In the wake of Covid-19, we’re living in uncertain times. We’re isolated. We’re worried about our health and the health of those we love. We’re anxious about the future.

For many of us, it’s hard to deal with such profound uncertainty. For open water swimmers, uncertainty is present every time they step into a massive, untamed body of water. Open water swimmers can never be certain about the outcome of a swim. They’re always at the mercy of many elements outside of their control, from waves, to weather, to wildlife, to simply finding the will to keep swimming.

Life isn’t a swimming pool, with lanes to follow and water that’s always heated to a comfortable temperature.

Life is an ocean full of unpredictability and difficulty. But after each swim, we emerge from the water stronger and more capable.

At Swim Guide, we’ve been asking open water swimmers how they deal with uncertainty and sharing their advice about how they’re making it through these turbulent times.

Today, we’re speaking to Liz Fry

Liz Fry is a record-setting marathon swimmer with numerous channel crossings. She holds two Guinness World Record titles for being the oldest person (and female) to ever achieve the Oceans Seven. She is an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

Here’s how Liz Fry deals with uncertainty…

As open water swimmers, we walk into uncertainty on purpose. Every time we step into the water, it’s something different, whether it’s the weather or the waves.

When it comes to those uncertainties, I try to focus on the things I can control, and more importantly, the resilience, or how I respond to things that come up. The most important thing you can do while dealing with uncertainty is keeping your purpose in front of you. That purpose might not always be getting to the shore. It might involve just getting some place safe and making sure your crew is safe. Your purpose might even just be enjoying the swim.

Even in the worst conditions, as long as the safety precautions are in place, I can enjoy the swim. Even if it’s windy, I don’t even notice.

It’s meditation that helps you through those times–having that place you can go to. And if the stress of coping with the uncertainty is difficult, ask for help, more so now than ever.

It’s important to reach out, whether you’re in the water on land. We need that connection.

I often find myself either being reached out to or reaching out to others. During swims, we need to stay calm and help each other so that we don’t feel alone or isolated. Social support is really important, both on a swim and living through the situation today.

Reach out to friends and family, even if you can’t see them, even if you can’t hug them (which you can’t do in the water anyway! You’d be disqualified!).

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Being human, it’s only natural to want to be socially connected. I know this from crewing and helping other swimmers. We’ve created a community of people you can talk to and ask for help. Don’t stop doing that if you were doing that before.

Anything anybody can do to lower the stress, the anxiety, the depression that they might be facing–whether it’s taking a walk around the block, Zooming someone, Facebooking someone, or doing a workout, whatever it might be–I think that stuff will help us cope.

We can’t control things right now, but it’s not good to avoid them either.

You have to find ways to develop the resilience that will help you down the road. Take on uncertainties.

When it looks like things are awful, you have to find your happy place and be positive. At some point, the sun will come out, or the winds will die down. It won’t feel as cold. It won’t be as choppy. All those things will change.

You’ll hit the shore if you focus on being positive and being patient.

When you’re swimming, it may be crappy for the first three hours and then it’ll be a mill pond. Or ten hours later, it still may not be a mill pond, but you survive those challenges. Know what you can control, and accept what you can’t. It’s hard, but what’s the alternative?

Right now, we’re strengthening our coping muscles.


Find out how other open water swimmers deal with uncertainty by checking out the other articles in this series

Learn how to deal with Covid-19 uncertainty: Go with the flow with open water swimmer Marilyn Bell

Learn how to deal with Covid-19 uncertainty: Do your research with long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox

Learn how to deal with Covid-19 uncertainty: Just breathe with Eney Jones

Learn how to deal with Covid-19 uncertainty: Give back with Loren King

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