PC Fangliang Xu
Saying the past year was a challenge would be an understatement, so to put it more accurately, last year I was the punching bag of the toughest hitter in the world: life.
I love being busy, balancing school, skiing and my various volunteer roles, but this year I took on too much and in the midst of lots of change, new responsibilities, and increasing personal pressure (if things aren’t working it’s a sign you’re not working hard enough, right?) my carefully constructed balancing act came crashing down around me. Sickness followed sickness followed sickness, stress built on stress built on stress, awful race came after awful race came after awful race, decisions, responsibility and expectations piled up and one emotional breakdown bled into the next. The goals I’d set for the year, in training and racing, suddenly looked like pipe dreams and I struggled to find something to ground me as the waves of life crashed into me.
I am strong believer that growth doesn’t happen in one’s comfort zone and that to continue improving and learning one needs to seek out the uncomfortable. Partway through last year I came to the realization that maybe I wasn’t being “hit by life” maybe life was simply teaching me a lesson, and another, and another. . . and I decided that this season wouldn’t be a “failure” if I took hold of this opportunity to learn. I took each negative situation that came my way and did what I do best: 1) had a solid cry 2) analyzed the heck out of it – although I can’t control the craziness that life throws at me, if I can find that lesson and take the opportunity to grow that sounds a hell of a lot like success to me. So, what were some of these lessons?
1. Time to Recharge.
PC Bronwyn Williams
My life has been a constant cycle of going straight from summers filled with full time work and training camps, to falls and winters filled with school, training, racing and part time work. Some summers I’d remember to fit in a weekend of “vacation” if I deemed I had the time, but I often opted out of that cause I couldn’t financially afford to miss a week or weekend of work if I was already taking time off for training camps; so I convinced myself training camps were sufficient time off and pressed onwards. Rest days for skiing were filled with work, school, or both, depending on the season, and work/school/skiing took turns so there was rarely a time in the year where I got a complete chance to breathe. Movies/TV shows/hanging out with friends were rare occurrences carefully placed into my schedule.
Two years ago I came to the decision that my near burnout was the result of no summer vacation, so last year I checked that box by going on a weekend hiking trip with the fam. Now, don’t get me wrong, summer vacations are a great place to recharge, but a couple days off in the summer will not provide the battery power to last a whole year. Just like your phone or computer, you gotta give yourself time to recharge daily, or at least weekly. If you want to give 100% to the things you do you can’t be running on 20%, you gotta be giving yourself that 100% too. I think society has the tendency to laude the person who gets up at 4:30am and shames the person who spends time watching tv. Never again do I want be ashamed of giving myself time to breathe and recharge. And this doesn’t have to be anything crazy – 5min of meditation, 15min of reading before bed, watching a tv show with my siblings, deciding that instead of the training I have planned for the day I would greater benefit from an adventure ski, all I think are things that can realistically fit into my schedule, no matter how crazy it is.
2. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to say no or to reach out for help.
PC Doug Ranahan
As highlighted in my previous point, I unfortunately do not have an unlimited amount of energy to give to everything I’m doing. From a general perspective if I have 100% of me, I can’t give 100% of myself to school, 100% of myself to skiing, and 100% of myself to every volunteer position I say yes to. That simply isn’t math, 100% + 100% + 100% ≠ 100%. This doesn’t mean I can’t bring my full self to the things I do, but rather the more things I say yes to the less of me I can devote to each of those things. This means it’s super important for me to have a clear understanding of what my priority is so that I only say yes to things that directly help me in achieving that goal. Once I know my priorities I can get creative and identify what I need to do and what the support network around me can do to help. For example: am I entering a super busy period of school and training and could I ask my mom if she could help me by putting lunches together for that stretch of time so that I can maintain my sleep schedule. In the fall if I’m struggling to balance school and skiing commitments and don’t have time to figure out the details of my training plan for the next few weeks could I ask my coach to take over more of the planning for that stretch of time. If I’m struggling with dealing with injury, motivation or confidence, instead of muddling through on my own, could I reach out and work with a mental performance consultant. If I’m approached to give a talk or volunteer on a committee and I’m too busy I can say no (and not feel guilty). As they say, “know your limit, play within it”.
3. I love to ski.
It may sound strange but last year solidified for me how much I love training, racing and feeling strong. At the end of the season it wasn’t the podiums or recognition I was craving but the feeling of getting out on the race course and having my body and mind right there with me to push myself to areas I’d never yet explored.
PC Eric Truffer
This past season was a tough one, and it hasn’t finished yet – May brought a knee injury and the loss of many avenues of support (given my results from the past year) and June brought along a foot injury, so I haven’t been able to do the “ideal” training I was planning. However, these past months have also brought DP technique gains, stronger core and glutes, the beginning of work with a mental performance consultant, and the discovery of new training modes (mountain biking is sick and water running isn’t as awful as it sounds!). Although the success of this past year hasn’t visibly been apparent and these past months have been tough, my tool box of skills is turning into a fricken tool shed and I can’t wait to see where this growth takes me these coming years as I continue chasing my goals in the sport I love.