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  #1  
Old 11-04-2012
kargirwar kargirwar is offline
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kargirwar
Default Conquering fear

A bit of background:
I am 36. I learnt swimming when I was about 17. At one time I used to swim 1 Km non-stop ( though embarrassingly slow due to poor technique). I have been swimming on-and-off since then. About 4 months back I started with TI and so far so good. Nowadays, other than work, most of my waking time goes in thinking about swimming. BUT ..there is one problem which has always been my constant companion - FEAR.

I practice in a 50 x 25 m pool which has one deep end and one shallow end. I normally do 25m laps at the shallow end. I can comfortably swim 3-4 laps non-stop without getting out of breath. So theoretically I should have no problem swimming the same 25m at the deep end too. But whenever I attempt it I feel terribly scared. Even the thought of doing it makes me nervous. I have recently started avoiding it altogether. When I do 50m lap I stay in either lane 1 or lane 8. How I envy people who swim confidently down the center of the pool !

Note that I can float comfortably on my back almost indefinitely. I can also swim vertically for long periods without getting tired. But as ridiculous as it sounds - I still feel scared of water.

I am not sure whether the problem is psychological or a pure technical problem.

Has anyone experienced something similar ? What can I do to get rid of the fear ?
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  #2  
Old 11-04-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kargirwar View Post
A bit of background:
I am 36. I learnt swimming when I was about 17. At one time I used to swim 1 Km non-stop ( though embarrassingly slow due to poor technique). I have been swimming on-and-off since then. About 4 months back I started with TI and so far so good. Nowadays, other than work, most of my waking time goes in thinking about swimming. BUT ..there is one problem which has always been my constant companion - FEAR.

I practice in a 50 x 25 m pool which has one deep end and one shallow end. I normally do 25m laps at the shallow end. I can comfortably swim 3-4 laps non-stop without getting out of breath. So theoretically I should have no problem swimming the same 25m at the deep end too. But whenever I attempt it I feel terribly scared. Even the thought of doing it makes me nervous. I have recently started avoiding it altogether. When I do 50m lap I stay in either lane 1 or lane 8. How I envy people who swim confidently down the center of the pool !

Note that I can float comfortably on my back almost indefinitely. I can also swim vertically for long periods without getting tired. But as ridiculous as it sounds - I still feel scared of water.

I am not sure whether the problem is psychological or a pure technical problem.

Has anyone experienced something similar ? What can I do to get rid of the fear ?
I have a friend who likes to swim across a 200m lake in the summer but isn't a confident swimmer so he always takes a small beach ball with him which he blows up and ties to the back of his swimming trunks.

This acts as a great safety comfort as should he get a panic or a cramp he can turn around and hang on to the ball. Other than testing, he has never had to do it but it gives him the confidence to swim in the middle of a mass of water that is probably 100+m deep.

Maybe you can try that in your deep end until you feel more confident?
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  #3  
Old 11-04-2012
CharlesCouturier CharlesCouturier is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kargirwar View Post
A bit of background:
I am 36. I learnt swimming when I was about 17. At one time I used to swim 1 Km non-stop ( though embarrassingly slow due to poor technique). I have been swimming on-and-off since then. About 4 months back I started with TI and so far so good. Nowadays, other than work, most of my waking time goes in thinking about swimming. BUT ..there is one problem which has always been my constant companion - FEAR.

I practice in a 50 x 25 m pool which has one deep end and one shallow end. I normally do 25m laps at the shallow end. I can comfortably swim 3-4 laps non-stop without getting out of breath. So theoretically I should have no problem swimming the same 25m at the deep end too. But whenever I attempt it I feel terribly scared. Even the thought of doing it makes me nervous. I have recently started avoiding it altogether. When I do 50m lap I stay in either lane 1 or lane 8. How I envy people who swim confidently down the center of the pool !

Note that I can float comfortably on my back almost indefinitely. I can also swim vertically for long periods without getting tired. But as ridiculous as it sounds - I still feel scared of water.

I am not sure whether the problem is psychological or a pure technical problem.

Has anyone experienced something similar ? What can I do to get rid of the fear ?
Do you naturally and easily float?
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  #4  
Old 11-04-2012
flychick flychick is offline
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A couple of things come to mind.
How comfortable are you with aquatic breathing? For example, are you aware of your exhalation? I find that many of my students who come to lessons with a fear - even those who can swim - are, for various reasons, not comfortable with breathing technique.
Also, have you ever had a frightening experience in water?
Is there something about the environment at the pool that you find distressing? Strange as this may seem, some people are surprised to learn that they are swimming with their eyes closed to some degree. I believe that all the senses (ie, sight, sound, smell etc) need to be engaged to fully enhance the learning process.
In my experience though, it is focus on the breath that makes the biggest difference to people who have a fear. When the clutching panicky feeling appears, bring ALL your focus to your breath. You may want to practise this away from the pool by placing one hand on your solar plexus and being aware of the rise and fall of your hand as you breathe. Try to absorb this feeling with every fibre of your being. In the pool, you might want to try to recreate this feeling whilst floating on your back. Then, slowly and mindfully, try swimming, focussing on nothing but bringing your attention to your solar plexus and the breath as you go.
By posting here you have taken a major step in the right direction and that takes courage.
Warm regards,
Nicki

