A family adventure in learning to ride and ski and what we learned along the way.
A couple weeks ago, my husband Ronnie, my daughter Laila, and I took a 9 day trip to Whitefish Montana to visit my brother, sister-in-law and nephew. We stayed in their Whitefish Mountain Resort Condo. My brother and sister-in-law are avid snowboarders and my nephew is an avid skier. So, my husband and I decided we would learn to snowboard while my daughter learned to ski during our visit.
While I documented much of the trip on my social media pages, I'm writing this post about what I discovered along the way, what we learned about ourselves physically and mentally and the challenges that ensued, as well as what I learned about myself as it relates to my career in the fitness business. I'm also hoping this post will inspire you to finally give that new skill or sport a try!
I went out to Whitefish Montana a year ago by myself and did the Whitefish Mountain Resorts "Learn to Ride" program. It was two 2-hour classes for beginner snowboarders. They have the same program for skiers as well and the classes are available for all ages. (Check out their website to see the great deals they have for the learn to ride program at https://skiwhitefish.com).
Needless to say, my experience last year was hampered by my mindset...fear and lack of trust. The resort instruction was top notch and I got additional instruction from my brother and sister-in-law, however I could NOT get past my own fear of falling and injuring myself which made it impossible for me to apply all of what I was being taught. I was un-coachable. My fear and lack of trust in myself held me back and I could only progress so far. I must have fallen 150 times in those 5 days and came home with serious bruises, a torn muscle in my forearm from catching falls, and swollen knees. I felt like I'd been in a car accident, yet I wanted to do it again, because I knew my block was mental. I needed some time to work through that.
One year later, I made it back to Whitefish with Ronnie and Laila this time. We were truly in the midst of the most beautiful winter wonderland and were thrilled that over the course of the 9 days, it snowed over 5 feet!
The day after arriving, we enrolled all 3 of us in the Learn To Ride program. I decided to repeat the beginner program since last year didn't go so well. I had already figured out that there was no point in being scared this year. After all, bruises and injuries heal and the likelihood of serious injury on the beginner hills was unlikely. I had a year to let go of my fear and to realize that I AM physically capable of learning to ride, but that was only half of the equation. My mind-set was the other 50% and I came into the program this year with a completely different mind-set: to have fun, to apply what was being taught, to be coachable, and to let go of my fear.
Surprisingly, the muscle memory from a year ago came back within a few minutes of strapping into my snowboard at the top of the beginner hill. Our group lesson on day 1 was led by an awesome instructor named Dixie and Ronnie and I ended up being the only 2 in the class which meant individual attention. The lesson begins with simple tasks to get acclimated to the board. When it was time, we headed over to the top of the learning hill where Laila's Junior Group ski lesson were. She was doing what she was told, so we both felt at ease that we could focus on our own lesson and not worry about her. Ronnie and I strapped both feet into our board and receive instruction from Dixie on what the focus would be on our first trip down the hill. I realized that one year ago, this first trip down was TERRIFYING and this year, I just wanted to go for it! I wasn't scared, I was excited! This surprised me. As I look over at Ronnie and see uncertainty in his eyes, I felt great empathy. He was in the same exact mental space as I was a year prior. I told him to "Just have fun, take your time and be patient with yourself". He's very athletic and used to being good at almost everything. I wondered if that would help him in this sport?
I was thrilled to have picked up from where I left off last year physically from a year ago, and was relieved that paralyzing fear wasn't there. My end goal was to get comfortable on some runs that I freaked out on last year and to ride down from the summit before I left. I wanted redemption this year, but all in all, my main goal was to have fun.
Learning To Ride and Ski. Children Learn Faster!
