I am a creature of habit. I know what I like and I do it, on repeat. Like, forever. I don’t bore easily. Example; I have alternated walking and running the SAME route nearly every day since March. It helps to have a great and similarly minded friend to keep me going, but still, the routine would probably drive most people mad.
I wouldn’t say I never try new things, I just don’t love being out of my comfort zone. I also don’t typically engage in doing things I am not good at. Not my best trait. Example; I went all in on women’s team tennis a few years ago, only to realize that I lack hand eye coordination (and truth be told, I preferred the post match “ladies lunch” more than the game itself). I credit this to never having played a ball sport. Gymnastics and cheerleading were great fun and required skill, but didn’t prepare me for a ball flying at me at high speed. After a couple of seasons, I just wasn’t willing to put the time in to get better, my elbows didn’t hold up (ouch!) and since I had no plans to achieve a trip to “Mommy Wimbledon” (is that a thing?), I took that time back and dedicated it to my own personal fitness (mostly outdoors, which I LOOOOOVE).
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable, precious, and sometimes sadly, far too short. I have come out of this last year with a changed perspective on so many things I don’t even know where to begin. Two things that I have definitely shifted are my almost primal need, like a craving, to be outdoors each day, and my desire to challenge myself. So this week, while we are up at our ski house hunkered down due to the ongoing pandemic I tried something new, both challenging and outdoors. Instead of riding the ski lift up to sail down the mountain on my favorite pair of skis, I trekked up instead. It was HARD. At first it felt unnatural, completely against the grain. New equipment to figure out, different ways of movement, the incline itself, managing my body temperature by stripping on and off of layers of clothing. A struggle for sure. Thankfully I had some experienced (and very patient) friends to guide me or I may still be out there! I really felt like I was in great cardio shape but PHEW, that was an insane test of physical (and mental) fitness.
Besides the obvious benefits of vigorous exercise, there was something more to it. Whatever it was, it brought me right back out there the next day, even though my legs were sore and tired. While it was difficult for me, and at a few points I considered that I may not make it to the top, it was the climb itself that had a profound impact on me. It made me reflect on my year and all that has transpired. Not during, of course, as I was too busy trying to make it to the top. I reflected on the experience afterward, when I was safely back at home, warm and dry. It struck me that my trek up the mountain was perhaps a metaphor for what we have all been though these past 10 months. Reaching the peak was pure joy (coupled with a bit of relief), but really, it was the uphill CLIMB that moved me. Being outdoors in the natural environment of the mountains and their serenity moved me in a way that I had not experienced them before, after a decade of downhill skiing these same trails. It certainly made the downhill run much sweeter, it felt earned.
There are mountains of research dating back to the 1970’s on the benefits of spending time outdoors, in nature. I came across this recent article from the Washington Post that seemed to describe it perfectly:
"Research has been piling up since the 1970s on the many salutary effects of spending time in nature. A walk in the park, or even just looking out a window at some trees, decreases blood pressure, stress hormones and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exposure to natural settings also spurs improvements in mood, cognitive function, and empathy and cooperation.
How green places work this magic is a bit of a mystery, but, according to a paper published this year in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, it seems that natural settings give us exactly the right amount of stimulation. A babbling brook, a Creamsicle sunset, the smell of wet ground after rain — these phenomena capture our interest, but they don’t require the focused attention demanded by most indoor activities, such as doom scrolling or watching “The Great British Baking Show.” Being in nature seems to give the brain permission to relax and just exist. “Something about nature helps us to stay more mindful and improves our executive function,” Kesebir says.
I’m a girl from Long Island, NY. I grew up in malls, not on mountains. I have seen people skinning up Sunday River for years. I often wondered why, when there are perfectly good lifts to get you to the top in a few completely untaxing minutes, would someone choose to do this. I shrugged them off as those ‘super outdoorsy types’, the kind of people that hike into the forest to camp in the middle of winter with 2 sticks and a tarp. Definitely not for me.
My husband gifted me a skinning setup last year, you know, “before”. “Skinning” is what this “outdoorsy person's” high intensity activity that seemingly defies logic, is called. I love gifts and was grateful, but wasn’t sure I would ever use it. I tried it once in the last days before everything shut down. It wasn’t for me. Too hard. Not worth my time. Fast forward through a year of pandemic, so much time at home, kids out of school or schooling from home, husband working at home indefinitely, so many of our favorite activities and pastimes canceled, missing friends and family, ALL OF IT. Well, it changed me, as I am sure it has changed you in one way or another. Not that overnight kind of change, but a kind of slow burn that quietly simmers under the surface until one day you realize you are different inside. I am still figuring it out, but I know deeply that my life after this pandemic will be lived differently, in ways maybe only I will notice. I am ok with that, because what I have learned is that in times of struggle, the first place I need to look is inward. Am I happy with myself? Do I feel good in my body? Do I feel strong, healthy, rested and calm? How am I relating to others? Do I feel a sense of purpose?
As 2021 begins, I feel ready to push through whatever the rest of this difficult and treacherous “climb” has in store for me. While the calendar year has changed and hope is in sight, we do still have some challenging months ahead of us. Take some time to think about YOUR climb. Where has it taken you this year, both good and bad? What have you learned about yourself? What will get you through the last stretch? What will you do differently when all of this is behind you, when we are g-d willing, all safely on the other side? What do you want to experience for yourself? It won’t necessarily come to you overnight, but it’s in there.
I want good health for me and my family, to deepen and strengthen connections with my family and close friends, to continue to explore outdoor activities, to travel abroad and to continue to build @GFSavvyMama to serve the Celiac and Gluten Free community, and to share my health and wellness practice with people who are looking to make healthy changes in their lifestyle. Put simply, I want to help you get healthy.
If you feel less than ready to take on the new year, a little stuck, like you are still carrying the weight of 2020 on your back (I am speaking figuratively here, but realistically many of us are carrying a little extra :) ), that is more than ok. I am here to help, to meet you where you are and to work with you to move forward. You only get this one life, and one body to live it in. Make the time to take care of your body, and taking charge of the rest of your life will be well within your reach. I'm here to help.
“There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb” ~Miley Cyrus
Consulting with me is 100% free. 30 minutes to talk about you. Not ready to chat 1:1, consider joining one of my upcoming detox groups and jumpstart your health in 2021. DM me through @SavvyHealthandWellness for more info.
Happy New Year! In good health,
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Photo Creds: Eric Borrin