Last edited by flychick : 11-04-2012 at 10:26 AM. Reason: Add info
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  #5  
Old 11-04-2012
kargirwar kargirwar is offline
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@andyinnorway - As far as possible I would not like to use external aids to solve the problem. Let me try out other suggestions first ! Thanks.

@CharlesCouturier - Oh yes ! No problems there. In fact the thing that attracted me to TI was that the first drill talked about floating on back. I thought , wow I have a head start here !

@flychick - Breathing in freestyle IS a problem for me. Putting head in water and then turning it to take in air feels so unnatural and awkward. I had almost given up on freestyle altogether and was focusing on breast and back strokes. But as I said above I was intrigued by the TI method.

Yes , learning swimming was a frightening experience for me. I was always scared of getting out of breath in the middle of pool and I think I never fully got over it. I have tried talking to myself like this : "OK , so I will get out of breath right in the middle of pool in 15 feet deep water .. fine, I will just turn on my back and continue to breath normally. I will lie there until I feel confident of swimming again or until rescue arrives :-) .." . Couple of months back I got into exactly that situation. I started feeling anxious and out of breath. I put my emergency plan into action- I turned on my back. But the panic continued to build. It made breathing difficult even with the mouth well clear of water. It got to the point where I had to execute the fastest backstroke sprint of my life and reach for the wall ! That experience has dented my confidence in my backup plan :-( .

I could try out your suggestions. Should I do the breathing exercise on back in ..*gulp*.. deep water ? I was also wondering if practicing the "nod" might prove effective ?
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  #6  
Old 11-04-2012
Mike from NS Mike from NS is offline
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Kargirwar;

Your story and mine are similar - to some extent. I was not in exactly in fear of the water -- I just had no confidence and for good reason ... I also had no ability. You have swimming experience as a teenager and no mater how lacking the style or speed, you have a lot of the learning behind you. Never learning to swim as I kid was a real handicap for me in learning as an adult - beginning at 54. What has helped me now, to be able to swim down the middle lane and go to the bottom on the deep (12 ft), lay on my back and blow some bubble rings, was some of the Kaizen learning that TI speaks of frequently. Build on what you know -- mindfully. Or, continually expand your comfort zone. My flutter kick had no value - so I put on some fins; my breathing was worse than most - so I used a snorkel. I followed the drills and especially the breathing drills like Nod & Swim etc. There is no shame in using swimming aids but for me there developed a dependency on the fins which was difficult to get free from ... be careful of that. One of my philosophies it to play in the water as one of the best means of learning.... get used to the water ..... but your past experience has you past that point.

Like you, I've had a scare in the water. Long before learning to swim and before wearing fins I got caught well over my depth at a beach. Mask & snorkel where my aids but panic set in. If I knew then what I know now, there would have been no problem. Learning for some (myself for sure) takes longer than for others so we have to be patient, practice frequently and set reasonable goals. Try to do something different with each pool visit - something that stretches your comfort zone in the weakest areas. Above all .... have fun with the learning. We learn better when we enjoy the learning.
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  #7  
Old 11-04-2012
daveblt daveblt is offline
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The thing to remember is that if you can swim comfortably in 3 feet of water you can swim in 30 feet and you can swim in 300 feet . There are 2 ways you can overcome this fear .You can take your time by spending a lot of time in the water ,just take baby steps and gradually ease in to the deep end or you can say to yourself ,darn it , I know how to swim and just do it .The same thing happened to me when I first learned how to do backstroke , I just had to use a nose clip for fear of water getting in my nose , but that was very short lived .I learned a proper breathing pattern and threw the clips away .The water will support you if you learn to work with it and relax.

Dave
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  #8  
Old 11-04-2012
flychick flychick is offline
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It sounds as though you have had quite a fright, so I would begin to do the breathing exercises out of the water, and even right away from the pool in the comfort of your own home. I often recommend to students that they practise aquatic breathing in a bowl of water or at a sink.

Begin very slowly, by placing the tip of your nose on the surface of the water. (You will be looking down at the bottom of the bowl/sink/pool for this exercise). Breathe in and out gently. Observe how this feels to you - what are the sensations that you get? Are you breathing out through your mouth or your nose or both? Try the exhale with your mouth open then try it again with your mouth closed. It will feel different. Allow yourself to be aware of the gentle movement of the water as you exhale.

