Why is working out so hard sometimes?

I just got back from a bike ride that nearly ate me alive. By the end I was toast. Exhausted. Ready to collapse into a sweat-soaked, road-dust encrusted puddle of flesh. I know, I know — ewwwww.

Yet the other day I did a similar ride and had a completely different experience. Same intensity, same type of terrain, no problem. It was a piece of cake. Easy-peasy. I felt wonderful, maintained a good pace, and at the end I leapt off my bike, smiling.

Go figure.

ExhaustionI know I’m not the only one who has exercise ups and downs, but why things should vary so much from one day to the next is a complete mystery to me.  I’ve had this problem in a variety of activities: biking, swimming, and yes, even skiing. And if I could bottle the good days for the days when I felt like crap, I’d be a happy camper.

So why is working out so hard sometimes? Why can’t each day be the same?

There are a variety of theories on why this happens, so I thought I’d share some with you:

• It could be nutritional, hormonal, sleep-related, [insert something here]. The body is a complex machine, and there are stressors in our lives and bodies we may not even be aware of. Drink alcohol the night before, and you might not perform well. Get a poor night’s sleep, and it could make a difference. (Though as a chronic insomniac, I’ve had some pretty good days following nights when I’ve slept maybe 3-4 hours Maybe it all comes down to what you’re used to?)

• It could be the environment. Maybe it was too hot/cold/humid/dry/windy. Maybe it’s the air quality. Maybe it’s altitude. In short, in addition to internal things, there are external things that can affect your performance. Working out when it’s really hot or humid can be much more exhausting than it is on a  moderate day. And biking when it’s extremely windy can be a real challenge. Know that and make allowances.

• Maybe you were over/under hydrated. If you don’t drink enough before or during your workout, you could feel weak, dizzy, confused, or sluggish. Overhydration has its own set of problems, too: cramping, nausea, and confusion, so it can easily be confused with dehydration. In fact, drinking too much fluid, especially from certain “rehydration” drinks, can ironically cause dehydration.  A drink that has a high level of sugar and additives may require too much of your body’s own fluid to dilute so it can be absorbed. Also, drinking too much water at once may cause you to pee too much, so you don’t absorb any fluid.

• It’s in your head. It’s no secret that energy can be related to attitude. A positive attitude can result in greater energy for a better workout. And depression can wreak havoc on the way you perform. So keep that in mind (pun intended).

• These days just happen. And when they do, either pack it in or just expect less from yourself. Your body is trying to tell you something, so listen to it and back off.  You may actually do doing too much. There’s actually something called “overtraining syndrome.” Too  much training can  break you down and make you weaker. Physiologic improvement actually occurs during the rest period that follows hard training. During recovery, your cardiovascular and muscular systems build to up to compensate for the stress you’ve applied. The result can be a higher level of performance.

In short, who knows what’s going on. Some days are just not as good as others, so I kind of like the last explanation best (though trust me, I am not overtraining). But if you think you have an idea of your own, post it here. I’d love to hear it.





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How to stay motivated [Translation: whatever works].


Ever notice how little motivation you need to do something you love?

That’s how it is with me and skiing. This past season I skied 85 days — a personal record — and as you can probably guess, it was not a problem. Each time I skied, I did it with joy in my heart. But during the rest of the year, getting myself to swim, bike, or work out at the gym can be a little more difficult.

Which leads me to today’s topic: Motivation. Because sometimes it’s hard to get off your butt and get yourself in gear.

What is it that makes that happen? Me, I’m pretty disciplined. I work out probably five days a week. And yeah, it’s not always easy. But two things keep me going:

1) Ski season and 2) my parents.

The first is easy to figure out. I stay in shape the rest of the year so I won’t fall apart next time I click on my skis. I want to be ready as soon as the snow flies, and working out is the best way to make that happen.

My parents, looking pretty good for 85 and 91.

My parents, looking pretty good for 85 and 91.


The second, well, you have to know my mom and dad. I’m at the age where a lot of my friends’ folks are either doing poorly or have passed away. Fortunately, my mom and dad, ages 85 and 91 respectively, are doing extremely well. Why? Part of it is just either just plain luck or good genes. They’ve avoided cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers, all the awful stuff that’s hit a lot of their contemporaries. But it could also be because they make physical activity (and eating right) a priority. They do something active every day. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme — they’ve never gone for that — just something as simple as walking. I look at them and it seems like a no brainer. After all, you can’t argue with success.

