‘Project Openwater’ – How to decrease fears and boost your self-efficacy

I love swiming. I live close to Lake Constance. I value flexibility and movement in nature. Wouldn’t it be easy to go swiming in Lake Constance regularly?

Yes. That would be a perfect match.

Yes, and: little me did never get comfortable with swimming in open water. Little me also did never get rid of some undefined fears related to “uncontrollable” water.

Here are just some worries my mind couldn’t let go of for the last 33+ years when it comes to swiming in open water:

  • “what’s beneath me?”
  • “what if the water’s current catches me?”
  • “what if I loose energy and water’s too deep to get my feet on the ground and get out of the water?”

The decision

End of June when summer was in full bloom I finally had enough: The lakeside is SO CLOSE to where I live, I FREAKIN’ LOVE being outside, I miss variety in movement (even more so since Covid19) and I just wanted to swim in the lake – whenever and how often I want to.

I did NOT want to obey to my lizard brain any longer because – in a pool – I can easily swim a kilometer or even further.

Having these things clear in my mind, I started going to the lake for regular swimming. I did it in little baby steps: close to the shore and in areas of the lake where I could still put my feet to the ground if-need-be.

First times I did it I felt so damn proud! That’s the feeling of self-efficacy. That’s the feeling when you put your value into living, daring action.

The challenge

After a couple of instance of open-water swimming, I decided to challenge myself with a measurable goal. One that would be reachable but not too easy to realise: I challenged myself to go swimming until end of season for 33 times.

My hypothesis was: if I take small, doable steps often enough with positive feelings (like the fresh water early in the morning and the movement in nature) the irrational fears of my brain will decrease and self-efficacy gets even more boosted.

For accountability I started sharing my progress on Twitter tagged with #projectOpenWater.

Tracking my progress took place in my journal. There I set my weekly intention how often I wanted to go for a swim at least. With that I was able to adapt to weather, menstruation, workload, other appointments & stuff.

The results

In terms of water temperature the swiming season is still ongoing. Yet I already surpassed my goal, the hypothesis has been tested… and I need a new goal soon :).

The numbers: between June 24th and September 07th I’ve been swiming in Lake Constance for 39 times.

Regarding the hypothesis:

  • I started truly enjoying going for a lake swim (and couldn’t imagine after a couple of times, that I let pass by the last 3 summers without any lakeswimming “just” because of fears)
  • weather did matter less and less (I went swimming in rain and at almost-rainy weather just because I wanted to get that special movement outdoors)
  • things that bothered me at the beginning (like: where/how to undress in public?) didn’t bother me at all after a couple of times and I’ve been developing a certain routine
    (hello dear “if it hurts, do it more often” principle ;-))
  • mid of August I dared to swim in waters where I cannot get my feet to the ground for the first time – unimaginable a couple of months ago
  • defusing from old fears with engaged action, endurance and babysteps works like a charm and the self-efficacy gained is a GREAT reward!

Do I need to mention that I totally got hooked and didn’t went to the public pool a single time this season? 😉

And you?

How do you approach fears that are hindering you more than they serve you? What are your individual ways to boost self-efficacy?

Parts of my nature “pool” on a almost-rainy day. It’s a wonderful feeling to be “one” with the water.