When you have done this a few times, allow your face to relax into the water on an exhale. Blow out steadily and gently and repeat the 'sensations test'. When you need to inhale simply lift your face out of the water, but only until the tip of your nose is on the surface. Don't look up at this point, but try to get into a consistent rhythm, perhaps a slowish 1,2,3 rhythm during which you exhale on 1 and 2 and inhale on 3. Experiment with a fairly assertive exhale and with a gentle one. See which feels the most comfortable.

Something else that you can do is to inhale normally, place you face in the water and practise a long, slow controlled exhalation, counting as you go. You always have more air in your lungs than you realise and this might help to calm the fears that you have of running out of air in the middle of the pool.

I have some of my students use colour as a visualisation tool - 'breathing their favourite colour' can help to bring you back to being in the moment and to centre you.

The idea is that you learn to be in control and that you allow your breathing to literally 'be your centre'. Being in control is critical - you don't need me to tell you that it is a matter of life or death.

I strongly suggest that you do these exercises in shallow water to begin with. Float on your back and if it helps, use the colour visualisation. Take your time and above all be kind to yourself - take as much time as you need. Use the breath to become centred and in the moment. Think about nothing but the breath. When you feel ready, try floating in the deep end, but don't rush the process - accept that it may take time. Start at the side of the pool and gently allow yourself to drift into a float on your back. Relax your fingers and your jaw. If you feel any panic creeping in, use the breathe to centre yourself once more. Remember, YOU are in control.

Another question for you: When swimming front crawl are you exhaling? You'd be amazed at how many people hold their breath and I know that I am stating the blindingly obvious here, but if you haven't exhaled you cannot inhale! The nodding drill is great but I'd work on the more basic breathing skills first.

Also - and I think that this is another important point for you - you need less air than you might imagine when swimming. When I am swimming I think that my breathing equates to that of someone doing a brisk walk. Perhaps you can try, in shallow water, focussing on this - you may be surprised!

Make friends at the pool. Other people can be very supportive and you may well meet others who have been in your situation who will be able to give you excellent advice.
Keep us posted and remember - be kind to youself!!
Warm regards,
Nicki

Last edited by flychick : 11-04-2012 at 03:20 PM. Reason: Grammar!
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  #9  
Old 11-04-2012
craig.arnold@gmail.com craig.arnold@gmail.com is offline
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My guess is that you are not shedding enough CO2 when you swim, and particularly as flychick has said, you may not be exhaling by breathing out steadily when your face is in the water.

Different people have a different response to rising CO2, but for some it can really make panic set in. I am quite prone to this.

Submerging your face in cold water can cause all sorts of physiological reactions, and you may have a very strong psychological response to those physical changes. I think people vary in this more than natural swimmers realise. In scuba classes you see this. Strong swimmers don't have the same reactions in water as "normal" new scuba divers.

Humans have good reason to be terrified of deep water: we have almost no innate reflexes that will get us out of deep water if we have to swim more than a few meters, and if it's cold it's much worse.

I have done a bit of scuba diving and a fair bit of swimming and I am still prone to the response you have. I find it psychologically much easier to swim in shallow rather than deep water. It's the same sort of thing as walking along a 30cm wide plank on the ground, you could cover kilometres without ever falling off. Put that 30cm plank 50m in the air and most people could hardly take a step.

So how can you get over it? Well if I'm right, then you really need to learn how to breath comfortably first. Most people are natural one-side breathers, but maybe you are not naturally any sided in your breathing. The nod drills help a lot. Don't ever hold your breath. Breath only on one side if you have a moderate/slow stroke rate (but learn to vary which side you breathe on. I am a very strong right-side breather, but I am building up the number of lengths I breathe on the left side. You can for example always look to the lifeguard, so breathe right one way, then turn and breath left on the return lap.

Alternate lengths of backstroke with crawl if you breathe better in backstroke and build up your freestyle distance gradually. If you start getting breathless or panicking then stop for a while.

Another thing that helps me is swimming when the pool is relatively empty. If you are sharing a lane with other people there is extra stress because you will not usually be moving at the same pace.

At least in the pool you don't have to worry about imagining sharks! (I sometimes do this in the sea.)

Perhaps Suzanne could comment on the CO2 issue.
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  #10  
Old 11-04-2012
flychick flychick is offline
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I'd make it a priority to sort out your breathing in the shallow end before attempting to swim out of your depth again. I feel that you need to break the cycle of panic and its association with being out of your depth.
If you start every visit to the pool with the exercises that I outlined above, done in a mindful and gentle way, your feelings of being in control and your ability to centre yourself will quickly develop.
Nicki
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