[Originally posted on www.MelissaAirHeart.com on July 13th, 2012]
A few years ago I took on the meaning of “being an athlete” quite literally and started a quest. I decided that each year I would cross-train in a different sport to enhance my abilities as a skydiver, teacher and expand my perspective as an athlete.
In 2008 I decided to become a yoga instructor. I had dabbled with yoga since 1998 and didn’t really know too much about it other than I liked it. I looked up a yoga teaching center in Santa Barbara, California, booked my tickets and started reading about yoga. A few months later I was a certified Hatha yoga instructor!
In 2009 (while I lived in Hawaii) a friend had asked if I’d like to try “paddling.” With needing a goal and something to do, I said yes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I found myself; as the steerswoman of a 6-man crew on a Hawaiian outrigger canoe in the open Pacific ocean for the most competitive sport and club, Hawaiian Canoe Club! My Novice B Woman’s crew went to win states that year and our mixed crew earned 2nd.
In 2010 I was desperate to find a sport to train. Last minute I saw a poster for “Naish SUP Race” on Maui just a few weeks away from seeing the sign. So, I borrowed friend’s Stand-Up paddle board and went and raced one of the hardest runs in the world; 10 miles downwind in 10-foot surf! I came in second-to-last with a time of 2 hours and 21 minutes; the winner won in just under an hour!
Seat #6, all the way in the back of the Canoe (wa’a)
In 2011 I talked about how I needed a fitness goal. I love chocolate too. Flipping through the pages of an outdoor sports magazine was an ad for “Will run for chocolate.” Damn. That was my goal. I looked up nutritional needs for runners and donned a beginner’s guide to train a 15k. The race went phenomenal and I ran my best time! I ran 9.3 miles in 1 hour and 29 minutes.
Here we are in 2012. I struggled with this year’s goal. I started rock climbing at the beginning of the year, coupled with the Insanity at-home workout program. I learned to belay, read routes, use better techniques in climbing, got climbing gear, but the summer is here and so is full-time work; and well, the climbing gym is indoors and is 75 minutes away (gas is expensive!) So I had to be creative to think of what can be my goal? Ah ha!! I have decided that this year, I’m going to finish my pilot’s license!! Done, I got my goal. I started studying for my written test and booked an instructor to get current. I’ll keep ya updated!
So goals… I learned this about myself, I like projects and seasons because they have beginnings and endings. So much about being an athlete is setting goals; they have specific beginnings and endings. As I set out goals for myself, I said I’d either have to compete or become licensed in another sport for it to fulfill my purpose of making and reaching a goal. Each year I reach my goal I feel accomplished and rewarded to challenge myself and be the true sense of the word, an athlete.
I thought I’d share my experiences of what I had learned through this experiment, but the only outstanding experience I can share to other athletes is to persevere past the goal that is reached. I’ve seen so many people abandon their drive once they reach their goals. The only thing I’ve abandoned for myself are the negative ideas of “I’m too old for that now,” or “I can’t do that because of an old injury,” or “I’ve done that already,” or “I don’t have time.” I decided to be completely open to continue to learn.
For example, I have bad knees. I avoided goals that would make me face my knee issues. I didn’t know how strenuous and how much of my body I needed to paddle. As practice continued I realized that in order to be a valuable teammate, I had to work on nursing my knees back to health. So I worked out at the gym with a personal trainer, studied nutrition and so on, but importantly – applied these principles to my lifestyle. When the goal of running came up I was a little hesitant. I bought knee braces and expensive running shoes with custom soles. I was shocked as I continued to run that my knees didn’t bother me! I admit to having a flare up here and there, but for the most part, I ran that race like no one’s business and did great! So I guess I’ll have to say, I now have great knees!
I agree that there are plateaus, but the most rewarding part of being an athlete (and a human), is pressing on, being creative and evolving through the next goal! Goals will push your limits and take you places you’d never expect.