What snowboarding taught me about falling, and getting back up again

Snowboarding like a badass in Italy

The name Suzanne means ‘graceful white lily’. Well, let me tell you, there was nothing graceful about my last week’s escapades. Last week was the week my arse met the mountains. Over and over again.

Despite my penchant for sporting activities, my parents never thought to shove me down a big white hill on skis when I was younger. Probably sensible. But after spending so long saying ‘I’ve never done that’, I decided 26 should be the age I spend an eye-watering amount of money on a holiday where I don’t even get a tan.

So chaps, that is what I did.

My sister and I were both snow sport virgins, but our other halves were not. They did their own thing in the mornings while little sibling and I spent some quality time with an Italian named Lucio whose favourite phrases were ‘pay attention’, ‘don’t worry’, and ‘how long time ago’. At least he learnt our names though – there was a kid in the class he referred to as ‘boy’.

Anyhow, Lucio was a good snowboarding teacher and, most importantly, PATIENT with us. He must have looked at us falling about like the most efficient dominos and thought ‘what is wrong with these English people’. At one point I toppled backwards and hit my head so hard I cried like a baby. But he just said ‘don’t cry, don’t worry’, and helped me get back up. We held hands. It was borderline romantic (sorry Olly).

In the afternoons after lessons we would meet up with the other halves and they would witness all the progress we had made in the morning turn to s***. I’ve never cried so much on a holiday. I mean, seriously, holidays are supposed to be where happy gets made. At one point I fell so hard on my face my goggles branded me and I may have chipped a tooth. Another time I fell over so badly an actual tantrum happened. I took off my board and stormed down the mountain on foot.

It felt like I kept taking one step forward, and two back. It was immensely frustrating.

And every time I fell, I was more tentative of going again. Because I was scared of falling again.

But this meant I restricted myself – trying to snowboard with tension in your body is literally setting yourself up for a fall. You have to relax for it to work.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see achievements in perspective. At the start of the holiday I could only just stand up on the board, let alone ride down a mountain on it. After four days I was riding down a mountain on it, and occasionally falling over. But instead of focusing on how far I’d come, I was consumed by how far I still had to go to be ‘good’. Good by my standard. Which pretty much means the new Jenny Jones.

This is a flaw of mine. Looking at the negatives over the positives.

But, I started to see, falling over wasn’t a bad thing. Falling over meant I was trying, pushing, myself, and not just staying where I was comfortable. Even though I didn’t want to fall over (it hurt, a lot, and after a few days my body was really suffering), I knew that if I didn’t then I wasn’t getting any better.

If I didn’t fall, I wasn’t learning.

The important thing was my actions after a fall. I could roll around in the snow whimpering like a small mountain goat and thinking ‘I’m rubbish, I can’t do it, if I was good then I wouldn’t be falling’, or I could get straight back up and try again, being aware of what made me fall in the first place, and trying to avoid repeating it.

Apply this to life. Every day, every week, every year, we fall. In one way or another. We bruise, we feel pain, we wonder what the hell we’re doing for life to suck so much.

But the real value we get from those falls is the way we recover. Brush ourselves off, stand back up, tall, and deal with them. Make life better than it was before those falls.

We can learn so much if we let ourselves. If we recognise that falling is all part of growing, and that if we aren’t falling we aren’t trying hard enough.

Remember, if we don’t experience any pain, we can never know how sweet the pleasure of success is.

We can never find our limits unless we push ourselves beyond them.

And despite the five bruises I have on my backside right now, despite the aches threaded through my entire body, despite the mark on my face that is only just starting to fade, I already want to get back up on a mountain and snowboard the best bejeezus I can out of it.

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I’ve seen what’s at the end of a rainbow

Rainbows and tears

Nature is full of surprises. It was a dark day in so many ways. Sombre, melancholy, achingly sad. But at the moment of the final goodbye, the most incredible and beautiful thing came to life. A rainbow, vibrant and proud, right in front of my eyes. This wasn’t a rainbow you could see in the distance, visible but untouchable. This was a rainbow that started, and ended, in the very next field. No more than 50 metres from me. Wonderful and bright. Just like them.

Perhaps this isn’t so incredible. Perhaps many of you have seen the end of a rainbow too. But I hadn’t. And in that moment it was so fitting, so perfect, that it became unforgettable.

It was them, I was so sure it was them.

But, like everything, rainbows come and go. That doesn’t change the fact that I’ve seen what’s at the end of one.

There was no pot of gold. But there was hope.

There is always hope.

