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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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.

No faceplants please

Wakeboarding

I’ve always been one for anything sport, outdoors and water.  So wakeboarding is pretty much made for me.  I first gave it a go in Turkey on a Neilson holiday, which is where I met the love of my life (vom).  As it was new to me, and I had never snowboarded either, the instructors there told me to have a go at water-skiing first.  I told them where to stick that suggestion.

Once I was all strapped into the giant boots and dropped into the tepid waters, they had me try out standing up whilst holding a big metal pole which was fixed to the side of the boat (so you didn’t wobble about too much).  That seemed fairly straight forward, so it was then onto the rope.  It’s a bizarre feeling being stuck in the sea with your feet strapped to a massive board which floats, so you are sort of bobbing on your back.  I must have looked a bit like a dead ant.  Anyhow, as the boat begins to move the rope loses its slack and you have to hold on to the handle for dear life.  You bring your knees right up to your chest and use the force of the board against the water to ease yourself up.

Well that, my friends, is easier said than done.  Enter the faceplant.  Exactly as it sounds.  You plant your face right into that water.  BANG.  Do it more than once if you feel like it.  Some people get a rush from that stinging slap to the cheek (not me).  Luckily I got to grips with the ‘stand-up’ fairly quickly, and that’s where the fun really started!  There’s no feeling quite like being dragged behind a boat by a rope and surfing the wake.  Bliss.  Until either:

1) You have been going for so long that your legs start to ache to the point where you want to get off, but you can’t

2) You lose concentration for a split second and come hurtling back to reality with a faceplant that is strong enough to give you a headache

3) You attempt a jump over the wake and stupidly look down before landing (you guessed it – back to earth with a faceplant)

Despite the inevitable falls, I loved every ride and had such good intentions to do more of it when I got back to the UK.  That holiday was over two years ago, and how many times have I been wakeboarding since?  The grand total of ZERO.

THIS MAKES NO SENSE.  Why, when I find something I love, do I not do more of it?  This is a serious life problem which I intend to address.  To my delight, I heard a few months back that a wakeboarding park was to open in Cardiff Bay, but this is yet to emerge.  The latest news is that it will be open March 2015.

In the meantime, Penarth Waterski and Wakeboard Club may be the solution.  I can’t see much from the website but watch this space.  I’ll be getting my little size fives into those gigantic boots again soon!  And fingers crossed I elude the dreaded faceplant.