After years in sports, I know that showing up is not enough. In fact the physical is the easy part, it is the mental, the mental management of the physical that is the key to it all, to performance, endurance and enjoyment.
And I had the pleasure of spending some time adventuring in the Canadian pacific northwest late this spring and was reminded that in back country sports, with a longer outlook, showing up with a combination of strength and grace is key. I could not gut out these sports with my usual burst of energy, and use recovery days for sore muscles. Rather on a paddling camp trip, on days after biking and hiking days, I needed to find a place in inner calm and really settle into each stroke, and be in the moment. My impatience would not serve me, and in such a place would throw away everything except what a workout in a gym could do for me. Instead it was all about finding the beauty in the moment and just be there each paddle stroke, not considering the next one, or recalling the last. If I worried or wondered too much, I would frustrate myself and burn my energy. It was literally spatially constrained meditation, and man, was it stunning once I found the zen in it. Soaring pine forested mountains, over salty fjord waters lapped with kitten paw waves whipped up by the sunset breezes which turned the V at the end all sorts of pastels I could only look at and gloried in. Watching the shifting palette mark the time passing and distance gained.
And skiing in 75' weather high above the chilly Pacific winding through the waterways between the islands and the Straight of Georgia, well, it was heaven, let's be perfectly clear. But it also again took a mental calm combined with cardio, to work through the heat and the excitement I felt about all the beauty to pace myself, in terms of energy, enthusiasm, and even hydration. I couldn't "blow out my hip-flexors" as people tend to do, if I wanted to come back for many runs over many days of earning my turns, skinning laps.
And in order to bring energy to the downhill I brought joy to the uphill, loving the duality of the work, and the appreciation for the down. I cannot wait to for more laps like this, and although skiing in the heat of the June sun was epic, I am looking forwards to wintery days to come in Chile, Maine and Montana.
And in a bigger sense, with my genetic gifted migraines picking up significantly under the load of my mothers illness these last few years, I am intensely reminded of the joy, and blessing, of a healthy able body, the feeling of sweat pouring down my back, my lungs working in concert with my legs, my core and my back straining in balance, as my arms swing in cadence with my feet, and pulling me up a mountain, across a sound, or (god help me) up and down a mountain bike trail.
These are gifts not to be taken for granted, and the ability to play in the great outdoors is by no means a given. So even when I get cramps on a run and settle into the fact that the aches and pains are the good kind, the healthy and alive kind, man, do I want to do this kind of fully alive living every day, every hour.
Our physicality is the ultimate escape, and the great outdoors the best playground we will ever find! So until next time, and by that, I mean tomorrow...