What Swimming Teaches About Life

What Swimming Teaches About Life

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Why swim? Why practice so much? Why push yourself through hard interval training? Why punish yourself in cold or rough water?

Steven Munatones opines, “In addition to the physical benefits of improved muscle tone, maintenance of flexibility, increase in cardiovascular endurance, and obviously providing stress relief, I can think of numerable other non-physiological advantages of swimming.

Self-discipline is a great characteristic that proves invaluable throughout teenage years through adulthood, parenthood and retirement. Self-discipline comes with going to daily workouts and dealing with rough, windy water. Simply getting in a pool or walking beyond the shoreline when the air is cold and the water is colder develops grit. A type of gritty determination that serve people well.

In the pool doing interval training helps instill another level of discipline. Every set provides a goal to reach. Every swim within that set provides another goal to achieve. And the pace clock is as objective as can be. Your pace is either on – or not. You either make the intervals – or not. There is no subjectivity involved. Swimmers either do – or fail on every single swim within a set within a specific pool workout.

The same thing is true in the open water. Swimmers either continue swimming against the currents and in the cold – or they get out. It is so easy to get out and quit. That little voice in your head is loud and relentless. Getting out and quitting is simply a matter of stopping and enjoying a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate – or eating a nice breakfast or meal.

And that voice in your head is really loud in the early morning when the alarm clock goes off and the bed is warm and you are so comfortable just laying there. But that determination and persistence to get up and out the door to the pool or open water is what a good student or employee or manager or researcher or inventor is made of.

Being comfortable being uncomfortable is what swimmers learn to accept. In fact, they ultimately learn to adapt and how to take it to the next level.

Concurrently, swimmers learn to work with teammates, helping and supporting them through thick and thin. That camaraderie and sense of cooperation and encouragement is a trait that is extraordinarily helpful in life. People love working with others who are friendly, supportive and cooperative.

And this is especially true with channel and marathon swimmers who learn to deal well with pilots, crews, volunteers and the media.

All is all, swimming is a great preparation for life.

André Wiersig, who was nominated for the 2020 WOWSA Awards in the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year category, is shown above and was interviewed by Freudenberg Sealing Technologies after he became the tenth person in history to achieve the Oceans Seven.

His conversation was about drive and self-determination where he explained what he learned from his struggle against high waves, currents and sharks and how it can be applied to one’s own life.

FST: How do you look at thirst, Mr. Wiersig?

André Wiersig: First, and foremost, it is a stimulus, a reminder to take care of certain things. There are needs that have to be met. But this immediately poses the question: would I like to eat something or am I really hungry? How strong is the stimulus, and how strong do I perceive it? I have swum through very cold water and I thought that I was cold. Today I don’t even consider similar temperatures to be cold. My sense of thirst is certainly no longer the same as it was eight years ago. I have moved to
another level.

FST: In other words, thirst, cold and hunger are relative?

André Wiersig: Our ancestors probably knew real thirst. What we experience today is at most a hint of that feeling. Once, during the running portion of an Ironman competition, I was on the lookout for cows on because I was ready to drink out of their trough out of sheer thirst. We have everything in our lives. There’s always hot water and food. Not only that – it is precisely the food that I like the most. Everything is there. Even information is endlessly available. Today we are living in our comfort zone. The question is: what do we make of our lives?

FST: You deliberately leave this comfort zone to travel around the world and swim across straits and channels that are thirsty or forty kilometers wide.

André Wiersig: Look, the sea is becoming a mere backdrop today. When people travel to the ocean, they swim in the hotel pool, not offshore. On your next vacation, head over to the beach and go into the water, and then swim straight out into the darkness. That’s how I start my crossings. I expose myself to nature. If you are out between the Hawaiian Islands, the water is extremely deep, the waves are high, and there are sharks, whales and poisonous jellyfish. You are completely in the hands of nature. I did have a boat accompanying me, but it couldn’t help me in an emergency. It couldn’t come too close due to the high waves. Otherwise, it would run me over.

To read the wide-ranging article with Wiersig, entitled Just Get Out of your Comfort Zone, read on here.

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Steven Munatones