With this same mindset, lingering somewhere between 25 and 40, at the end of last year, I decided to try snowboarding for the first time. In case you wonder - I never skied before and winter sports were not "my thing" to date. I'm an avid sportsperson though. I practiced football (soccer) since I can remember, I do yoga for almost 10 years now, and fitness is in the routine. But winter sports... never crossed my mind. What's more, after a knee injury, I got during my university years, I considered it a fundamental "no-go".
1. I promised my kid that I will take lessons with him.
That's a biggie as parents out there would know.
2. I wanted to challenge myself with something completely new.
That's another huge factor, important for the boy in me.
And so, it began.
Conditions weren't perfect yet our mood was. The snow, the mountain, time spent together, fun. What more can one need? I prepared myself physically as best as I could and sure felt ready... That was until I hopped on that board!
I absolutely underestimated the mental part of it all. I focused more on the "how" and what we technically required. I wholeheartedly wanted to learn, yet I didn't think about one piece that mattered the most - facing and overcoming fears and rigidity towards the new!
In Germany, where I live at the moment, it is very common for children to start skiing or snowboarding as early as 3. As a result, I willingly signed up for a learning group full of youngsters between 8 and 11. "This is going to be fun" - I thought. I might be physically 40, but you bet I can switch to 15-year-old enthusiasm on a whim! And so I did!
It was fun...and scary...and it did hurt because falling is how you learn... At the end of the day, I was both exhausted and proud of myself. My little man had a great time too. We both absorbed the basics (including how to use the lifts and how a lift worked in the first place) with hunger...
As the teaching progressed, our instructor told us we are about to ride on a red slope. Please, understand me well, I found the 1st day inspiring and stretching but the red slope was ... A CHALLENGE. I thought "no (f-word) way". I saw one-third of the piste from below and definitively stated:
I am taking that lift - to the top and back! FULL.STOP.MADAM.PLEASE!
/Side note: If you are just as clueless as I was, for simple reference only, there are 3 types of slopes that are colour coded: blue (the easiest, for beginners), red (for advanced users), and black (for very crazy people in my humble opinion)./
Truth be told, I was put to shame by the young, newbie snowboarders. Despite my internal (and external protests) I had to take the leap of faith! There was no (ego)-way around it!
That same day I rode that slope down 3 times 💪🏻
For the next 2 days, my son and I were adding new skills and improving our techniques. We felt more comfortable with curves and riding faster. Believe it or not, we even tried another 2 red slopes! The excitement of all the white, pure snow, the mighty mountain surrounding us, the cold wind, and that speed... well, now I understand why so many are attracted to the experience. It was freaking amazing and yes, I will definitely continue!
But above all, here is what I learnt. Beyond the snowboarding!
The better prepared we are, the more comfortable we can feel. AND YET, WE CAN NEVER BE PREPARED ENOUGH! This may sound like a paradox, but it isn't and it's very important to grasp. Postponing something in order to be "perfectly and fully prepared" means it's likely not happening. Trust your gut, prepare as much as you can, yes, but don't wait for perfection - take the leap!
I tend to forget that and then I beat myself up, expecting unrealistic, quick results. Being reminded, through physical experience nonetheless, that every little new thing takes its time, helped me be more gentle in the process. That acceptance that any new place, relationship, job, experience, etc. will take time to get used to or master, can be incredibly useful in releasing tension.
When I began researching what my boy and I will need for this hobby, it turned out there is a lot that I needed to familiarise myself with. The length of the board, the proper size of shoes, left or right leading... If I knew, in advance, the amount of details I needed to embrace, I may have reconsidered going for it in the first place. The time invested was much more than I bargained for.
BUT, being clueless worked to our, joint, family advantage!
Overcome it or surrender to it? As I saw that red slope for the first time, I was thinking I will never make it. All my previous experiences from injuries, pain, and recovery played in my mind's eye like a movie. However, our past is not our future. And I chose to let go and ride.
Being at the top of the slope, what I saw at first was just the big, end goal - go aaaaallllll the way down! It was too much for me to handle. What I did was, I broke the journey down and turned around, looking at the top, not at the bottom. It was not as scary and it took the pressure off. AT MY OWN SPEED, meter by meter, curve after curve...that's how I dealt with it.
Falling is part of the process. Metaphorically and factually in my case. When we gain confidence we start riding faster. That's when "falling" tends to hurt even more (the bruises I still see on me are a good reminder of that). We can either realize and accept that discomforts will exist or give up.
I wanted to share my experience with you, because of one cliche saying that most of us know:
"we learn from our mistakes and we can learn even faster from other people's mistakes".
Learn from my mistakes, dear friends and don't be afraid to try something new. I am convinced that age is indeed just a number. Preparation is key, yet not the 'be all and all' of the game. Take you time. Go at your own pace. Don't give up because you fear something. Accept that you WILL fall and it may hurt but never take it personally - it's all part of winning.
Above all - Don't forget why you are doing it and have fun!
Wishing you all newness!