But that’s my motivation. It’s personal, and it isn’t necessarily the same as yours. It works for me, and that’s what counts.

Still, getting started and sticking to an exercise program requires a particular mindset. I’ve been doing some reading about this lately, and here are a few tips I thought I’d pass on:

1) Set a realistic goal: If you’re a recreational swimmer who swims laps a few days a week, chances are your routine isn’t going to lead to your swimming the English Channel. Recognize this. Embrace it. Figure out, realistically, what you want exercise to do for you. Do you want to lose weight? Improve muscle tone? Sleep better at night? What goal makes the most sense for you? Then work toward it.

2) Make it convenient: If you work 60 hours a week and have a family and need time to grocery shop, cook meals, clean the house, etc., making time to exercise can be challenging. Be sure to set a goal you can live with. Instead of saying you’ll work out every day, set a schedule that’s more in keeping with your lifestyle. Maybe you can’t work out five times a week, but you can work out twice. Maybe you can leave the house extra early one day a week and fit it in then. Maybe you can just resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park the car a bit farther from the door. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you can live with.

3) Don’t expect perfection: It’s okay if you don’t break any records. Accept that you’re not Serena Williams or Diana Nyad or anyone like that. Few of us are. Whatever you do is fine. Just move.

4) Don’t compare yourself to others: This goes along with the above. Just do what you can, and stop looking at the ultra-fit woman next to you in spin class. At least you’re out there. In the words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” S’okay.

5) Make it fun. Seriously, this is so basic that it hardly needs stating. But if your exercise routine consists of something you dread, you’re never going to do it. So find something you like. Change your routine. Work out with a friend. Play some music. Anything. Boredom is an exercise killer. Don’t invite it in.

6) Get support: Nothing kills a workout more than a friend/family member/significant other who isn’t behind you. You don’t need to hear, “Why are you going to work out? Let’s hit the bar instead.” Rather, you need someone who takes your workout as seriously as you do; someone who gets behind you and provides you with encouragement. Because really, don’t we all need a cheering section?

Now excuse me. I have to go work out. Don’t you?



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Ten Super Foods You Really Should Eat.

superfoodI have the taste of an eight year old. If I had my way, I’d probably exist on a diet of pizza, pretzels, ice cream, and chocolate, with maybe a really good burger and fries thrown in now and then.

Unfortunately, those don’t any good for my health or my figure. So really, I do what I can to eat better: oatmeal for breakfast, fruit salad for lunch, no fast food, healthy(ish) snacks.

Recently I’ve been reading quite a bit about so-called “super foods”: things that you eat that are extra-special-super-duper healthy. This is tough, since chocolate is only mentioned once and pizza not at all. But you have to look at it this way: You put garbage in, you get garbage results.  You put good stuff in……you get the drift.

It’s frustrating that I don’t love a plate of steamed broccoli the way I love a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Maybe I just need a little bit of attitude adjustment: it’s not a sacrifice; it’s an opportunity for self improvement.

Ugh. Doesn’t sound great, does it?

Still, most of the foods that are super good aren’t all that bad to deal with. And if you like being healthy, then you’re gonna love what they do for your body:

1) Lemon: For years, my mom’s been starting the day with a glass of warm lemon water. I guess I can’t argue with success. She’s 85 and in excellent health, so I’ve been trying to follow her example. Lemon contains all sorts of good stuff: calcium, potassium, vitamin C, pectin fiber, iron, vitamin A. Plus it helps prevent constipation and diarrhea, and flushes out toxins. Some say it even boosts your immune system. I don’t know about that, but it seems pretty harmless, so why not?

2) Broccoli: The first President Bush was famous for hating broccoli, and though I’m not a huge fan either, I eat it all the same. Why? Research shows it can help prevent osteoporosis, protect your skin against UV light, reduce cancer risk, and detoxify air pollutants in the body. Sulforaphane in broccoli may also significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function, and may also stimulate a variety of antioxidant defense pathways in your body that can reduce oxidative stress and slow down immune system decline.

3) Blueberries: Summer is blueberry time, so this one is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a piece of cake (which I also love). Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fresh fruit and can boost your immune system.  What’s more, they can reduce belly fat, promote urinary tract health, and slow down vision loss. They’re also high in manganese, which plays an important role in bone development.  A study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine  suggests that blueberries reverse age-related memory loss, thanks to their abundance of antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been found to activate the parts of the brain that control memory and learning. Laboratory studies published n the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also show that the phenolic compounds in blueberries can inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death). A significant 34 percent reduction in ovarian cancer risk was also seen in women with the highest intake of blueberry flavonoids flavone and luteolin.

4) Salmon:  Salmon’s main health benefit is that it’s an excellent source of  Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower bad cholesterol while increasing the kind that’s good. It can also help repair heart damage, strengthen heart muscles, lower  blood pressure, and even prevent hardening of the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids help your brain work better and improve memory. In conjunction with Vitamins A and D, amino acids, and selenium, these acids may also protect your nervous system from the deteriorating effects of aging.

5) Dark chocolate: Now this is something I can really get behind. Get this: In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third. And in a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. This is great, too: chocolate and exercise work surprisingly well together: A recent study from Australia shows that eating chocolate high in healthy antioxidants reduced the blood pressure-raising effects of exercise on overweight individuals.

6) Potatoes: Lots of people stop eating potatoes when they’re trying to lose weight. But this is a mistake. If you want to lose weight, cut out the toppings — like butter and sour cream — but leave in the potatoes. Why? Potatoes are a rich carbohydrate source, so they help fuel the reactions you need for movement, thinking, digestion and cellular renewal. They’re also exceedingly rich in Vitamin B6, a substance needed for cellular renewal, a healthy nervous system and a balanced mood. And they can help reduce blood pressure.

7) Avocados: I really wish I liked avocados. Unfortunately, I don’t. Nonetheless, avocados are great for reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders. They’re an excellent source of carotenoid lutein, which can help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. The monounsaturated (good) fats in avocados can reverse insulin resistance which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. And the high levels of folate in avocados may also protect against stroke. A study has shown that individuals who ate a diet rich in folate had a lower risk of stroke than those who did not .

8) Garlic: Yep, garlic is for more than just keeping away vampires (although that’s pretty awesome). Garlic strengthens the immune system and helps fight chest infections, coughs and congestion. It can also reduce cardiovascular disease and has high levels of iodine, which makes it a very effective treatment for hyperthyroid conditions.

9) Spinach: I don’t know about you, but when I think spinach, I automatically think Popeye. But maybe he was onto something. The possible health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, improving bone health, lowering the risk of developing asthma, and more. Spinach is also high in fiber and water content, both of which help prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract. It’s also high in vitamin A, which is necessary for sebum production to keep hair moisturized and for for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.

10) Beans: Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories, but they really shine in terms of fiber and water content, two ingredients that make you feel fuller, faster. Adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived. And beans are high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

So how many of these do you eat?

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So what if it’s an El Nino year?

Believe it or not, people are already starting to plan their ski trips for next ski season. I know, I know. Seems like a long time off, but there are work schedules to juggle, kids to attend to, things to work around. People have to PLAN.

The problem with figuring out a trip so far in the future is the weather. You Just. Don’t. Know.

Lately I’ve been hearing that 2014-15 will be an El Nino year. What does that mean? El Niño is a pattern that develops when easterly trade winds in the tropical Pacific relax – even reverse – allowing a vast pool of warm water in the western tropical Pacific to move east until it reaches the west coast of Central and South America. This results in higher than normal sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific, creating weather patterns that can cause droughts, storms, fires, and floods throughout the world. The last El Niño occurred in 2009 to 2010. The last big one, in 1997 to 1998, caused billions of dollars of damage around the globe.

The trouble is that even though there’s loads of speculation, no one can tell exactly what’s going to occur. Will it be a strong event? A week one? Will it even happen?

