All Downhill From Here

I exhibit a lot of quintessentially millennial traits:

  • I remember life before the internet, cell phones and area codes
  • I don’t have cable but my phone’s never out of reach
  • I’ll add avocado to anything, can use a library card catalog and have very strong feelings about Topanga’s decision to enroll at Pennbrook University over Yale

But it’s not my love for the Scholastic Book Fair or my collection of photo albums that I think most identify me as Generation Y. It’s the fact that I really, really dislike doing things I’m bad at.

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(I also dislike having to choose between petting my dog-bear and holding my wine.)

I know, I know, it’s important to try new things and push your limits. But I’ve never much liked flailing or failing, and apparently I’m not alone among my cohort: studies show the generation raised on praise really doesn’t like to crash and burn.

So to avoid the anxiety of trying new things we might be bad at, we tend to do the same safe things over and over, from taking the same gym classes to cooking the same meals. Of course, many of my peers are better at risk-taking than me, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who gave up yoga for four years after a first terrifying class where I felt like a failure because I couldn’t pull off a shoulder stand.

(Other things I’ve only done once due to a single defeat: making homemade mayonnaise, taking a Physique 57 class, biking to work.)

So it’s no wonder that after busting my chin open on a high school ski trip, I waited FIFTEEN more years before approaching the bunny slopes again. And you know what? I’ve been seriously missing out.

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Ski bums.

I’m certainly no Lindsey Vonn — heck I’m no Elizabeth Swaney either! — but I spent five hours at Hunter Mountain this weekend and didn’t fall even ONCE. I was so scared to strap on skis again after failing in 2003 that I hadn’t realized all these years of running had improved my leg strength and coordination and balance, making me a better alpine athlete. I mostly stayed in the training area, but those few runs I did down an actual hillside were downright exhilarating. To think I might never have felt that had my fear of failure kept me sidelined.

Now I don’t expect skiing will work its way into my workout regime with any frequency — it’s expensive and time consuming and not that great of an aerobic workout since gravity does most of the work — but it’s still a great cross-training exercise for runners stuck in a rut.

“Runners as a group tend to be much too one-dimensional,” says John Lumley, a skier, runner and owner of the Running Hub in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “Any time a runner can work on strength, flexibility, balance, and/or use different muscle groups, it’s a good thing.”

And any time she can leave her comfort zone, that’s a good thing, too.

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Facing my fears from the safety of a helmet.

How are you pushing yourself today?

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