Now back home after the most wonderful trip to Lapland, throwing ourselves in to the world of cross country skiing and other winter wilderness activities.
As I wrote before going, for years I've had people telling me to give cross country skiing a go - some insisting how easy I'd find it and how much I'd love it, unintentionally making me feel a little under pressure. What if I was no good? What if the two 90 minute lessons proved to be too little? In the spirit of being ready to make my own New Start and learn from the experience of doing something very new, I ventured into the unknown.
Well, first up I have to say the whole experience was just magical - being in such a beautiful Arctic wilderness, getting to see and enjoy a totally different way of life and being able to try not just cross country skiing but several other activities. But I can't say it was easy - in fact I found it a real challenge.
Whereas the others in our small beginners' group seemed to get the hang of it quickly, moving on from the basics to more controlled, advanced techniques, I just felt all over the place. I wobbled with no balance, uneasy and unsettled and spent more time falling and getting up than actually skiing. At the end of those first days I ached all over, straining muscles I didn't know I had and nursing a few bruises (and injured pride).
Bit by bit, though it came. Though still slow and unsteady on my skis I started to get the gliding movement, the rhythm and coordination and sheer pleasure of moving through snow laden forests. I'd missed out on learning how to brake, at that point still struggling to keep upright, so even though by the third day I let myself go on some pretty hairy downward slopes it was on the basis I'd fall into the deep snow sooner or later.
What did I learn from the coaching side?
- expectations can be a huge, unhelpful hurdle: whereas the others seemed to be have a carefree, give it a go approach I think I set myself up for failure by somehow unconsciously believing I had to do it well. The lesson I know from when I'm coaching of course is to break things down into much smaller steps, taken one at a time
- trying too hard: I had all the classic muscle aches of exerting too much effort and it only started to come good when I refocused on the feel and rhythm of movements. At one point I thought of some of the swimmers I coach who I encourage to "slow down, stop trying so hard." So watch out - from here on I'll be emphasising even more the feeling of movements rather than effort
- enjoy!: I had a right ol' angry rant at myself at one point and then realised the absurdity of getting shouty in a silent, snow filled forest. Our ever positive and encouraging guide also helped me get back to the power of taking things calmly and focusing on the fun and enjoyment of the moment
and lots more besides!
There was so much else we did too: ice fishing on a frozen lake, trekking with snow shoes, exhilarating saunas (including the obligatory naked dash into the snow), the Northern Lights...
We'll be back for more - hopefully better prepared next time with more core work and a kinder, more patient approach.