The winter thief

stormy-winter-landscape

I’m sitting here writing this while Olly is at the gym, and I’ve just finished watching two back to back episodes of Silent Witness. I’m a lard arse. A lazy moose. I’ve lost my get-up-and-go. I reluctantly get out of bed in the mornings, as late as possible, go to work, come back from work, and then sit down. And once I’m sat, why oh why is it so damn hard to get back up? If I have no real, pressing reason to leave the flat, then I won’t leave it. And if I don’t leave, it’s too easy to be unproductive. I haven’t always been like this, I think to myself. So why the unfortunate current state of self? The winter thief. That is my answer. The winter thief, that is winter itself.

I find the cold displeasing. If that cold is compounded by darkness I am further displeased. Add rain, or heaven forbid rain and wind together, and you can bet your last Rolo that I will be tucked up somewhere warm and dry with snacks. Winter. Dark mornings. Dark evenings. Miserable, beautiful, but miserable weather. You steal my motivation, my enthusiasm, my inspiration to do ANYTHING. You with your frost and hail, sleet and thunder. Do one.

I have to face facts. Winter isn’t going anywhere just yet. And, at this rate, neither is my spare tyre. I said to Olly the other day that people are going to start mistaking me for a garage. As much as we laughed, it’s a serious thing. I wrote a post a while back about lifestyle changes and although I’ve achieved some I have a long way to go. And I’m not doing it for anyone except myself.

So, watch yourself winter, I’m stealing my shit back.

I’m going to join a gym (yawn). A gym which I know I will hate going to, but be glad when I’ve been. I’m going to make even more healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies with my gadget pal the NutriBullet. Put a pile of kale on my plate and I’ll tell you where to stick it, but blend it with other bits and pieces and you will never know how bad it could have tasted. I’m also going to try and continue getting up earlier (I only manage this on occasion at the moment). I know how good I can feel after a morning workout so why can’t I just do it more often.

I saw this earlier. It might inspire you in the same way it has inspired me. I want to be a girl that can too. I can sit down and be pathetic watching Mad Men (it’s about advertising though and therefore counts as work, right?) with one two pots of strawberry and banana flavoured Munch Bunch beside me, but I can also sweat like a pig while kicking some ass and let my endorphins spread their rusty wings.

From now on, POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. That’s all I really need. And no winter thief should be able to take that.

Give me a wake, give me a board

Wakeboarding2

A few weeks back I blogged about how much fun I had wakeboarding in Turkey a couple of years ago, and that I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t done it again since.  So, I got in touch with Penarth Waterski and Wakeboard Club to see what they could offer.  Cue a beautiful sunny Sunday in Cardiff Bay, two speedboats, and eight eager beavers wet-suited up for a taster session of either wakeboarding or water-skiing.  For £25 you get two 15 minute long sessions.  You definitely don’t get the feeling that you are being ripped off by a commercial enterprise, because you’re not – the coaches and drivers don’t profit.

For tactical reasons, I chose to go last (less time being wet and cold – two things which make for an intolerably grumpy Suz).  Olly and I had wondered whether we were going to be hopeless at it to start with, given the time which had elapsed since Turkey, but he got up on the rope straight away.  A positive sign.  Less positive when he attempted to jump the wake and caught his toe side, resulting in an almighty faceplant which was so forceful I actually thought it had knocked him out.  No such luck (joke).  He was fine.  But our coach Kevin told us that he had been hospitalised recently for four broken ribs and an almost-punctured lung following a fall which wasn’t nearly as bad as Olly’s.  My conclusion?  I’m dating Iron Man.

Then it was my turn.  Looking like a peculiar seal in a helmet, I popped myself in the water with alacrity.  Oh my, that was refreshing.  I would have been better off in my winter wetsuit but the damn thing is so difficult to get on and off.  Anyhow, to my delight, I also got up on the rope first time, and it was a good few minutes before I first came crashing back down to water.  If I wasn’t properly awake before, I certainly was after.

It felt pleasantly comfortable just messing about inside the wake, scooting over it to go out wide, and surfing the sides.  It really is a lot of fun, and you aren’t going so fast that you can’t enjoy your surroundings.  Later, Kevin was happy enough with my ability to try a ‘switch’.  This basically means switching your leading leg by turning your board 180 degrees in the water.  I had done this in Turkey, but it’s such a bizarre, unnatural feeling.  By the end of the session I had managed it a couple of times, so I left with a smile (albeit blue-lipped).

The best thing about the day was that it made me forget, just for a little while, about the horrible stuff which has been going on in my life recently.  So, if you want a bit of active outdoors therapy, give wakeboarding a try!

Launch point        Wakeboard wide

Wakeboarding3        Wakeboarding2

Wakeboarding Olly2        Wakeboarding Olly

Bird