Episode 19 | Diana Nyad | Find A Way

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Why you should listen –

Today’s podcast guest is a woman who dares to be different.

And what a life she’s had! Julia Child has made her breakfast. She’s been on a date with Woody Allen. And, if you look at the cover of her New York Times Best-Selling book, Find A Way, you’ll know why  Bette Midler used to call her “Muscles.”

My first encounter with Swimming Champion Diana Nyad, was in NYC about 25 years ago. We were at the Women’s Sports Foundation fundraiser, an annual event where world-class athletes get together to honor the achievements of women in sports. Diana was the M.C. for the evening. As she walked on stage, she stopped mid-way to the podium, pulled out her bugle, and sounded off the charge.

Her zest for life is infectious. Little did I know that when I saw this power-packed bundle of energy, vitality and pure goodness step on the stage, that she would eventually accomplish a seemingly impossible challenge. By completing her her 40-year old dream to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, in just under 53 hours, she became the ultimate champion. And along the way, she inspired us to feel like champions, and believe that we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.

And for her encore, she’s taking on an even bigger challenge — stopping the obesity epidemic in this country. And you’re not going to believe how she’s going to do it…by walking across America. And she’s hoping to lure millions of Americans to join her team.

In today’s episode, you’ll discover:

  • How YOU can join her next epic revolution
  • What did she do to keep her mind motivated during the swim?
  • When the negative self talk comes up, how does she tame it?
  • Why she doesn’t formally meditate

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Today’s guest is a woman who dares to be different. And what a life she’s had! Julia Child has made her breakfast. She’s been on a date with Woody Allen. And, if you look at the cover of her New York Times Best-Selling book, Find A Way, you’ll know why Bette Midler used to call her “Muscles.”

Her zest for life is infectious. We first met 25 years ago and, little did I know then, but when I saw this power-packed bundle of energy, vitality and pure goodness step on the stage, that she would eventually accomplish a seemingly impossible challenge. By completing her 40-year old dream to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, in just under 53 hours, she became the ultimate champion. And along the way, she inspired us to feel like champions, and believe that we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.

And for her encore, she’s taking on an even bigger challenge — stopping the obesity epidemic in this country. And you’re not going to believe how she’s going to do it… by walking across America. And she’s hoping to lure millions of Americans to join her team.Why are you inspired for this next big challenge, EverWalk?

When you read about innovators – people who rise to their physical or intellectual peaks – you find out that they never just settle for what they accomplished most recently. For me, my swim to Cuba is something that I think about every Labor Day. I think about the 44 people that were directly involved in accomplishing that feat and I’m filled with pride! However, what am I going to do every other day of the year? I’m 67 years old and I’m in the prime of my life! So, I wanted to make a difference and even though even though I’m a swimmer, I figured out that I can’t get the masses swimming. However, I realized that so many Americans spend hours on end sitting in front of a screen. What can we do about this? It’s easy: Walk. That’s why I started EverWalk Nation. You can go to the website, and make a pledge like, “I vow to walk three times a week over this next year.” Our goal, along with Facebook, is to build a massive community of people who are moving their bodies and taking back their health.

I talk about the butt-to-chair ratio. Just think about how much of your day is spent in a chair: you sit at breakfast, drive to work, sit at work, drive home from work, sit in front of the television, then go to bed! This immobility contributes to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and the list goes on and on. The idea that you don’t need to spend all day in a gym to get healthy is so important! Just get up and walk!

Talk about your walk across the country. Where do you start? Are people going to follow you like Forrest Gump? Tell us the details.

I think the vast majority of it will be virtual. People from all over the world will be able to follow along, track their own walks, find walking partners, enter photo contests, and so many other cool things. In three weeks, we’ll be doing a 7-day walk from Los Angeles to San Diego. If you want to participate, visit www.EverWalk.com. You can walk just one day or stick with us for the whole trip!

In Fall of 2017, we’ll walk from Boston to New York City. Then, over the next five years we’ll keep adding on: Chicago to St. Louis, Portland to Seattle, Savannah to Atlanta, and Orlando to Miami. Our goal is to get away from our screen and see America!

The completion of your swim was the completion of a 40-year journey. This wasn’t something that you did overnight – it was a process. What kept you going through the setbacks?

When I stood on the shores of Havana and looked at that far horizon, of course, I had a destination in mind. But, over the years, the destination became much less important than the journey. By the fifth time I attempted the swim, I valued persistence over arrival. The chances of actually succeeding in that swim is very low – in fact, Vegas had it at a .002% chance of success. So, when we got to the end of the swim and we had succeeded, what moved people wasn’t the swim – it was the reminder that humans are capable of anything as long as they keep at it. This was my shore, but people have their own shores! People are trying to beat cancer, write that great American novel, or improve their economic situation. It can be anything! What you need to remember is that you just can’t give up if you want to succeed.

Tell us about the box jellyfish you had to encounter on your swim. They give me nightmares every time I think about them.

They have the most potent venom on planet Earth. There are thousands of species of jellyfish on the planet and, while being stung by them is unpleasant, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll die from it directly. However, 90% of all people who have ever been touched by any part of the box jellyfish’s tentacle have died instantly. I’m very lucky. I swam into a swarm of them. I felt like my entire body had been dipped in hot, burning oil. I was just screaming out in pain and confusion. I never got out of the water, but I was pumped through of almost all of the medicine on the boat! On top of all of that, I got stung again the next night! When I think about it, I remember that everything in this universe appears much bigger than you or me, but nobody has taken the time to measure the power of the human spirit. I think the only reason I survived the swim and those stings was through sheer force of will.

In your book, you write “Take every minute, one at a time.” That mindset definitely served as you swam through that arduous 53-hour journey. Do you have a meditation practice that you do when you’re not in the water?

I don’t follow any specific practices. However, the point of meditation is to let all of the noise and clatter of the world just fall away – just let it go. When I’m swimming, between the water and the swim cap,  I don’t get a lot of sensory input. All the input I get is whatever is in my head. At the end of a few hours of those repetitive sounds, you’re at the far reaches of where your mind can go. And when I’m not swimming, I’ll do 1,000 burpees and, while I have my eyes and ears, the rhythm and the repetition create it’s own sense of calm and clearness.

I know that you’ve been instrumental in the feminist movement – Title IX, women in sports, and supporting women’s dreams and goals. You’re in your 60’s now. Do you see yourself as a role model for our generation?

 

I do, but I think there are so many impressive women out there in science, technology, and sports. We’ve got Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah, and we’re about to elect the first female president. There are lots of women out there redefining what it means to be 50 or 60 or 70. Jane Fonda is in her upper 70s and she’s still a fighter! Physically, intellectually, and emotionally, I’ve never felt better. I intend to be a very young 70 and a very young 80. But, it’s not just the older generations. These younger generations are expanding what women can do in the world. I just love watching these amazing women take their place on the field, court, or track. It’s wonderful.

 

Hillary Clinton once said about you, “When you’re facing big challenges in your life, you can think about Diana Nyad and nearly anything else seems doable by comparison.” And it’s so true!

Before we go, tell us what we can do with EverWalk!

Just go to www.EverWalk.com. It’s simple. We’re the biggest walking initiative in American History. We’ve got the support of the Surgeon General, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson, and lots of other great partners. But, the simplest thing listeners can do is to go to www.EverWalk.com, put your name on the list, and vow to walk three times a week this year. Make sure to add your name among the first million.

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