felt that private lessons would be more suitable than a group class.

Objective 1: Learn how to kick again

Since initially learning how to swim I’ve swam casually, mostly as recovery workouts after long runs. Because of this I became very dependent on a pull buoy and essentially forgot how to kick. Whenever I tried not to use the pull buoy I would panic and either sink or not move at all. It became my crutch and I wanted to get rid of it.

Objective 2: Learn how to breath on both sides

Last summer I attended an open water swim clinic hosted by the Mermaids. I found that swimming in the San Francisco bay was pretty gross, but I kinda loved it. I guess the advantage to growing up in Hawai’i is that I’m used to being in the open water and it didn’t scare me. However what did scare me was being told that in order to complete a triathlon I needed to be able to breathe on both sides. It would be a matter of survival. I was registered for their Sprint Tri but after hearing this and being terrified of my road bike I dropped the race. Since then I unsuccessfully tried to teach myself how to breathe on my left side. It was time for more swim lessons.

Swim Lessons 2.0

Joinville Pool

I signed up for private lessons at the county parks and recreation pool. Each session would be 30-minutes long and held from Mondays – Thursdays for two weeks.

My first session started on Mon, 7/29. We started off in the kiddie pool which I was more than fine with – feeling comfortable in the pool was half the battle.

Well Objective #1 was completed in about 10 minutes. My kick came back to me in no time. It just took a couple of pointers from the instructor to make adjustments to my form and technique.

Objective #2 would take a bit longer. I got the gist of it during the first lesson but it would take practice. Eventually I got comfortable enough with it and graduated to the big pool (25 meters or Jr Olympic size). So for the past two weeks I’ve practiced and practiced and ingested enough chlorine to bleach my insides.

To my surprise and delight my instructor also had me learn other things that I never expected to learn like:

* Directional swimming
* Backstroke – which is so much fun except I can’t swim straight for the life of me
* Dolphin kicks – so you know if i ever decide to learn Butterfly
* Breast stroke – still a lot of work to learn this one

And last but not least flip turns! Well sort of.

Let me preface this by saying I have never done a cartwheel in my life. I avoid inversions during yoga classes like the plague. And I have never done a somersault in or out of the water. So when my instructor said we would work on flip turns sheer panic set in. I explained to him that I don’t do flips or tumbles or anything remotely close to it. But he pushed and pushed until I relented and consented to give it a try.

The first attempt was a complete disaster. Water up the nose and no flip to show for it. So he gave me a few other pointers like – tuck your chin and your knees, then paddle your arms in the opposite direction of the flip.

I gave it a try and then just like that I did my first somersault ever! The flip happened naturally, just like he said it would so then he made me practice it a few more times. I can’t say its my favorite thing to do but I felt a real sense of accomplishment by facing a fear and doing it anyway.

I’ve found that swimming with my entire body, not just my upper body, uses so much more muscles than I imagined. Although its a non-impact sport, the amount of effort required from my legs is tremendous. Its a perfect compliment to running in so many ways and truly is a total body workout.

One of my first motivators to start running was from an article that I read in a fitness magazine that said “running will change your body.” Well after swimming for four days a week for two straight weeks I can honestly say that swimming will too. I can feel changes in my body – it feels stronger and leaner in different ways that my regular workouts make me feel.

I’ve always enjoyed swimming and now I’m looking forward to doing it on a more regular basis and practicing what I’ve learned.

I was so sad to learn that the pool isn’t open year round. In fact, it closes in just a few weeks. Swimming outdoors is so much more fun than indoors. I compare it to outdoor running vs. on a treadmill. Luckily I still have the pools at my gyms to swim at, but I am already planning to take private lessons again next summer!

A 17-Mile Lesson On Gratitude

All the travel over the past week left me feeling somewhat off kilter. Having taken 6 am flights in both directions, then adjusting to the two-hour time difference, I was left feeling really tired. I didn’t sleep well the first night back, and was still feeling sleep deficient when I woke up this morning. I’m convinced that this played a factor in today’s 17-mile run.

After last weekends blissful 16-miler, I wanted so badly for today’s run to go just as well. I mapped out the same route down the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco, and added on an additional half mile up to (but not across) the Golden Gate Bridge.

However, today was much warmer than last weekend’s foggy, rainy weather and I overdressed for it. Because of the warmer temps, I drank a lot more water (with Triberry Nuun) and had to make two stops to refill my water bottle. Also related, I had to stop twice for bathroom breaks.

My legs also didn’t cooperate as well they did last week. They felt heavy, like bricks for the first 14 of the 17 miles. During this time I just could not find a flowing running rhythm. I was very physically uncomfortable which led to me mentally beat myself down for the first half of the run.

I was so upset that things weren’t going as well as last week. In fact, I convinced that I couldn’t cover the entire planned distance.

By Mile 7 I was so frustrated that I sat down on a bench in an attempt to clear my head. I had a conversation with myself debating if I should cut the run short and turn around then, or continue on for another mile and half to the planned turnaround spot. It was as if I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

Just when I thought the devil got the best of me, an older woman ran by. She appeared to have recently gone through cancer treatments, yet there she was — running.

