Focused Thinking In The Open Water

Danny Gassaway is an open water swimmer from Oklahoma, about as far away from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as you can get on the North American continent. However, he is driven to enjoy and excel in the sport. This is his story:

I competed in mostly every sport imaginable from 6 to 18 years old before becoming an open water swimmer. Since being introduced to the sport, it has taken over my life in every way, shape, and form. But there is one obstacle that hinders me other than cold water, waves, wind, sharks and jellyfish: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

As a child, I was constantly thinking that every time I had a stomachache that I was going to die. I needed reassurance for everything that I attempted. Reassurance is the biggest part of OCD. When a person has racing thoughts inside their head, they feel a need to share it with someone else. The reassurance, to tell them that everything is okay. Once that reassurance is given, the thought usually goes away for the time being.

As time went on, I needed to find a sport that would help me get cope with OCD. My mother introduced me to swimming when I was 18.

After gradually picking up the sport, I turned into a triathlete and now consider myself a marathon swimmer. But OCD still affects my swimming, both in a positive and negative way. It both helps and hinders. It helps because it never lets me give up. I cannot give up when I am in the water. However, because I tend to over-analyze every situation, I lose sleep thinking about how I am going to swim something, or how my stroke looked in the pool, or how I am going to swim a certain style. Also, worrying about my body has hindered me. It hasn’t mattered how strong I have become, I think people are looking at me. These thoughts race through my mind while I swim.

In 2007, I swam in lakes throughout Oklahoma all winter long without a wetsuit in temperatures averaging 46-52°F (8-11°F) to prove that I could do it with the right mindset. This effort raised money for the Peace of Mind Foundation which helps research, treatment, and education for OCD. In August of 2012 I will be the race director for the 2012 Tulsa Swim in Tulsa, Oklahoma with proceeds going to the Peace of Mind Foundation. In 2013 I plan to swim 25 miles in a Lake Ft. Gibson to raise money again for the Peace of Mind Foundation.

The website for the race is:

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones