Wednesday, January 31, 2018

67 days and counting: Four rules for training specifics to eliminate surprises

Another 3 days down and I am resting again - this time I really needed the rest.  Over the past few weeks, I started to focus on training for very specific instances where most mountaineers struggle.  We all struggle.  If you found the time to watch Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards ascend Everest (from the Tibet side) without oxygen, you will see that they both struggled.  Climbing without oxygen that high is a huge feat - not one that I wish to accomplish due to the fact that I have too much invested in my brain already and I make my living by thinking.  That aside, those two expert mountaineers struggled with parts of the climb.  The more we prepare ourselves ahead of time for those struggles, the less likely they will affect us.  Sure, these climbs might still affect us or we might overlook something and get bitten by that oddity but nothing beats preparation to eliminate surprises.  I prepare for any adventure the same following these four simple rules:

1.  Focus on the little things:  Everyone seems to focus on the big aspects of an adventure.  We need gear, fitness, and such but it is often the little things - often routine things - that interfere with our success.  Many forget to train themselves to go to the bathroom without making a mess, to change clothes quickly without much light to help guide the way, to organize your gear so everything can be found easily, and to eliminate any obstacle that interferes with optimal performance.  I try to train for all these little things (and many more) while at home.  I create checklists that I affix to the inside of my bags to eliminate any cognitive load while packing between camp sites.  These small steps help me immerse myself in the environment well before I even step on the mountain.

2.  Prepare for every scenario:  In most adventure sports, the odd scenarios are the ones that are most dangerous.  I try to the best of my abilities to prepare for both the good and the bad.  What happens if....and I think of contingency plans.  As Yvon Chouinard (the founder of Patagonia) said "[t]he word adventure has gotten overused.  For me, when everything goes wrong - that's when adventure starts."  We can all prepare a bit for the adventure though.  If we let everything unfold without much preparation, then we might find ourselves in adventures where and when none should exist.  

3.  Focus on the process - not the outcome:  I find more enlightenment in the process and experience of the outdoors and of adventure rather than the attainment of some goal within that environment.  You may differ from me but I think most of us who go outside, stress ourselves, and come away wanting more are those who enjoy the process.  I like the stress.  I like the preparation.  I like the discomfort.  I embrace it all.   Each of my adventures includes all and more but I find the most memorable aspects of every adventure are those that involve the struggle - not the culmination of the effort.  Sure, I celebrate the end but I live in the moment and enjoy every step, stroke, or surge forward.

4.  Eliminate surprises:  Most surprises come from inside - not outside of us.  If you know yourself and know how you will fare in every situation, you can both prepare yourself but more importantly you can prepare your mind.  I try to eliminate surprises to the best of my ability by experiencing the stress and strain of every adventure BEFORE I depart.  I start from my feet and move upward to the top of my head.  What can my feet withstand?  Apparently not much these days.  Then, my legs; how do they fare after long days?  Can they withstand more stress after 3 or 4 days of hard slogging?  Eventually I move up to my head.  What does it feel like to be truly tired?  How does it feel to be exhausted, dehydrated, malnourished, or spent (all combined)?  I like to feel and know how I react before I leave so I can also learn how to prevent these situations from occurring.  It is one thing to say that you know how you feel but it is another to say that I both know how I feel in those situations and I know how important it is for me to prevent them (and here is how...).  

These four steps served me well over the past few decades.  Thanks for following my adventures.  Hope you have a lovely day.

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