I took a look at the NOAA web site, and here’s what they think El Nino will do for our weather in January, February, and March:

Temperature predictions

Temperature predictions


Precipitation Predictions

Precipitation Predictions


But it’s not that cut and dried. Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society in New York, believes it’s not clear right now how strong an El Nino this’ll be. A majority of forecast models suggest that it will be moderate, though many indicate it’s more likely to be weak than strong.

However, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the coming event could rival the one strong one of 1997. He  points out that NOAA based its prediction mostly on data from April, and that more recent data show strong signs that waters off the coast of Peru are continuing to warm. And that means are more intense weather event. He also says that El Niño tends to drive the average west-to-east storm track farther south than usual. This means more winter storms for California, instead of the Pacific Northwest. Depending on the intensity of this El Niño, drought-stricken California could finally be getting some relief. The Northwest, along with western Canada and southern Alaska, tends to dry out during an El Niño and post warmer-than-normal temperatures.

The bottom line?  Who knows. Forecasters seem to have a lot of trouble figuring out what the weather’s going to be next week, let alone 6 or 7 months from now. So stay tuned. One way or another, we’ll all eventually find out.


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Sure, I [insert whatever] like a girl. You got a problem with that?

I can’t believe this is something I’m doing, but I’m actually posting an Always commercial here.

Always is what they euphemistically  call a “feminine hygiene product,” but that’s neither here nor there. Suffice it to say they sell to a lot of adolescent girls, an age where  confidence can take a big hit, with far reaching consequences — none of them good (I wrote about this here).

The Always commercial is about something near and dear to my heart: how doing something “like a girl” has come to mean doing something poorly. When someone tells someone you throw like a girl, it’s almost always meant as an insult. This has never made any sense to me. As one of the young women in the commercial says, “It doesn’t matter what they say. Yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl,  because I AM a girl, and that’s not something I should be ashamed of, so I’m going to do it, anyway.”

In the following ad, Always takes “like a girl” and turns it into a message of empowerment. It’s inspiring, it’s a breath of fresh air, and it’s something I’ve believed my entire life — so much so, in fact, that TheSkiDiva store sells a T-shirt that says, “Sure, I ski like a girl. You got a problem with that?”


Anyway, without further ado, here’s the commercial. Watch it. Show it to your daughters, your sisters, your husbands and brothers. In fact, show it to everyone. It’s about time we broke down the old stereotype and changed the meaning of “like a girl” into something awesome. Because, after all, isn’t that what we are?

YouTube Preview Image





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Separating Sunscreen Facts From Fiction.

When I was a kid growing up, I used to slather on baby oil and sit on the beach and roast. The idea, of course, was to achieve the “perfect tan.” But what I usually ended up with was the perfect burn, instead.

Yeah, I was a moron.

Now, of course, we know better. Sun exposure can cause all sorts of damage to your skin, not to mention contribute to skin cancer. And yes, it can cause premature wrinkles, and who wants that?

So when I saw this on CNN about common sunscreen “myths,” I knew I had to post it here.

sunscreen-cancer-ftrMyth No. 1: Sunscreen is all you need to stay safe.

Reality: “Sunscreen is only one part of the sun-protection picture,” explains Francesca Fusco, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “Just slathering it on and doing nothing else isn’t going to cut it because, even with sunscreen, there’s still up to a 50 percent risk that you’ll burn.”

You also need to seek shade between 10 AM and 4 PM, when sunlight is strongest; cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses; do regular skin self-exams; and get a professional skin evaluation annually.

Myth No. 2: SPF measures levels of protection against both UVB and UVA rays.

Reality: The SPF (sun protection factor) measures only the level of protection against UVB rays. But several of the 16 active ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in sunscreens also block or absorb UVA rays, says Warwick L. Morison, MD, professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Medical School and chairman of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee.

Ingredients include: avobenzone (Parsol 1789), octocrylene, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide, as well as the recently approved Mexoryl SX. Make sure one of these is in your sunscreen, or look for products labeled “broad spectrum,” which means they protect against UVB and UVA rays.

Myth No. 3: Some sunscreens can protect all day.

Reality: “Regardless of the SPF or what the label says, sunscreens must be reapplied every two hours,” Fusco says. “The active ingredients in most products begin to break down when exposed to the sun.” Only physical blockers such as zinc oxide stay potent after two hours, but not all sunscreens are made with these ingredients.