All of a sudden my attitude changed. I felt very grateful for my health and realized how silly it would be for me to quit early. Feeling uncomfortable wasn’t a good enough excuse to quit early. So I continued on. It didn’t feel any easier but I made the climb up to my turnaround point at the base of the GGB.

Things improved on the second half of the run. Although my legs still felt heavy, I felt a weight lifted from my mind.

For as long as I can recently remember I have felt like I have been fighting myself. I’ve felt like I’ve been fighting a fear that I didn’t really understand, or could identify.

On the plane ride home, I finished reading “Running With the Mind of Meditation” by Sakyong Miphan. There are many, many things from this book that stood out to me. In fact, I probably have more highlighted passages than not. For the rest of the run I directed my thoughts to the ideas that he had written about, like…

Running With the Mind of Meditation, page 85.

Running With the Mind of Meditation, page 85.

The first time I read these words, I felt a piercing in my heart. It described what I had been struggling with, but yet had not been able to put into words.

As I focused on recalling thoughts and ideas from this book, the anger and frustration I felt during the first half of the run just melted away.

I noted how just nine years ago I could not do a push-up. I thought about the many ways I have progressed since then and realized that it was not an overnight process. I felt blessed for the ways that I’ve grown and excited for the opportunity to be able to continue to do so.

In my mind I began to list the reasons why I run, and what I enjoy about it. And realized that this run, this experience, was another part of my growth process. When I returned to my starting location I noted how much more enjoyable the run became when I stopped fighting myself and started feeling gratitude for what I am able to do.

{As I reread this post before publishing I realize how very cliche-ish it sounds. But its truly is what I felt today. I hope that by documenting this, the next time I struggle within myself I can recall this experience and be inspired by my potential for further.}

Creative Motivation

While marathon training is physically going well, it’s been a little more mentally challenging than usual.

I’m not sure if this is a habit I’ve developed because of social media, but I’ve recently noticed that I have a really short attention span.

During work meetings my mind wanders off and when called upon I have no idea what was being discussed. I often have to rewind a television show that I’m watching because I got distracting reading Twitter/Blogs/Facebook/Instagram/Text Messaging.

So you can imagine how even more difficult it has been to stay focused on the task at hand during my runs; particularly on long runs.

Since 99.9% of the time I run alone, there is plenty of opportunity for my mind to wander. My mind moves a million miles a minute with fluttering, distracting thoughts that seem to cover everything under the sun. Sometimes it is too much to take and I feel so overwhelmed.

Over the past three weeks I’ve run a 13-miler, a should-have-been-14-miler, and a 15-miler. The elapsed time for each has been sometimes more or less 3 hours long. There were no issues physically – my legs and lungs felt great during the entirety of all three runs. But my mind has been terribly distracted and unfocused.

At first I thought it was just an anomaly. But three weeks in a row? It’s a problem. And I was at a loss for how to address this problem.

My therapist suggested finding a playlist that had narration to encourage staying focused. I searched the Internet and asked around but didn’t seem to find anything like it.

A day or so later, when I was distracted during a work meeting and fidgeting with my iPhone, I remembered the Voice Memo app that comes pre-programmed on iPhones.

The iPhone Voice Memo App

The iPhone Voice Memo App

This app records audio snippets that you can then share by email or text message.

Clearly I have not used this app in a very long time...

Clearly I have not used this app in a very long time…

All of sudden an idea popped into my head…

I could record messages on this app and then email them to myself. The audio file saves as an .mp4 file, which I could then transfer to my Running playlist in iTunes!

I did a quick test and voila, it worked like a charm!

But then I thought to myself, how cool would it be to have my friends and family record messages for me?! I quickly sent out an email and got a few!

After doing some minor file conversations (from those with Android phones), I was able to add those messages to my playlist for last Saturday’s run.

As I mentioned (link), the run still wasn’t easy. Every fiber in my being screamed to not do it, but I fought as best as I could to get the miles done anyway.

And it helped so much to hear…

+ My Dad, a former high school cross-country coach, telling me to run as if I was airborne…

+ My Mom telling me to “suck it up” and keep going (she actually said those words too, very unlike her…)

+ Renee tell ingme how I motivate her (I still find this hard to believe….)

And for some reason my iPod shuffle failed to play the message from Alyssa (that is 2.5 mins long!) that I was so looking forward to hearing. I haven’t listened to it yet and will save it for next week’s long run.

It was as if these people were running with me, even though they weren’t. It was cool to hear a message, and then have it followed up by a song that related to it. Technology these days…I tell you…

Overcoming my focus problems is still an ongoing effort, but this little creative way of finding encouragement has helped me to stay motivated; it sure helped a lot.

If you are so inclined, I’d love to receive more messages to add to my playlist. It doesn’t have to be long, just something that you need to hear or that you say to yourself that helps you get through a difficult moment during a run when you just want it to be over.