Tuff Lessons Learned

Photo by Onne van der Wal 2021

9 comentarios

Inspiring and True. We all have our mountains to climb and our valleys of shadows to walk. Find your own momentum and stick with it! Nothing is impossible.

Dr. Luissa K 24 abril, 2023

Inspirational!
How you feel about swimming says it all. I agree it’s you’re time and your space

Robert Muir 24 abril, 2023

Thanks for sharing this inspirational story.
I smoked for more than 15 years (half of my life) and now I’m preparing myself to be the first Brazilian to ever cross the Northumberland Strait (Atlantic side of Canada).
I’d be happy to share my story and get more people motivated to find their way into the sports!

Caio Silvestrin 24 abril, 2023

Great story of encouragement and hope.
I am getting back in the pool. I can honestly say I miss the swim.

Dianne Beskenis 24 abril, 2023

Thanks for your inspirational life story. I’m especially impressed with how you overcame a giant hurdle / actually a disabling disease and also turning that into a financial benefit for humanity. A perfect example of Bhakti yoga – loving service. May you live a long life of education to middle school and high school students who
Need role models like yourself. Btw, what brand product allows you to listen to music while swimming? Thank you. Emily

Emily Benjamin 24 abril, 2023

Very inspiring story, I love swimming too but sometimes I can’t be constant enough and stop either because of an injury or illness and is hard to get back into the pool again. I definitely agree with Ben when you are in the pool is all about you and setting your goals, is your time, listening to music is fabulous while swimming have experimented that too and after you swim you feel free is an awesome therapy. I also, did know how to swim but did not practice it constantly until I got old. I am 57 and started swimming five years ago and couldn’t swim 25 mt but after dedication and discipline I was able to swim 2000 mt in 44 minutes my best time. Now I need to go back to the pool, been at dock for almost 4 months with some issues that have stopped me to go for my swims. But after reading about your story it will definitely trigger my love for swimming and I will be back soon to the pool. Thanks for sharing your story.

Andrés Schmidt 24 abril, 2023

I love the “Just Sign Up” quote.

Diego Plaza 24 abril, 2023

Love it Insightful Inspiring!

Kath Tunnicliffe 24 abril, 2023

Really inspiring and the lessons are to the point.

Harry Alexander 19 abril, 2023

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Ben Tuff swam himself out of the bottle. From an alcoholic to an ultra swimmer, Tuff turned himself into an accomplished ultra swimmer and he wants everyone to know that it’s never too late to change and accomplish big goals.

As his new documentary Swim Tuff: How I Swam My Way Out of A Bottle shows, Tuff most recently completed a difficult 23 mile swim from Providence to Newport, Rhode Island. The swim took 14 hours and 48 minutes and was his most challenging swim to date. But it’s not the athletic performance that makes Tuff’s swim so remarkable. Tuff only learned to swim when he began his journey into sobriety. “I couldn't swim,” he says plainly. “I couldn't swim 11 years ago. I couldn’t do half a length in a pool. I didn't even have enough muscles in my arms to do freestyle for half a length.”

Tuff’s first sponsor was also an athlete which sparked an interest. First, Tuff tried his hand at triathlon and he excelled with the challenge and discipline sport provided. Despite the fact that he couldn’t swim when he signed up, Tuff was “so determined” to complete his first sprint triathlon. “I would have laughed if anyone said, number one, you're gonna be sober a year before the first triathlon and, two, you're also going to be doing triathlons,” he says with a smile. Despite enjoying triathlon, Tuff dropped running and cycling to focus on what he really loved: swimming. “Suddenly I realized that, wow, I'm halfway decent at this swimming thing. I'm not the fastest by any means, but I can do it, and I can just persevere.” That realization lit a fire within Tuff and in 2019 he attempted his first long distance swim of 23 miles. A few years later, he swam 19 miles from Block Island to Jamestown, Rhode Island, and, most recently as featured in the film, he completed a 23 mile swim that took 14 hours and 48 minutes.

Tuff beams with positivity about his accomplishments but not because of ego. Of course he is proud of his athletic accomplishment but he is more proud of the positive impact each swim has had on his community. From raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Clean Ocean Access charity, to showing the power of sport, and being an example of what alcoholism and sobriety can look like, Tuff shows everyone that it’s never too late—there is always a reason for hope and the possibility of positive change.

Ben Tuff pictured with his brother Alexander

Tuff Lesson #1: It’s Okay to Ask For Help

“There's this idea that you have to hit rock bottom in order to get help. I don't believe in any of that really, because I've seen so many people who haven't quite gotten to their bottom in my mind. Maybe this wasn't my bottom either, who knows how far it would've gone. But once you are able to get the help that you need, then you just move up from there— and that to me is huge.” A big part of getting help sooner rather than later is destigmatizing asking for help, especially, as Tuff explains, when it comes to alcoholism and mental health. “Every time some-one calls me because they know of the movie and my sobriety, and they say, listen I have a friend, will you talk to them? Or my mom or dad has an issue and I need help. They’re seeking out my advice and that’s a product of the destigmatization of it all and the fact that they feel comfortable talking about it.”

