#Freezbury 2020 Part 2
Posted on 16th April 2020 at 16:08
#Freezbury2020 - My Experience
This year I decided to join in on the #Freezbury challenge from the start. The purpose of doing the challenge for me was to bring a focus to my life. I thought jumping into the cold water on a daily basis would inspire me to forge ahead with three other major long-term goals I’m working on in my life. I find it’s always important for me to understand Why I’m doing a Challenge and to find meaning in it. I find no benefit in ego-only-driven-pursuits any more. This way I can take the lessons forward into life with me and it benefits me as a whole.
I was a late beginner, hitting day one after midnight in an ice bath out my back garden. 1 minute down, no problems as expected. From day three onwards, the event became progressively more difficult. The toughest part of the whole was experience was balancing the challenge with life. With a prior long-standing commitment to goals in my family, work and personal lives, I knew this may be one step too far. A good challenge is a good challenge though and sometimes you just have to go with the flow and jump into it without thinking it through too much. Besides, I thought this physical-mental challenge would set me up nice to attack the rest of my day with energy and ruthlessness. I thought it would energise me to lead a greater life and hit my other goals and in its own kind of way, with the insights I drew from the experience, it did just that. However, as I was soon to find out, it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows for me.
The one thing I’ve come to love about the #Freezbrury challenge is the connection to other people – the community it is building. Unlike most other physical challenges, there is something unique about this one. It might be the sea water speaking, the mindset required to partake in the challenge, the uniqueness of the event itself, the cross-societal engagement or perhaps it’s something else, I’m not entirely sure but what I do know is that it is quite unique. It brings people from all over the country together on social media and you are now beginning to see group of participants form in pockets beyond Galway.
In reality, you don’t experience that community with every trip to the sea. You have to be willing to do some of the challenge on your own but most days you’ll find a handful of sea lovers spread throughout Dublin beaches and beyond. The key to the community aspect though lies in knowing there are other people around the island jumping in the sea with you. This knowledge and mindset is somewhat refreshing and reassuring on the days you are left to your own devices. This year you couldn’t escape the knowledge that the movement is spreading, it was all over Instagram. The saying “Together we are stronger” resonated in my head as I embarked on my daily cold exposures.
Finding Peace with Fear
Being a Wim Hof Instructor you would think I should nail this challenge and make it to the end without flinching but I knew better than that. This is a challenge, afterall, there are always going to be casualties and failures! The secret, though, is not in making it to the end. The secret lies in the participating, the competing, the learning and the application of those lessons to life.
Personally, I wasn’t always good with the cold. For most of my life, I weighed 9-9.5 stone. I was gaunt, I was sick with chronic asthma and I was always cold. It was funny because we have a running joke in my family how my mom used to dress us up in balaclava’s and jackets in the winter – “wrap up or you’ll catch a cold” was the daily mantra of my mom which echoes in me even to this day. To this day, my hands can still get cold and I (periodically) wear jackets and multiple layers to keep me warm during the winter. Over the course of 15 years, however, I would learn and develop the skills to be who I am today. I’ve dived head first into every aspect of life which could bring me closer to health: Breathing, Physical Training, Personal Development, Heat & Cold Exposure, Sleep and Nutrition; I’ve studied and experienced them all in depth.
Through all of these practices, I have become happy, healthy and strong. For the last 10 years I’ve known my body well enough to feel when my body is on the verge of breaking down. I know when to pull back from the brink of illness and I have the tools to restore my health where necessary. However, 8 years ago Voices began to speak inside me. The Voices were a yearning for something more. It was as if it was saying “well done Leo, you have your health, now what”?
The Voices come and go depending on life circumstances. Over the years they have grown stronger and stronger. I feel the purpose of The Voices is guide me into situations I’d rather not go, places I fear for some reason, but they are also places I know I should go, places I need to go. The only problem with The Voices is that they are not a pleasant teacher.
The strategies they use to send me to a place I fear, are harsh. In a twisted fate, the experience begins with a “good” feeling to do something, like jump in the sea as an example. In the moment of thought-inception, I am excited and thrilled to jump into the sea. I know I am going to enjoy the experience and I know I am going to get out feeling grateful that I had the experience. And then, part two of The Voices experience occurs – I start thinking of all the situations I may find myself in when jumping into the sea. The cold, the wet, the shakes, the recovery, the possibility of being swept away by a wave or banging my head on a rock. These are Voices of doubt, fear and pain, and ultimately, they are voices of safe keeping. Their purpose is to keep me where I am – in a safe place.