Myth No. 4: Some sunscreens are waterproof.

Reality: The FDA does not recognize the term “waterproof,” so don’t count on sunscreen to last through hours of swimming. The agency does recognize “water/sweat/perspiration resistant” (which means a product offers SPF protection after 40 minutes of exposure to water) and “very water/sweat/perspiration resistant” (which means it still protects after 80 minutes). To be safe, reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating.

Myth No. 5: A sunscreen can provide “total sunblock.”

Reality: “No sunscreen blocks 100 percent of UV rays,” Fusco says. An SPF 15 protects against 93 percent of UV rays, SPF 30 protects against 97 percent, and SPF 50 wards off 98 percent. You should slather two tablespoons on your body a half-hour before going outside, so the sunscreen has time to absorb into your skin.

All this is well and good. But there are an awful lot of sunscreens out there. Which one should you use?

Consumer Reports recently tested sunscreens from both large and small manufacturers. All had to have an SPF claim of at least 30, be broad spectrum (protect against both UVA and UVB rays), and be water-resistant. They considered cost, too.

Here are 7 they recommend:

  • Banana Boat’s Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110 spray, at $1.75 an ounce.
  • BullFrog Water Armor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+ spray, at $1.67 an ounce. This was one of the two screens that lived up to its SPF claim.
  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50, at $1.38 an ounce.
  • Neutrogena Ultimate Sport SPF 70+ lotion, at $2.75 an ounce.
  • Target’s Up & Up Spray Sport SPF 50 spray, at $0.80 an ounce.
  • Walgreens’ Well Sport SPF 50 spray, at $1.58 an ounce
  • Walmart’s Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50, at $0.56 an ounce.

And here are 13 they don’t:

  • Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sport SPF 45, at $2.75 an ounce.
  • Banana Boat Kids SPF 50, at $1.25 an ounce.
  • Banana Boat Sport Performance CoolZone SPF 30 spray, at $1.42 an ounce.
  • Beyond Coastal Natural SPF 30, at $4 an ounce.
  • California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+, at $6.90 an ounce.
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50, at $1.67 an ounce. This sunscreen lived up to its SPF claim, but only earned a “fair” rating for UVA protection.
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 spray, at $1.67 an ounce.
  • Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple SPF 50, at $1.31 an ounce.
  • CVS Sheer Mist SPF 30 spray, at $1.80 an ounce.
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 30 spray, at $1.90 an ounce.
  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50, at $0.63 an ounce.
  • Target’s Up & Up Kids SPF 50, at $0.64 an ounce.
  • Walgreens’ Well Baby SPF 50, at $0.80 an ounce.

Consumer Reports recommends applying all sunscreens at least 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. And they say to use spray sunscreens carefully. The FDA is exploring the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens, but until the results are known, they recommend not using them on children, and not spraying them directly on your face. Instead, spray them on your hands then apply. Sprays are flammable, so let them dry before going near an open flame.

Whew. And you thought sunscreen was easy. But the bottom line is this: no sunscreen will work if you don’t use it. So apply frequently, be careful of the sun, and be safe out there.

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The Confidence Gap and Skiing

RiskAll of us have seen it: the guy who’s a meh skier, yet who feels confident enough about his abilities to ski a triple-black 55° steep with moguls all the way down and a cliff at the bottom. And at the end, yes, he says he killed it.

What’s with that, anyway? Why is it that some guys have  so much damn confidence/bravado/self-delusion — call it what you will  – that they’re willing to do stuff that may be way above their abilities, yet so many women, who may be really good skiers, play themselves down?

Damned if I know. Yet it’s something you see all the time. Men tend to overestimate their abilities, while women underestimate theirs.

I write this after reading an interesting article in the Atlantic about a book called The Confidence Code. No, I haven’t read the book (maybe I should, before I go mouthing off), and the piece has nothing to do with skiing. But the article makes a few interesting points that I think directly relate to our sport:  (Note: the quotes below  do not follow one another in the article, which is why I’ve separated them with dotted lines)

Brenda Major, a social psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, started studying the problem of self-perception decades ago. “As a young professor,” she told us, “I would set up a test where I’d ask men and women how they thought they were going to do on a variety of tasks.” She found that the men consistently overestimated their abilities and subsequent performance, and that the women routinely underestimated both. The actual performances did not differ in quality. “It is one of the most consistent findings you can have,” Major says of the experiment. Today, when she wants to give her students an example of a study whose results are utterly predictable, she points to this one.


