I was, standing at the edge of the 1 metre springboard, getting ready to dive into the water. I was terrified and my old fear of drowning to death threatened to return and wash over me. I could feel my heart thump and panic gripped my mind.
I’d started pool diving at the London Aquatics Centre (the 2012 Olympic pool) at the start of 2020. I’d been making good progress until Covid 19 and Lockdown put paid to all that fun. I was overjoyed when the pool re-opened for diving classes and I could get back into that lovely deep water. What can I say, I like to face my fears.
This was just the second week back and my new coach was moving the group on at a fair clip. After the usual poolside, pike jumps and tuck rolls we were led to the 1 metre board for pike falls. The pike fall is a forward dive into the 5 metre deep pool. Legs straight, arms straight up and bend forward at the waist until you can see your hands over the water. Then up on your toes so you tip into the pool in what should be a straight and graceful dive.
With this dive you should fall deep into the water but I was pulling out early and shallow. My heart was thumping and my mind was a flurry of fear and panic as I resisted the urge to breathe. My coach could see this. “Rana you need to dive deeper.” Was the man mad?
I grasped at strategies I could use to fight off the fear that loomed. I decided to use Ant Middleton’s fear bubble approach, with a little twist. No need to fear until I was actually in the water. That was when I’d deal with the inevitable rush of terror. The twist I used was simply to count. As my head entered the water, I counted. “One, two, three four ….” As I reached five I pulled out of the dive and swam for the surface. This worked because concentrating on counting left no time for fear, and I couldn’t wait to do the dive again. I was feeling elated! So high and happy and beginning to actually love being under the water again.
For me the fear of drowning is an old frenemy, I was never very sporty and had hated swimming. Loved splashing about and messing about in swimming pools or at the seashore but actually swimming was not something I’d ever enjoyed.
During my honeymoon I’d been floating on a lilo off the shore of Minorca and the tide had carried me out to sea. I was terrified and my new bride had to swim out to rescue me!
On my baby daughter’s first birthday we’d gone for a sunshine break at a hotel with a pool. With some abandon I dived into the pool only to realise with sudden panic that I was about to run out of breath. I only just broke the surface in time but the experience left me distraught at what could have happened.
Water and I were not on friendly terms and I would tell everyone that I knew I was destined to die by drowning. I pretended to be surrendered to the idea but inside I hated the thought of it.
In late 2017 my doctor told me I had diabetes and needed to lose weight and get fit. I thought that if I faced my fear and learned to swim I could kill two birds with one stone. I would get fit and I would tackle my fear of death by drowning. In order to motivate myself I set a target of swimming a mile in open water that same year. I started swimming classes in January 2018 and swam a mile in open water in July that same year. I did not drown but vestiges of my fear remained.
I’m a fairly simple guy and facing my fear head on works for me. That’s why I started diving classes early in 2020. Surely if I didn’t drown diving into 5 metres deep water I was unlikely to drown in most other circumstances.
As I found out last week, some fears take a bit longer to deal with, but they can be overcome. While my diving coach coaches me on technique, I coach myself on overcoming fear. This works for me, and it makes me so incredibly happy and energised to do something that terrifies me. What’s more, pool diving really is fun and has become my favourite fitness activity of the week.
If you have fears that you want to overcome, get in touch and I’ll coach you just as I coach myself. I will draw on my own knowledge and experience and that of other people, such as the great Ant Middleton. But most of all I will help you discover that the solution to overcoming your fear lies within you! I will help you gain a new understanding of your fear and I will help you overcome your fear.
Standing at the edge of the 1 metre board and preparing to dive into deep water is scary. However, with planning, practice and will such fear can be overcome. What I’ve discovered that overcoming the fear allows you to find a richer enjoyment of life. If you would like some of that, please do contact me. I promise you, you’ll love it!