Breathe

Recently, I learned how to swim.  It’s not that I didn’t know how to swim.  I have been getting in the pool since I was a child and faintly remember taking lessons, treading water by playing Marco Polo, and occasionally racing others to the other end of the pool.  It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I realized I did not know how to swim laps in a pool.

For years, my triathlon friends have been encouraging and challenging me to do a race.  They knew I could run and cycle and told me that I had already mastered the hardest part; but, for me, the swimming was my Achilles heel.  When I first attempted to swim a lap in the pool, my head did not want to go under the water.  After I bought some goggles and was able to at least rinse my face in the water, I realized that it felt like I was “sprinting” in the pool.  I am not saying that I was breaking Olympic world records with my speed.  It was the sensation that I was going to drown and could not wait to get to the other side.  I would reach the other side, catch my breath, and then attempt another 25-meter lap in the pool.

As I watched other people swim lap after continuous lap in the pool, they looked so smooth, calm, and relaxed.  Their strokes seemed effortless, and they were able to swim for longer and farther than I could.  Being a distance runner and in great shape, it frustrated me that I could not do what they were able to do!

Swimmer

I eventually found this blog entry from Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, which helped me to make a breakthrough in my swimming.  He went from being  frustrated to fearless in the pool.  The combination of his tips and this great article on breathing helped me to finally discover what I was doing wrong.  The breathing article mentioned that most beginning swimmers fail to breathe when their face is under the water, and they struggle to breathe out and breathe in when their head comes out of the water on their strokes.  In other words, they never get enough time to fully exhale and fully inhale.  They are essentially holding their breath until the moment (the looming lap in the pool) passes.

This scenario was exactly what I was doing.  But how do you exhale in the water?  I found that experienced swimmers exhale in the water by blowing out bubbles, and I began to practice this technique.  It made all the difference in the world once I learned that you could exhale (blow out bubbles) without opening your mouth and taking in a gallon of water.  While I am still working on my swim endurance and strength, breathing efficiently in the pool has made all the difference in the world!  I am able to swim better, more efficiently, and for a longer distance.

This experience made me think about life.  We all have moments of stress, crisis, and defeat, and it feels as if we cannot catch our breath.  We don’t properly breathe and foolishly attempt to hold our breath, close our eyes, and hope that it was all just a bad nightmare.  We have to get back to the basics of breathing: exhaling the stress and feelings of despair and inhaling the “oxygen” of today.  What is that “oxygen?”  It’s our friends, family, and faith that are there for us when we need them most.  It’s your purpose – the reason you were put on this earth and why you are you still alive.

Challenges can distract us from continuously facing each day with purpose, passion, and action.  The first step begins with breathing the right way.

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