Do men doubt themselves sometimes? Of course. But not with such exacting and repetitive zeal, and they don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do. If anything, men tilt toward overconfidence—and we were surprised to learn that they come by that state quite naturally. They aren’t consciously trying to fool anyone. Ernesto Reuben, a professor at Columbia Business School, has come up with a term for this phenomenon: honest overconfidence. In a study he published in 2011, men consistently rated their performance on a set of math problems to be about 30 percent better than it was.


Testosterone……. helps to fuel what often looks like classic male confidence. Men have about 10 times more testosterone pumping through their system than women do, and it affects everything from speed to strength to muscle size to competitive instinct. It is thought of as the hormone that encourages a focus on winning and demonstrating power, and for good reason. Recent research has tied high testosterone levels to an appetite for risk taking.


Perfectionism is another confidence killer. Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required. We watch our male colleagues take risks, while we hold back until we’re sure we are perfectly ready and perfectly qualified. We fixate on our performance at home, at school, at work, at yoga class, even on vacation. We obsess as mothers, as wives, as sisters, as friends, as cooks, as athletes. Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, the authors of The Plateau Effect, call this tendency the “enemy of the good,” leading as it does to hours of wasted time. The irony is that striving to be perfect actually keeps us from getting much of anything done.


Studies evaluating the impact of the 1972 Title IX legislation, which made it illegal for public schools to spend more on boys’ athletics than on girls’, have found that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult. Learning to own victory and survive defeat in sports is apparently good training for owning triumphs and surviving setbacks at work. And yet, despite Title IX, fewer girls than boys participate in athletics, and many who do quit early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, girls are still six times as likely as boys to drop off sports teams, with the steepest decline in participation coming during adolescence. This is probably because girls suffer a larger decrease in self-esteem during that time than do boys.

What a vicious circle: girls lose confidence, so they quit competing, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain it.


…..The notion that confidence and action are interrelated suggests a virtuous circle. Confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed, a belief that stimulates action. In turn, taking action bolsters one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed. So confidence accumulates—through hard work, through success, and even through failure. 


The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back.


Interesting stuff. Granted, there are plenty of women skiers with loads of confidence. But for many of us, lack of confidence is something we’d do well to address. I know that I have a healthy amount of self-doubt, and that it tends to hold me back in situations that I could handle, no problem. Some of it might be perfectionism — if I do it, I want to do it well — and some might be that I lack the “risk gene” that might help me tackle the tougher stuff (research shows that this actually may exist). But with the right amount of confidence, maybe I wouldn’t hold back.

What do you think?

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It’s summer. Here’s what you need.

Even though summer doesn’t start officially til June 21, we all know the real story. Once Memorial Day is over, like it or not, summer’s here.

For nearly all of us, that means no skiing for months….and months….and months. Seems like an eternity, doesn’t it? So to help you make it through the loooooong ski drought, I thought I’d have an on-line fashion show of sorts.

Introducing, for your viewing pleasure, TheSkiDiva Collection!

Okay, so I couldn’t afford to have Gisele Bundchen or one of those other grossly overpaid super-skinny supermodels  sashaying down the runway for us (did you know Gisele earned over $42 million in 2013? Holy crap, that’d buy a lot of skis). Instead, I can only rely on the headless torsos below — and your imagination. Picture yourself in one of these fabulous T-shirts:




Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 6.03.24 PM

Don’t you look great?  Of course you do!

Or imagine grilling in this great apron:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 6.36.50 PM

Or wearing this cap:

Ski Diva Hat


And to complete your ensemble, our fabulous Ski Diva necklace and earrings, available in a variety of stones:





And while you’re  got up in your new SkiDiva gear, how about a fun summer read? Might I suggest DOUBLE BLACK, a Ski Diva mystery that’d be great to read on the beach or along the pool. DOUBLE BLACK follows the adventures of Stacy Curtis, a young woman who moves to a small Vermont ski town to live the life of a ski bum, and stumbles into all sorts of exciting adventures:

Double Black


So where can you get all this stuff? Click on the photos above, and you’ll end up right where you can place your order. How convenient is that?

