A Word about Moderation (and Mindfulness)

Let’s talk about moderation. And maybe mindfulness, while we’re at it.

I’ve never really been an adrenaline junkie or overly competitive but that’s not to say that I like losing or sucking at something – who does? But I’ve come to learn in my wise old age that losing or failing at something comes with its own particular gifts. No, really. (More on this in a future post – see “Winning at Losing – The Time I Embarrassed Myself In Front Of My Much Cooler Peers.”) The problem, as I see it, is that we get caught up in thinking that unless we are pedal to the metal, Mach100 with our hair on fire, we’re not doing enough. We’re losing. Sucking.

I remember growing up and hearing my SUPER OLD parents and their friends say stuff like “Man, you’re gonna wish you hadn’t done that” and by “that” I mean everything from jumping off the granary roof or riding my horse bareback with my shirt as a bridle and then getting dumped off in a brush pile, to wearing shoes that didn’t really fit or dislocating all my toes in an unfortunate riding incident followed by crushing my big toe joint with a turkey roaster. “POOH POOH” I said at the time. Fast forward a few decades and I’m struggling with awful plantar fasciitis in BOTH feet and calcified (dinosaur-ized) toe joints. The left foot is worse because I’ve apparently snapped the tendon in a couple of places – you can actually feel the nodules of scar tissue. It feels like I have marbles attached to the tendon in the bottom of my foot. Long story short – walking – or running – or hiking – or somedays even standing in my kitchen – really hurts now. This is quite concerning to me. I grew up on a ranch, and a cow with foot trouble wasn’t making long range plans, that’s for sure. What does one do when one’s feet don’t work anymore?

Fortunately, these days I find myself at a much different place in life.  Despite occasional side trips back into Hardcore-Ville, moderation mostly rules the day. I am reevaluating what it means to be successful, to be fulfilled, to be healthy.

After nearly a year of rehab for my feet, actively stretching the grouchy fascia, trundling off to the physiotherapist/podiatrist/chiropractor, and sending bazillions of dollars out the door for custom made orthotics/shockwave treatments/athletic tape/pain killers (I also discovered in the process that I’m allergic to ibuprofen – yay!) – I have finally matured enough to realize that moderation is okay.

I got back on the treadmill today after a lengthy hiatus, and although I was tempted to crank the dial up to eleven hundred miles per hour, I took it easy. Five minutes of warmup, ten minutes of slow run, five minutes of cool down. I did my best to ignore the “guilt-o-meters” – the calorie gauge, the odometer, the speedometer – those things that in the past would make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. Run another mile! Faster! Bigger incline!

I concentrated instead on what my body was telling me, and let me tell you, it’s a strange sensation after years and years of ignoring the built-in signals we are all born with. I’ve spent most of a lifetime ignoring pain, gritting my teeth and getting on with it (“You have a really high pain tolerance!” said the physiotherapist as she repeatedly jammed a six inch needle into my calf.) No pain, no gain sort of thing. It’s a sad state of affairs that we women especially are cultured to detach from our bodies. Ignore the pain. Ignore the discomfort. Not to bash men, but it’s been said that if men suffered from endometriosis, there’d have been a cure 50 years ago. Mindfulness, something that we are all born with, gets booted out the window as we grapple our way through life.

Well bleah to that. I’ve started to listen to my body, and honestly, today’s brief run at a modified pace was the most I’ve enjoyed running on the damn treadmill since I bought the damn thing second hand on FB Marketplace (I’ve resorted to a treadmill because I was seriously running into too many bears on our trails. It scares them and it scares me too.) I really want to make it to a ripe old age. I want to be that cool old lady who never stops walking or hiking or skiing or snowshoeing. At my current age and factoring in my family’s tendency to live to be really old and crotchety, I figure I have three or four decades left. Is it too late to undo some of the damage I’ve already done? I’m not sure. But it’s not too late to listen to me, to respect what my body’s telling me, to make friends at last with my earthly shell. And I think that’s the coolest thing of all.

PS If you’re curious about mindfulness and the neat places it can take you, check out Street Smart Nutrition or mindful.org. At the time of this writing (February 2021) Royal Roads University also offers Integrated Mindfulness courses.

References

Landry, J. (2021, February 15). She was in agony since age 13. Many didn’t believe her. Then a B.C. hospital diagnosed her with endometriosis. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/endometriosis-lacking-research-1.5910342

I have a therapist: her name is nature

It seems sort of intuitive these days that nature plays a beneficial role in our overall health management strategy – witness the reports of people here in Canada heading to the outdoors (sanctioned or no) looking for physical and mental stress relief from the pandemic lockdown that began in March 2020.

Just today (April 17 2020) BC’s head doc Dr. Bonnie Henry shared some interesting stats showing that when the group restrictions came into effect in BC in March 2020, visits to parks increased, presumably as people looked to nature to address their physical and mental health needs. (I’ve included the graph below for the nerdy amongst us. The green line is park usage over time.)

Long story short: Nature nurtures us. Study after study has shown that we need nature in order to be our best selves. Nature affects things as measurable as our cardiovascular health (Donovan et al., 2013) and levels of anxiety and anger (Mantler & Logan, 2015).

So what’s that got to do with us, you say? When we here in BC have “flattened the curve” to the point where we are allowed more social freedom, we will once again be running our programs so you can get your nature-health-groove on. Spring is finally here, our trails are in fine shape, and we’re ready to share the peace and solitude of our Rocky Mountain paradise. The migratory birds are winging their way back north; the deer and elk are moving up the mountain as the snows melt; the world here is slowly waking up and carrying on the cycle of life that is as old as time.

Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

- Mary Oliver

When the time is right, meet us on the mountain. You belong here. See ya soon!

References:

Donovan, G., Butry, D., Michael, Y., Prestemon, J., Liebhold, A., Gatziolis, D., & Mao, M. (2013). The relationship between trees and human health: Evidence from the spread of the emerald ash borer. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 44(2), 139-135.

Mantler, A., & Logan, A. (2015). Natural environments and mental health. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 2(1), 5-12.

You belong here.

“You belong here.” Wow – how often have you heard that? If you’re like me, not often enough, especially in my experience as a post-divorce mature woman trying to find a niche in the outdoors world. After my divorce I felt like I had arrived at a new place in life, a bit battered and bruised, but ready to scope out new landscapes and sample the healing power of nature. But where were all the programs for people like me?

Even without factoring in a traumatic life event like divorce, I found it difficult to break into the hiking scene as a middle-aged woman. Back in 2009 I decided that my first big adult adventure would be to hike the Chilkoot Trail in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Sure, I’d been active all my life, and “did hiking” if you counted the miles I’d spent on prairie and foothills cow paths. Wasn’t hiking just an upscale version of that? Well, sort of, I guess. But I discovered that I needed to give a lot of thought to equipment, physical conditioning, and safety measures for a multi-day backpacking adventure. I had no idea how to prep for the trip and didn’t know who to ask. How much food should I take? And what kind? What warmth of sleeping bag should I bring? And what about bears? Plus I wasn’t 25 anymore so I needed a mature-ish approach. I needed advice about creaky knees and what kind of anti inflammatory to pack. I felt completely uninformed and afraid of looking stupid.

Back 40 Outdoor Events is built upon the premise that you can try new things and change your lifestyle no matter your age. You can gain confidence and experience and kick some outdoor ass, all in the company of people who have been there and seen that but didn’t get the t-shirt because they were all out of our size, dammit.

We don’t care where you came from; we care where you’re going.

Check out our programs and if it feels right, take a chance on a new direction. We’re here for you. You belong here.

See you soon!

-K-