All I really needed from Dixie was verbal commands on what to work on for each run down. She gave me 1-2 things to focus on and I was able to apply what she was teaching. This freed up her time to work in a more 1 on 1 manner with my husband. Day 2, our instructor Zach was great and both of us progressed. My husband took some nasty falls and I felt his pain. In the meantime, Laila had progressed so quickly in her ski lessons that by the end of day 2 she and I were both ready to try out chair 9 "Easy Rider". Laila, who learned to ski so in just 2 lessons, made it down with control and quicker than I did. I worked on my turns, fell a few times and got stuck on a flat portion, but besides, it was a huge improvement from last year! My husband wasn't ready for this run yet, so he continued to practice on the learning hill and by the end of that 2nd day, he was making his way down the hill and completing turns. Awkwardly, but he was making it happen. On the 4th day, my sister-in-law and brother figured out that Ronnie was having a lot of trouble with the movements because as a left-handed person, he was riding with left foot forward (regular foot), but that he was naturally a right foot forward rider (goofy foot). They switched his board to goofy foot and his comfort level rose quite a bit and things started to come together for him. He still needed to work through the mind-set issue. "He will get there..just give him space" I kept saying to myself. Again, I empathized. It was hard to watch him being so in his head, unable to let go of fear and to see the same exact mental block I had a year ago. Not being able to get your body to do what you want it to do...I know how that feels.
Laila, by this time was riding chair lifts by herself and zipping down with ease. What a JOY it was to watch her pick it up and enjoy it. She listened to instruction and applied everything she was taught. She's fearless in that way and I'm so thrilled to have given her the experience of trying a new sport. When she was out of her comfort zone and a little scared, she stuck with it, stayed calm and was glad she accepted challenges even when her legs were tired. She dubbed the trip the best vacation ever! She got to play with her cousin every day both inside and outside playing in the snow. They got to ski together and although he's an advanced skier, he slowed down for her, watched out for her and even gave her some ski tips. She thought it was a really big deal that she got to go on chair lifts with just her cousin and ride down together. Eventually, the beginner hills got too boring for her. She had the NEED FOR SPEED!
Ronnie stuck with it, even on the most frustrating days. I felt bad that he was frustrated while I was having so much fun! The daily fresh powder allowed me to take on some intermediate runs. Falling in fresh powder is WAY less painful! It felt like falling into pillows! On one particular day, my brother took me and my daughter up to chair 2, Swift Creek Express. It was a fresh powder day. The sun came out occasionally and when it did, it made the untouched snow look like a billion little crystals! He took us down that run and connected over to chair 3, Tenderfoot.... When we got over to the run at chair 3, I realized that was the run that I freaked out on last year...THIS IS MY REDEMPTION DAY.
I can't really explain to you how that felt, and I know it sounds silly. I had to walk away from that run last year and it bothered me from time to time since then. So there I was, faced with a do-over so I went for it! By now my legs were a bit tired, and I think I fell once, but I got to the bottom without freaking out. We did Tenderfoot again and again. At some point my brother gave me the instruction to point my board downhill and just "let it ride". I trusted him. I trusted ME. I was ready to "let my board take me where I wanted to go". As I pointed my board downhill and relaxed, into that athletic stance, I let it ride. I linked turns. I was going faster than I had up to that point, but it felt easier. I felt like I was riding on air! It felt like FREEDOM. I could hear my brother cheering for me from behind. He caught up to me and I think I fell when I saw him as I probably got over-excited, but I didn't care. THAT WAS THE BEST FEELING EVER!! THAT was my redemption day. It was the most fun I've ever had in my entire life.
I was exhausted and my legs were jelly, and it was worth every joyous second! I got another redemption day toward the end of my trip when my brother led my daughter and I down from the summit. There were quite a few spots where I had to go really slow, but riding down from the summit was one of my goals and I did it!
So, WHY am I telling this story? I want to share with you some things that I learned about myself as it relates to myself as a Fitness Professional. These 9 things are what I learned about being both a coach/trainer and a student:
1. Mind-set is as important as physical ability. Taking on a new skill/sport or starting a new health and fitness plan requires positivity and patience with oneself. I lacked that last year and it was difficult for my instructors to teach me because I couldn't get out of my own way. Whether its snowboarding, tennis, or a new fitness plan, there's a learning curve. And some new skills are frustrating, uncomfortable and scary at first. It's important not to panic. Do not fear failure, because the truth is we ARE going to fail to some extent while we're learning something new. Accept that and keep trying.
2. Being physically fit helps. It wouldn't be impossible to learn to ride if one lacked strength, especially leg and core strength, but it definitely helped to have strength and endurance. Especially during those times when the learning is physically uncomfortable or fatiguing. If anyone reading this has ever wanted to learn to ride or take on any new skill that requires physical fitness, but you're worried your not in shape enough, then I hope this serves as inspiration to work on your strength and endurance so you can go out and try something new with confidence.