Happy summer. We can get through this.






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What’s It Like To Ski All of Colorado’s 54 14er’s? A Chat with Brittany Konsella.

One of the coolest things about TheSkiDiva is the variety of women you can find on the forum. We have everyone from beginners to experts, from women who ski every day to those who only go a few times a year. And while each of us is remarkable in our own way, I couldn’t help but be awed by the accomplishment of one of our more recent members: Brittany Konsella is the second woman to have skied all fifty-four of Colorado’s 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet high). A high school math and science teacher by day and a skier, well, also by day but when she’s not teaching, Brittany started her quest in 2006 and finished it five years later. I recently had the pleasure of speaking to her about it.

Brittany climbing Crestone Needle

Brittany climbing Crestone Needle

Q: How’d you get started? And what inspired you?
A: I competed in freestyle skiing for a number of years, and when I quit I was looking for something else to do with the sport. I got into backcountry skiing, and when Chris Davenport made it his mission to ski all of Colorado’s 14ers, that inspired me to get started. At the time I didn’t know of any other women who were doing this, but I thought it was a good goal. And I got some important encouragement. I had a really good ski partner who was a solid backcountry skier and had been on some of the harder 14ers, and I asked him if he thought I could do it. He said definitely. I don’t think I would have even tried if he hadn’t said that.

Q: How’d you prepare?
A: Skiing 14ers isn’t that different from skiing the other mountains around here. Some of them are just a little bigger. So no, I didn’t do anything special to prepare.

Q: How many did you do the first year?
A: The first year I did seven, the next two years I did 23, then 22.

Q: How’d you decide which ones to do next?
A: I started with some of the easier ones and worked my way up to the harder. And I watched conditions throughout the state – the snow and the weather. Other times it was just a matter of making sure the avy danger wasn’t bad, as well.

Q: Did you go alone or with friends?
A: I went with friends, but then I ended up going with my boyfriend, who then became my husband. We met during the first year of my project, after I’d already started. I found out there was this other guy who’d skied one of the other 14ers, and we ended up skiing together. Then we started dating, and he became my main 14er partner. We skied over 30 together. And though he first said he wasn’t interested in doing them all, he ended up skiing a lot of them without me.

Q: What about gear? What did you use?
A: For skis, I primarily used various versions of the Volkl Mantra. A lot of people tend to use lighter skis in the backcountry, but I like skis that are stiff and can drive through variable snow conditions. I had a pair of skis that were light for a little while, and I summited Crestone Peak with them. Conditions were really icy, which is something I usually excel at. But in this case, the skis were too soft, and not at all torsionally stiff. Frankly, I was terrified skiing those conditions on those skis. I sold them the next week.

I skied the 14ers before rocker really took off. Now I’m a rocker addict and I really love my Black Diamond Amperage. They’re the best backcountry ski I’ve ever owned, and they’re great at the ski area, too.

For boots, I started off with the Garmont SheRides. That was the stiffest AT boot they made at the time, but coming from a Lange World Cup Race boot, I might as well have been wearing Sorels! I didn’t really like them, but I got them to work until I got my Scarpa Divas. I liked those quite a bit, but I still wanted stiffer.  Since finishing my 14ers, I’ve finally found happiness with my Black Diamond Shivas. They’re a great stiff boot, but light and comfortable enough to have on long backcountry expeditions.

Q:What was your most memorable 14er?
A: Probably Pyramid Peak. It was something I had to go back for three times before I finally skied it. I didn’t have to do that for any of the others, though some I had to go back for twice. The first time I was just too tired to make the hike, the second time, the weather shut us down, and the third time, we finally did it. And though it was the second most challenging climb, I think it was the hardest to ski. It’s very, very steep – maybe 55 or 60 degrees off the top. The main thing is that it’s over 4,000 vertical feet to the valley floor, so you get this really nice, long ski. The fact that it was my second to the last also made it memorable. And when I first met my husband, that was the peak that he had just skied, so it was cool to be able to ski there, too.