After many years of listening to The Voices, I have found a way to distinguish between them and align myself to which one I should listen to now. They both play out in my head and in my body. In my head, there is simply the debate between the two. Neither are right or wrong as a whole. It’s more a question of what is appropriate for me in the present moment having listened to both. The Voice of purpose, passion and excitement is a Good Feeling in my Body. The Voice of doubt, fear, pain and safety is a Bad Feeling in my Body.
But having been drawn into the original ‘good’ feeling I am now caught like a deer in the headlights. Do I stay safe or do I go after something scary that I’d ultimately love to do. The more time I spend caught between these two opposing forces, the louder The Voices in my head become. They mock me and goad me. They know both my failures in life and my strengths. Somehow they manage to turn both my failures and strengths against me into a gnawing, ever-present presence in my life. And so I have sought out ways to come to know The Voices, spend time with them, understand them and be at peace with them. Perhaps this is The Voice’ most true desire. Perhaps The Voices are supposed to be for my benefit? Yes, they causes me great pain and turmoil in the moment but when I face them; when I gather the courage to stand with them and surrender to their presence, then I receive a gift of the heavens from it – I receive peace and joy.
#Freezbrury – Challenging the Fear
Eight years ago, that Voice and the “now what?” began with a return to the Judo mats, progressed to running a marathon and culminated in taking on the finest challenge of them all – Iceman training with Mr. Wim Hof.
Training with Wim and his team over the past 5 years has changed my life. I have developed physical and mental skills to cope with life’s challenges and the lessons from “the cold, hard mother nature” were greater than I could have imagined. The training I undertook involved “chilling out” in ice-baths, swimming in freezing waterfall pools and even climbing mountains bare-chested. And so, when it came to #Freezbrury2020, I expected to do well. I expected to succeed. What I did not expect, was the Voice to return to me with such force.
This is what essentially came up for me on day 11 #Freezbury. And at the time I didn’t fully understand it but today, three days later, as I write this blog, another piece of the jigsaw has been revealed. And now I understand why I took on #Freezbury and why I quit when I did.
As you will see from my instagram feed, day 10 of #Freezbury2020 was unmercifully hard for me. Like a rat biting through a rope, the voices inside me bit and scratched and gnawed in my mind all day. The torture began when I woke up, continued through the event and followed me into day 11. Nothing about day 10 was glorious. The swim was physically painful. The recovery was two hours of hell and the voices were incessant torture. When I awoke Day 11, I knew it my mind that I was done. No more #Freezbury. The message was clear and strong – “I’m done”.
I went to work early Day 11. Rising at 4.30am and coaching on the gym floor by 6am. Throughout my morning sessions I still heard the voices echo my weakness in the background of my mind – ‘I’m done’;’ no more’; ‘I can’t go on’.
These voices of weakness were mixed with the egotistical voices too –
‘what will people say’?
‘you gave up’
‘ you’re not supposed to stop, you trained with the ice-man’!
‘what type of coach are you that can’t do this challenge, whilst countless others are succeeding with it’?
It was funny because my wife, Joy, echoed these voices to me a few nights after I stopped. In deep conversation with the person closest to me in the world she revealed that she was surprised I stopped. Perhaps it is my self-talk, my background as a PT or perhaps my continual drive to test myself, either way, she thought I was impenetrable for this event and she was surprised I decided to end the challenge. This in itself was a revelation to me. She has an unwavering belief in me that I did not have it in myself.
Note to self: I must develop this belief more in me and I must appreciate my wife more for her support.
So yes, #Freezbury2020 was a failure for me in some respects. That hurts me to say that but pain is one of the biggest motivators for change. If I can remember the pain and frustration of failure when days are brighter, then perhaps I have another chance at living the life I want to life and become the person both my wife and I know that I am. This brings me to the success of #Freezbrury2020 for me. Leaving the ego at the door and finding the meaning in this adventure reminds me of why I began it.
I participated in #Freezbrury2020 because I wanted to:
A. Take on the challenge and complete it.
B. Develop Focus in my life for my other long-standing goals.
The first goal, broken down, is essentially two mini goals. Take on the challenge and complete it. When I review the whole event in this light, I actually achieved 2/3 of my goals. Not perfect but not bad either. Again, when I look at why I failed that third goal, I have to be honest and say I chose to quit for my greater good. I know there is a very strong chance that completing the challenge would have compromised the third goal anyway. And I made the choice. I chose to finish the challenge on day 11 and pursuit my long-standing goals in life instead.
So here’s to #Freezbury2020 and all it’s lessons. Here’s to failure, it’s success and it’s blessings. Here’s to becoming strong inside and out & Here’s to living Your Great Life.
All the best
Ps. thank you to Damien for originating the event. Thank you to the guys and girls of Renvyle for turning it into a charity event in aid of Pieta House And thank you to the girls and boys who I swam with in the early days of Freezbury – you’re all an inspiration to me.
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