Source: Instagram user popsugarfitness
I’ll confess| I’m a runner because I love to run| but also for another reason: I’m pretty terrible at other types of fitness. Anything that requires hand-eye coordination| a better-than-average sense of balance| or a thirst for adrenaline-pumping thrill has always required more of me than my personality wanted to give. You’ll never find me playing soccer in the park on the weekend| balancing on a surfboard| or careening down a single-track mountain biking trail (tried it once; never again)| and that’s always been fine with me.
While my lack of sports talent doesn’t discriminate between land or sea| it’s never more apparent than during Winter. Over the years I’ve made the hourslong drive to the snow with friends to try my hand at snowboarding| only to finally give up once I realized I’d never conquer the sport enough to actually have fun. I resigned myself to being more of a cabin-bound snow bunny than mountain adventurer until last year| when I tried skiing for the first time. After one lesson| I already felt happier and more in control on the mountain than I’d ever been on a snowboard| starting with the fact that instead of slipping and falling off every chairlift| I actually wobbled my way off my seat| triumphantly upright every time. Turns out| skiing was the sport I’d been waiting for.
After a couple short lessons| I thought I had skiing covered. It was so easy and intuitive to glide down the bunny slopes and very reassuring to realize that I didn’t have to spend my day covered in freezing snow and nursing sore wrists as I had during my entire short career as a budding snowboarder. I was so sure of my abilities that I quickly determined I was ready to graduate to higher runs| so on my next trip to Tahoe| I skipped the bunny slopes and chose a beginner trail that my friend assured me was beyond easy. The problem: even though I’d mastered the almost-flat groomed bunny slope| once I made my way up to the top of the mountain for the first time I realized that my fear of heights (and speed| and falling) were going to get the better of me. My instincts to freak out are never more apparent than when I’m careening down a steep slope with what seems like no way to control myself| so every time I found myself approaching a “steep” section of the run| I’d get nervous| forget everything I learned| and make foolish mistakes. Instead of the leisurely run I’d envisioned my graceful skiing self making| I spent most of my time anticipating falling| losing control because I was nervous about falling| and then| of course| doing exactly what I thought I’d do. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the less control I thought I had| the less I did. Needless to say| it took a lot of time and all my pride to finally make it down to base camp. I finished sweaty| tired| and cold| and way less sure about my newfound hobby than I had been just a few hours earlier.
Source: Instagram user popsugarfitness
After that embarrassing day on the mountain| I almost hung up my (rental) skis for good. But there’s so much to love about the sport that I was determined to master it enough to enjoy the occasional ski weekend with friends. So during a recent trip to Utah (as a guest of Ski Utah)| I spent three days at three different ski resorts| ready to make myself a competent beginner skier. I trekked up and down the bunny slopes| reminding myself to breathe| be aware of my instincts| and trust that I could make informed| sure moves that would help me glide down the slopes| not tumble over them. I also was lucky enough to have help from each resort’s instructors; having someone there to spot my shortcomings helped pull me out of my nervousness and wipe away doubt. Every time I felt like I was zoning out or reverting to a lazy ski stance| someone was there to point out how just small changes| both mentally and physically| can mean all the difference in how in control I felt. Soon| learning how to not fall turned into learning how to make confident decisions that made my body do exactly what I wanted it to| and I was able to finally make my way down multiple beginner runs without falling once.
While I’ll say that I never was the picture of grace that I’d imagined myself to be| by the end of the trip I was a competent skier and| just as importantly| more confident about my body’s abilities and my instincts overall. It may sound cheesy| but the same skills that make you a better skier are those that you can apply to life ¡ª on the mountain| you’re taught to lean forward| not back; look ahead| not down at the ground; and remember to breathe and relax. While you could say almost any sport has the ability to teach you how to be more aware of your body and your mind| skiing helps me instantaneously correct myself when I’m feeling uncertain or anxious| and reminds me to take a deep breath| make sure movements| and know my body’s capabilities. I won’t say learning to ski as an adult has been incredibly easy to pick up; I may still never be the one who flies into the face of curves and dips or ventures off groomed runs like pretty much every kid (or adult who learned as a kid) I see on the mountain| but tackling my fear of heights| speed| and falling ¡ª?all while gaining a new sporty skill ¡ª has made me feel more confident and aware about both my body and my mind.