Brittany heading down Pyramid Peak.

Brittany heading down Pyramid Peak.

Q: Which was the hardest?
A: Capital Peak. It was a really difficult climb. I’d say I was fearful for my life for about nine hours straight. It’s very steep and exposed and we had some pretty rough conditions. Basically, if you fell you would probably die. That took 21 hours. It was long and intense and difficult, and I will probably never do it again.

Q: What was your last peak and did you do anything special to celebrate?
A: As I neared the end of my 14er goal, I had some pretty hard ones left and one easy one. A couple other people had skied the 14ers by then, and they advised me not to leave the hardest for last because it puts too much pressure on you. So I did an easier one: Pike’s Peak. A lot people drive to the top, ski down, then hike back up.  And that’s what we did. The road was open within a couple miles of the summit, so we parked and walked to the top from there. To celebrate, I had about 10 or 12 people come ski with me – some of my better partners and friends.

Q: Did you have a real feeling of accomplishment?
A: It was kind of really sad. I thought I’d be elated to be done, but it wasn’t like that at all. I didn’t know what to do next.

Q: You were the second woman to ski all the 14ers. How did you feel about not being the first?
A: When I started skiing the 14ers, only one person, Lou Dawson, had completed them all. By the time I finished, there were eight others before me. Equipment and information finally made skiing them a little more achievable and that’s why so many people went after it at the same time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed I wasn’t first. But I always knew that was a real possibility. My goal from the start was to ski all of Colorado’s fifty-four 14ers, safely and within five years. And I was able to achieve that goal. Being first would have been icing on the cake, but it was never part of my actual goal.

Q: So what are you going to do next?
A: Every backcountry skier has a list of peaks they want to ski, and that’s what I have. I’m constantly crossing peaks off my list, but the list keeps growing faster than I can eliminate them.

Q: What was your take-away from this experience?
A: I really think that skill and ability are only part of skiing. If you put your mind to something, you can achieve it. For the majority of the 14ers I skied, at least the harder ones, it was more of a mental battle than physical. There comes a point that if you go for 10 hours, you can go for 20. It doesn’t really matter. I think my longest one took 21 hours. There were points when I had some self doubts, but it worked out in the end.

To find out more, check out Brittany’s blog. Go here.



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Memorial Day, Ski Style

10th Mountain Division, WWII, Camp Hale, CO

10th Mountain Division,
WWII, Camp Hale, CO

Most people celebrate Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer. Swimming, boating, picnics, you get the picture. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But let’s not lose sight of the holiday’s original intent: to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting for our country. Those like the men of the Tenth Mountain Division, who served in combat for only four months during World War II, yet who suffered the highest casualty rate of any US division in the Mediterranean.

Started as an experiment to train soldiers to fight in the most difficult, mountainous terrain in Europe, the Tenth trained at Camp Hale, Colorado, 17 miles north of Leadville. The camp, which lay at 9,300 feet, had four trails and the longest T-Bar in the country. Troops were taught to ski, snowshoe, and climb with packs and rifles as well as survive in the most brutal winter conditions. They lived in the mountains for weeks at a time, working in altitudes up to 13,500 feet, in five to six feet of snow and in temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees below zero at night.

All this well before the advent of today’s technical fabrics.

After training for two years, the Tenth participated in a series of actions that played a vital role in the liberation of northern Italy. The Division breached the supposedly impregnable Gothic Line in the Apennines and secured the Po River Valley. By the time the Germans surrendered in May 1945, 992 ski troopers had lost their lives and 4,000 were wounded.

After the war, veterans of the Tenth became the backbone of the postwar American ski boom. Monty Atwater, for example, went to Alta, Utah, where he established the first explosive avalanche control system. Friedl Pfeifer designed Aspen Mountain, started Aspen’s ski school, and ran the first racing circuit. And Pete Seibert became a member of the 1948 Olympic team and founded Vail.

The sacrifices and contributions of the men of the Tenth can not be denied. So this Memorial Day week, while you’re swimming and picnicing and welcoming in the summer season, take a minute to salute the Tenth, along with the many other veterans of our Armed Forces. Remember, they fought for you.

* This post originaly appeared in May, 2010. But some things are worth re-running. :)

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