Be a winner ... swim to the other side
Each August, our family leaves for a remote island lost among the endless boreal forests and thousands of lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota.
This enchanted island, with slender pine trees and rocky cliffs, is surrounded by a deep, cold and clear lake that reminds me of Lake Baikal in my homeland of eastern Siberia; the same brisk air, deep and mysterious water, the wind dancing in the tops of regal pine trees.
Every year, I look at the other side of the lake and dream about crossing it — to swim from the island to the mainland is about one mile. But every time, something stops me from swimming.
Two weeks ago, I began to think about what prevents me from crossing. What fear was greater than my desire? It was not the distance, because I’m a competitive swimmer and can swim long distances. What was it? “Cold water,” I finally admitted to myself.
To swim in a freshwater lake is so different from swimming in the warm and buoyant salt water of Bermuda.
I did not want to swim a mile in a cold, dark lake, far from shore.
I was sitting on a cliff and looking at the other side. Suddenly, I imagined that the shore on which I am now is like my former self — with all my fears and doubts. Then I saw myself on the other shore, already across the lake, wet and laughing, confident and strong. This was the new me; the winning me. I made a decision.
My goal was not just to swim the lake, but to devote my swim to women fighting cancer.
I wanted to inspire them to be strong, and show that life after treatment does not end but begins. I also decided to broadcast this swim live on Facebook, to reach as many women as possible.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 6am. I felt joyful excitement and the tingle of anticipation. The morning sun shone through the pine branches, and the lake sparkled blue and silver.
“What a wonderful day for the swim!” I thought. I announced on Facebook that I would start in two hours so that people could watch my swim as a live broadcast.
Literally an hour later, the weather changed drastically. The sky clouded over with ominous grey clouds, the sun disappeared, and a sharp, cold wind blew. The lake darkened and became agitated. It was covered with small breaking waves.
I sat on our dock, listening to the sound of the waves beating against it, and looked at the other shore. I still saw myself there, on the other side. “I cannot postpone the swim until tomorrow. What if it gets worse? What if it rains?” I thought at that moment how often something happens that prevents us from doing what we have planned. Often there are good reasons, but most often we stop ourselves and then justify it. “I was tired, I didn’t have enough time, I was stressed out, I was not in the mood …”
I said decisively to myself, “I’ll swim now!”, and jumped into the cold water. It was a shock and I came up gasping. I set off for the far side. Waves and wind carried me further and further from the dock on the other shore. I swam harder. Several times I had to change course.
I swam breaststroke. Why? I needed to see my goal — the other shore and the waiting dock. I know how important it is when you plan something, to see and visualise the final, successful result.
I never imagined myself sinking with a cramp, or my husband pulling me into the boat that followed me. Not at all! I saw myself where I wanted to go! This is a very important rule: set yourself up for victory. The great athletes, the champions, they see themselves as a winner before they even start. As I swam, I told myself that I was not doing this for myself, but for others. Maybe right now someone was watching me and deciding to overcome some personal obstacle or to change something significant in their life. Even if I influenced only one person, it would be enough.
Yesterday, I received this message:
“Nina! I want you to know that after your swim, I am different! You touched something in my soul and turned it over. In the past few days, I have re-evaluated so many things within myself. To new joy! To new love! Thank you for your example of how to be a winner!”
My dear readers, picture yourself on the other side of the lake.
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her here: www.ninalondon.com</i>
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