Tuff Lesson #2: It’s Not Too Late

“I was teaching a 52 year old guy how to swim in the pool two days ago. How awesome is that? I think that as humans, we try to tell ourselves that we're too old for something but, if anything, swimming is a sport that you should get into when you're older because that's when you need it most.” Learning to swim as an adult himself, Tuff knows how challenging the task can be. “I never really took many lessons on swimming and my form isn't great,” he says, but that’s not what it’s about. Whether it’s using swimming as a way to navigate sobriety or bringing about positive growth in your life for another reason, Tuff is adamant that it’s never too late.“Creating goals and starting something new maybe later in your life— that can be a really powerful thing.”

Tuff Lesson #3: Sign Up

To anyone thinking about taking on a new challenge or setting a big goal, whether it’s a swim event or something else, Tuff says: “Sign up. Just sign up. By signing up you’re creating accountability and the rest is just details.” Making the commitment might be the first step but it can also be the hardest. Once there is an accountability measure in place, it can keep you motivated and disciplined because, as Tuff laughs recalling a few races of his own, “It's also a lot harder to back out than one would think!”

Tuff Lesson #4: The Best Part is the Crappy Part

“You can't be positive unless you know how to deal with the really crappy stuff,” Tuff explains. “When I was drinking and, and I think actually in my youth because I was never taught how to process and how to deal with issues or problems, I found in the last 11 years through sobriety that I've grown more positive because I'm able to process the negatives better.” When he was in the midst of his last ultra swim and the current switched, Tuff went from swimming over 2 miles an hour to only 165 yards per hour. “I definitely thought during that time, like you’ve done crappier things than this. You’ve worked through harder things than this,” he says, referencing his journey into sobriety. “I’m able to not get caught up in the little things in life and put things into perspective.”

Tuff Lesson #5: Do It Your Own Way

Tuff enjoyed racing triathlon but moved away towards his solo ultra swimming challenges be-cause it wasn’t about competition for him. "I got away from the racing because I wanted—it sounds kind of selfish, but I hope it's not—I just want it to be me. I don't want it to be anyone else. I can just totally be on my own and go my own speed and that’s it,” he explains. That’s also why he also does all his long distance swimming listening to reggae music. “I listen to mu-sic during long swims cause that's just what I do and it's a non purist way,” he says unapolo-getically. Focusing on his own why and creating his own structure and environment allows Tuffto get the best out of himself.

Tuff Lesson #6: Find Your Therapy

“I am definitely addicted to swimming in a way that it's my therapy and it's what I need as much as I can get it,” he says candidly. But, as Tuff explains, we all need time to have mental space for ourselves. It might be reading, walking the dog, or, just like Tuff, it might be swimming. “Swimming is where I pray. Swimming is where I process everything. Swimming is where I just zone out. Swimming is my time. Even now, we’re all spending so much time on the phone, on the computer and doing all these things, but when I'm out swimming, it doesn't matter, it is just Ben's time.”

( 9 ) Comments

Inspiring and True. We all have our mountains to climb and our valleys of shadows to walk. Find your own momentum and stick with it! Nothing is impossible.

Dr. Luissa K

Inspirational!
How you feel about swimming says it all. I agree it’s you’re time and your space

Robert Muir

Thanks for sharing this inspirational story.
I smoked for more than 15 years (half of my life) and now I’m preparing myself to be the first Brazilian to ever cross the Northumberland Strait (Atlantic side of Canada).
I’d be happy to share my story and get more people motivated to find their way into the sports!

Caio Silvestrin

Great story of encouragement and hope.
I am getting back in the pool. I can honestly say I miss the swim.

Dianne Beskenis

Thanks for your inspirational life story. I’m especially impressed with how you overcame a giant hurdle / actually a disabling disease and also turning that into a financial benefit for humanity. A perfect example of Bhakti yoga – loving service. May you live a long life of education to middle school and high school students who
Need role models like yourself. Btw, what brand product allows you to listen to music while swimming? Thank you. Emily

Emily Benjamin

Very inspiring story, I love swimming too but sometimes I can’t be constant enough and stop either because of an injury or illness and is hard to get back into the pool again. I definitely agree with Ben when you are in the pool is all about you and setting your goals, is your time, listening to music is fabulous while swimming have experimented that too and after you swim you feel free is an awesome therapy. I also, did know how to swim but did not practice it constantly until I got old. I am 57 and started swimming five years ago and couldn’t swim 25 mt but after dedication and discipline I was able to swim 2000 mt in 44 minutes my best time. Now I need to go back to the pool, been at dock for almost 4 months with some issues that have stopped me to go for my swims. But after reading about your story it will definitely trigger my love for swimming and I will be back soon to the pool. Thanks for sharing your story.

Andrés Schmidt

I love the “Just Sign Up” quote.

Diego Plaza

Love it Insightful Inspiring!

Kath Tunnicliffe

Really inspiring and the lessons are to the point.

Harry Alexander

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