3. Commitment. Know what you're going to do and then commit to doing it. This was especially important when it came to turning on a snowboard. You can't "kinda" turn. You must commit to the turn. And when you do commit, the turn is much easier. The same applies to any new skill. If you don't commit, everything is much more difficult. The same rule applies to so many things in life and business.
4. Trust. Applying what you've been taught and trusting that what you've been taught will work. Trust that you will get better with practice. Trust your instructor. Trust your ability to learn.
5. Nature is the best medicine. GET OUTSIDE! I think some of us spend so much time indoors, that we don't even know being outside improves our health and our mind-set. Breathing in fresh air, and being close to nature. It's important.
6. Gratitude. Be grateful for the opportunity to learn something new. Realize not everybody gets to do this. Just coming back to a place of gratitude can put the most frustrating day in to perspective.
7. Fear. Falling hurts. Everyone falls when they try something new either literally or figuratively. Keep practicing until the fear subsides. Do things that you fear until you don't fear them. It's worth it!
8. The Art of Learning. Learning new skills, at any age, keeps us young, sharp and engaged! But there's a very important aspect to learning that no one talks about. And that is the responsibility of the student. If you're learning a new skill, BE COACHABLE. If you're not coachable, there's only so much your teacher can teach you. To be coachable means to listen, to trust that what you're being told is true and useful, and to not question what the expert is telling you. Get out of your own way.
9. The Art of Teaching. Since I was on the other side of teaching, this time as the student, I realized the importance of simplifying tasks as much as possible. Simple doesn't mean easy, but giving just 1 to 2 tasks at a time to focus on helped me learn to ride with less stress.
Snowboarding Is A Metaphor for Life
My favorite metaphors along the way:
"Look in the direction you want to go. If you look down, you'll fall down."
Not just in snowboarding, but in life! We must always look in the direction we want to go.
"Let the board do the work. Don't make it harder by trying to muscle through."
Muscling through a workout makes sense. We need to challenge our physical strength safely in order to get stronger, yes. But when it comes to learning a new skill, there are times when powering through is not helpful. Ask any golfer.
"Finesse, not power"
This ties into the last phrase, but I think this metaphor for life is a great one. Life is so much better when we're finessing our way through it. Powering through life gets exhausting. Sometimes, what we really need is to just go with the flow and allow things to happen instead of trying to FORCE them to happen.
A NEW Way to Travel. A Challenge To Travel ACTIVELY
Many people sit for extended periods of time and over-indulge on food and alcohol when they travel. They are often left with feelings of guilt and sluggishness post vacation along with weight gain and sometimes illness. I challenge you to travel in a whole NEW way. Incorporate movement and activity into your trip. Balance indulgences with healthy meals. On our trip to Whitefish, we snowboarded 7-8 out of the 9 days. We took that whole entire time off from "working out" in the traditional sense, however we got plenty of exercise on the mountain. We indulged in food and drink and we ate healthy meals as well. We rode so much, that walking up the steps to the condo at the end of the day was physically exhausting! It was a great way to keep Laila active all day too!
We enjoyed that feeling of muscle fatigue at the end of the day as we rested our muscles in the hot tub, a most wonderful reward. I'm not suggesting you do something as extreme as 8 days of snowboarding until your legs are jelly, but incorporating daily deliberate movement into your vacations will help you return home without having to deal with vacation weight gain. Snowboarding was so much activity for us that it was nice to come home and give our bodies a couple days to rest and recover. In my past travels, I skipped workouts and would over-eat and drink. It would take me at least 2 weeks to recover from vacation weight gain, digestive issues and often illness. Id' much rather take a couple days to let my body rest from physical activity, than to spend 2 weeks trying undo damage done by not moving and going off the deep end with my nutrition plan.
If you'd like to learn how to travel in a whole new way, head over to the Inspired Escapes tab. If you're not able to attend our June Dominican Republic trip, contact me about setting up your very own Inspired Escape for you and a group of your friends or family. The possibilities are endless!