How a break through in my attitude led to a break through in skiing

As you know, I was a gymnast for basically all my life.  I was competitively involved in the sport from age 5-28 and currently I still teach classes here and there, but at a more recreational level.  As a gymnast I had AMAZING control of my body and was in FANTASTIC shape.  My balance and coordination were impeccable and I was super quick and powerful not to mention that I was really strong and could maneuver my body well.  While I was no longer a gymnast and by no means in gymnastics shape, I still have some heightened body awareness. So you would think I would be great at skiing, right?  Wrong.

You see, when I was a gymnast at DU we were not allowed to come up and go skiing - ski season is during the NCAA gymnastics season and our coaches definitely didn't want us to get hurt during season testing out how to ski (most of us were not from Colorado).  Since DU was paying for our college because of our athletic ability, we all went along with that rule with no complaints.  No big deal!  So I don't ski but I go up and enjoy the beauty of the mountains and go for hikes.  

So, when I was done with college I moved around the country a bit for different coaching opportunities and when I found myself dating my high school sweetheart again [Brian: now my husband], who just happened to move to Colorado when I moved away, I came out to visit him and it was time to you know what....try skiing!  

Wait!  I'm going to be honest with you - I did ski one other time before this when I was a freshman at Utah State University and a member of their gymnastics team.  What happened was the team did not qualify for NCAA Regional Championships but I did personally as an all around competitor.  I felt like because the team didn't qualify and I did that I could try skiing and if I got hurt it would just be my bad and not really affect the team.  So I took 3 runs that spring day with the guy I was dating at the time - a fantastic skier.  He was super patient with me and knew how to teach a complete beginner.  The first thing I said after getting of the lift, "You want me to go down THAT?!?!!  That is not a small bunny hill that you talked about, THAT is a mountain!!!"  Hahah!  After the initial shock of it all I did awesome on those 3 runs on that sunny spring day and felt like skiing was a manageable thing. 

Fast forward to the visit to Colorado and my high school sweetheart - a totally different story.  Now I was no longer a gymnast, I was a college coach.  I understood more what getting hurt meant and I certainly didn't want to be out of commission and have to pay for any injuries myself.  We decided to go night skiing one evening and I was SO SCARED!  I couldn't see anything & felt like I couldn't control my body.  Brian thought I would be a natural and it would be no problem for me - wrong.  I made it a problem for myself.  I began to talk about how afraid I was, how I didn't know what I was doing, how I could control my body when it was just me but then you strap those long skis on and add snow and I felt totally out of control.  Because of all those thoughts and fears, I probably was out of control!  I was so busy being afraid that my "fight or flight" response was activated which means that my ability to think and reason was deactivated. 

Yes, I was trying to ski down the mountain while being unable to think.  Not a good idea!  What would have been best for me to do at that point would be for me to stop and calm myself down and then talk about a few key pointers and to remember to breath.  Instead, I became totally irrational and got angry at Brian.  Like it was his fault!  My breathing was irregular, everything felt too difficult for me, and we were both totally miserable.  Not a great way to spend a weekend with the person you are dating long distance... or with anyone at anytime for that matter!

When I moved back out to Colorado in 2012 I skied very little - maybe 4 times per season was it.  I slowly started to get better over time and what really helped me was going with other people that had taken beginners out before.  There was less expectation, more patience, and a lot less fighting!  I felt like I was making progress and I was getting small tips here and there that I could work on and overall I felt less afraid and more like I was accepted as the beginner that I was.  Because I was more calm I was able to pick up different techniques.  The technique that helped me the most was learning the hockey stop.  Before I had done the pizza stop which took a really long time to stop and also totally burned my leg muscles.  Once I learned the hockey stop I started to feel like maybe I could get the hang of this.  And you know what happened next?

I started to tell myself that I WANTED to ski, that I WANTED to be good at it and that I COULD DO IT.  Sounds so very easy and like so many books and coaches had told me before.  However, the key to it for me was to be calm in order to get to this place.  Once I was calm, able to breath normally, I could think and allow my body to make changes in a smooth way.  After this happened things start to feel a bit more effortless and I began to gain confidence.  In gaining my confidence I changed the way I spoke to myself about it.

I changed from saying, "Gretchen this is scary and you could get seriously hurt doing this!  Is it really worth it to get hurt doing something you don't even love?" to saying, "Wow, this is fun to be a beginner again.  I can see my improvements happening so quickly and I am enjoying this process.  It's fun to be outside, to be with my friends, and to be with the beginner in me soaking up and learning something new."  See how those are totally different frames of mind?  A complete turn around in my self talk led to a complete turn around in the way that I view skiing & as a result my skiing abilities. Sweet relief.

I know look forward to going up to the mountains and look at it as an opportunity to continue to expand my knowledge, to connect with myself and nature, and to work towards improvements.  After years of being embarrassed to go up to the mountains with friends I now own my current abilities and I do not feel ashamed.  I'm proud of myself for the progress I am making and the small transformations I continue to have.  Growth is a beautiful thing & I am loving that I am using a growth mindset for more and more things in my life.

Have you ever felt like this before and been able to change your self talk?  Are you currently struggling with something & would like some encouragement in working on the way you speak to yourself and view yourself?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!