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  • Writer's pictureScott McInnes

86 | Don't think, just _______.

Back in 2017 (three years ago next week in fact) I wrote this post on how I find a bit of headspace, calmness and 'me time' when sea swimming.

It struck me that with everything that's going on (and now that the kids are back at school!) it's worth thinking about how we can all take that bit of time to try and rest our brains a bit.

For me, it's 'Don't think, just swim'. What is it for you?


There's a lot of talk at the moment about mindfulness and being 'in the moment' - it's become what one might perceive to be the latest fad.

For one, I totally support it - there's way too much going on all the time, expectations are that we're 'always on', and it's becoming increasingly difficult to get time to think. Or indeed to NOT think! But for that to work really effectively it has to be something that works for you, that's done in a way that suits you. It's all well and good going to a mindfulness course or doing a group session, but if that's not your bag it isn't going to deliver as much as it could. For me, that's where swimming comes in. I took up triathlon a few years ago (a necessary evil on the passage through middle age it seems!) and, of course, that requires one to be able to swim in open water. I did my first IronMan distance swim two weeks ago in Glendalough - a cold, brown, deep lake in the Wicklow Mountains. It was 3.9km and took me 1hr 28 mins to complete. And in that time all I thought about was swimming (actually, I thought a bit about not drowning too - the conditions were horrible!!). Where are my arms going? Are they crossing? Are my thumbs hitting off my thighs? Am I getting that extra bit of reach? Am I gliding? Am I kicking in time, Am I sighting enough and staying on track? Am I going to crash into the guy beside me!? And, in the background, all the time, that mantra keeps me going forwards - Left arm, right arm, breathe. Left arm, right arm, breathe. Left arm, right arm, breathe. Left arm, right arm, breathe... ...until, in what felt like less than half the time it actually took, I was done. For nearly 90 minutes I thought about nothing more than what I was doing right at that point in time - I was slap-bang 'in the moment'. A quick google for 'mindfulness tips' uncovered this short list (among a million others) from

It struck me on reading them that, in swimming, I'm naturally doing a number of them in a way that suits me

  • Take a couple of minutes to notice your breathing. Sense the flow of the breath, the rise and fall of your belly.

  • Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you are eating, notice the colour, texture and taste of the food.

  • Don’t feel that you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time to simply be. When your mind wanders to thinking, gently bring it back to your breath.

  • Recognize that thoughts are simply thoughts; you don’t need to believe them or react to them.

  • Notice where you tend to zone out (e.g., driving, emailing or texting, web surfing, feeding the dog, doing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.). Practice bringing more awareness to that activity

I was reading an article over the weekend in which one of the contributors said 'Being in open water is about now-ness'.

I'd say that that just about sums it up.


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