Christine Badua is a marketing specialist with Sharp Community Medical Group.
My priorities shifted after having kids and I lost my drive to stay active and fit. In 2018, I began focusing on my health and fitness again. That year, I embarked on a new journey: I started training for my first triathlon.
In a triathlon, swimming is the first leg of the race, followed by bicycling and running. I was in a dilemma — I couldn’t swim, let alone in open water. I couldn’t swim a pool length without stopping and holding onto the edge to catch my breath. I overcame that obstacle through swim lessons and getting acclimated to swimming in open water. Six months later, I finished my first sprint triathlon.
Triathlon setbacks and new discoveries
In 2019, I finished five triathlons and progressed by completing longer distances. When the season ended, I set my sights on a half Ironman, where the swim distance is 1.2 miles followed by bicycling for 56 miles and running for 13.1 miles. The thought of swimming even a quarter of that distance was daunting at the start of my journey.
I was ready to go in 2020 when the pandemic hit. All races were canceled, gyms closed and group training was paused. I lost my motivation, but I knew deep down that I wanted to resume when I could.
Early in 2021, I got back into the open water for the first time in over a year. I had a terrifying panic attack and found myself at square one again. I worked with an excellent open water swim coach. Not only did he coach me physically but mentally as well, teaching me methods to instill calmness and serenity once immersed in water — to be one with the water. Focusing on my breath, I felt serene and I achieved a positive and peaceful place — almost tranquilized. He encouraged me to swim in the ocean and even though I wasn’t too keen on the idea, I knew I needed to face my fears. In June 2021, I made my debut in the ocean.
Magical moment at sea
During my third open water swim, I had the most unexpected and blissful experience — a pod of three dolphins was swimming with me, about 10 feet away. I took a moment to capture the scene in my mind forever — here I was, in the middle of the ocean, looking out to the sea and back to shore, with the dolphins embracing my presence among them. A magical moment and a magical memory. I realized this moment could never have happened had I not had the strength and drive to face my fears. I went from not knowing how to swim to swimming in the ocean with dolphins.
Swimming in open water or a pool is a great way to stay fit at any age. Swimming is a low-impact activity with many health benefits, such as building strength, improving cardiovascular health and reducing stress. However, it’s important to understand how to swim safely in the ocean, including never swimming alone and avoiding areas with known rip currents.
For anyone thinking about trying something new to activate their fitness, I say, give it a shot. You never know what lies ahead of you, and you might get more out of it than you initially thought. I’m learning so much about myself and about the sport of triathlon, but also exceeding expectations that I set for myself. Swimming has gone from what I thought was impossible to being one of my favorite activities. It allows me to sustain the focus I need to stay healthy and fit for many years to come.
Start your ocean adventure with these tips for a fun and safe beach trip.