Stephanie Dixon – 19 x Paralympic Games medallist.

 

Fun and play are powerful and under estimated components to living a healthy and happy life, as well as achieving our goals. Fortunately we carry both at our fingertips.

High performance athletes learn to fuel and finely tune their bodies like a machine. Almost every movement during each day is lived with purpose, bringing them closer towards their goals. But over the course of my swimming career, I learned a very valuable lesson the hard way; our bodies are not machines and we are not robots. Our hormones, moods, perspectives and mindsets strongly influence us and our bodies’ ability to function and perform and shapes our quality of life.

When I was a child I played all the time, especially in the water.

Most of my summers were spent in a pool or a lake; jumping and diving into the water, going as deep as I could, and moments where I closed my eyes and imagined what it might feel like to be a giant whale swimming at the bottom of the ocean. My body felt free and powerful. I felt like a beautiful mermaid.

I brought this passion, wonder, and joy I had for swimming into my competitive swimming career. But it can be difficult to keep these things alive when you’re aiming high and constantly driving forward towards improvement and excellence day after day.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my passion, wonder and joy. I didn’t see the water as the fun, wondrous place where I could explore my abilities and express myself in an uninhibited way anymore. It became a place where I experienced exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy, and lack of purpose.

I went on a mission to find my joy and love of swimming again. I engaged in a lot of self-reflection and trained in different swimming programs around the world. One day it hit me, I just wasn’t having fun anymore. All the medals in the world wouldn’t be worth it if I wasn’t enjoying the process. I changed my entire outlook on swimming. In training, I started to focus on the feeling of the water on my body instead of my times. I focused on new training methods and learning new skills that promote self-expansion and joy. Finally, marveling at what my body could do and again remembering that I am a powerful, beautiful mermaid. Before I knew it, I was swimming faster and having more fun than ever before!

Now, I have been retired for almost 10 years and am on the other side of the deck as a coach. I prioritize play and having fun not only in my personal life but also in my coaching style.

I still spend my summers in the (chilly Yukon) lakes, diving deep like a whale. I always make sure to be learning new skills; right now, I am loving my new mountain bike! In coaching, my aim is to create an environment where my swimmers can develop their passion, wonder, and joy while realizing they too are powerful, beautiful mermaids.