Oftentimes people ask me how I balance my skiing, and training for skiing, with other passions and pursuits. I will admit, I have a lot of passions to balance! Sometimes it can get overwhelming. But every time I step back to reevaluate, I realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s the thing: I love writing. I love mountain biking. I love knitting, and rock-climbing, and playing guitar. Most of all, I love skiing. But, for me, it’s never been about devoting 100% of my time and effort into one pursuit. Some athletes are so obsessed with their sport that they can eat, sleep, and breathe ski racing (or whatever their sport is). I can’t do that. It’s not because I’m not 100% committed to skiing…actually, it’s quite the opposite. Mostly it’s because I love so many things so much that it would be a shame to leave them behind. And I believe that allowing myself to find joy in other activities is not only beneficial for my emotional, mental and physical well-being, but it’s beneficial for my skiing, too.
Let’s start with a simple one: mountain biking. It’s pretty obvious why this activity can provide positive balance: it’s not only a great way to cardio train, but it’s also advantageous for tactics in skiing. It’s rejuvenating to get outside. It’s good for your soul, your ski legs, your lungs, and your brain. Of course, there’s a bit of risk involved…but what fun would it be if there weren’t? If you’re calculated and know how to ride within, or on the edge of, your limits, you can still push and scare yourself, just like you do in skiing.
Okay, so what about knitting? Well, there’s clearly not much risk involved there. It’s meditative (meditation! another wonderful activity that compliments any athletic pursuit), its repetitive motions are good for your brain, and it’s a great way to relax and spend some down time. It’s also a wonderful artistic outlet, and a perfect way to pass time spent in cars and airplanes….also, a fantastic gift-giving strategy!
What about free skiing? This seems like an obvious and natural activity to enjoy as a ski racer. But, you’d be surprised by how many racers don’t actually free ski. And I mean free ski…for fun. Without any explicit focuses, without doing drills, without the goal of becoming a better ski racer (which naturally happens anyway — more on that below). Just going out in the snow, pushing yourself, sending it off jumps, shredding powder, going as fast as you can; that kind of free skiing. Enjoying the challenge with friends, on your own, with family, with strangers. It’s a whole other world of freedom and, technically, the most relevant kind of cross-training for ski racing in existence.
The beauty of finding balance in other activities and pursuits lies in the pure joy experienced in performing those actions. I chase other interests because they are fulfilling on their own. I truly do believe that every thing I do outside of skiing benefits my skiing — and ironically does so to the greatest extent when it’s not done in order to make me a better skier.
These passions outside of racing help me grow and understand my potential as a human being, not just as an athlete. I whole-heartedly believe that we cannot tap into our fullest potentials as athletes dedicated to our sport (or business-people, or doctors, journalists, musicians, gardeners, etc) until we tap into our fullest potentials as well-rounded individuals. Until we understand what being a good person looks and feels like. Balancing skiing with school, relationships, art, has forced me to realize that I’m much more capable than I often think, on many different levels. It has forced me to grow and blossom in more ways than I ever expected, and I believe balance is the reason why I was able to achieve the things I have in ski racing.
By finding joy and flow in other activities, you get to experience the part of yourself that you tap into when you’re in the middle of a race course. And the more we can find this flow, this pure state of being, the more we can familiarize ourselves with it and embody it when we’re on our skis. If experiencing this state of flow more regularly can enhance our ability to channel it while we’re racing, then I think the more pursuits, the better!
If we could all just realize that drawing, jogging, or doing the dishes, are acts that require presence, similarly to skiing, then maybe we could become not just better skiers, but better people. More aware of our surroundings, more aware of each other, more compassionate, joyful, and limitless. Balance. It’s key!
Photographs provided by Smith Optics / Francesco Perini
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind