For most of us, getting ready for ski season means getting our bodies in top physical shape. We go to the gym, work out with personal trainers, do what we can to build our muscles and endurance. Skiing isn’t for the weak, y’know.
But getting ready for the season requires more than just being in shape, physically. We have to be in shape mentally, as well. After all, there’s little doubt that the body and the mind are connected. To ski well, you have to be focused, you have to have confidence, and you have to have a clear idea of your goals and how to reach them.
Which is why mindfulness, meditation, and skiing are such a good fit.
Before you roll your eyes and say ‘oh, no, not another discussion about mindfulness,’ consider this:
Remember the last time you were skiing and found yourself in the zone? Remember how great that felt? Well, that’s pretty much the definition of mindfulness.
Basically, mindfulness means paying attention to your thoughts and feelings at a specific moment, without making any judgements, good or bad. The idea is to focus your awareness so you’re completely present in your experience, communing with your body, with nature, and with the sights and sounds around you, with no distractions.
According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness offers a whole host of benefits: everything from stress reduction to improved focus and less emotional reactivity. You can read more about them here. Take a look; it doesn’t sound bad.
Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness. We perform our best when we are totally present, and that’s what meditation is all about. Which is why it’s a great tool for getting your head in the right place for ski season, and for keeping your head straight, once you’re on the hill. Although meditation is often associated with being still, you can meditate when you’re active, too; it just takes a bit of practice. The more you meditate, the easier it becomes.
Why skiing and meditation go hand in hand.
Keeps you focused: By paying greater attention to what you’re doing, you’ll enjoy the moment more and probably ski better, too. Can you focus on your breathing, or on the actions of your body when you’re skiing? Meditation helps you do that. Even if your mind drifts away, gently bring your focus back to what you’re doing. It makes a big difference.
Calms your nerves: Fear is something that happens to everyone, but fear is a distraction, and mindfulness is all about eliminating distractions. Meditation can help quiet the mind. Instead of thinking about that fall you had this morning, or the terrain that’s up ahead, or the traffic you’re going to face three hours from now, you focus on the here and now. And you breathe. Deep breathing sends a signal to your brain that everything’s okay and you can relax. So you breathe in, slowly, and breathe out, slowly. Positive energy in, negative energy out. It’s a great stress reducer.
Improves your confidence: Lack of confidence can be a real game changer. It can hold us back and make it difficult for us to tackle harder terrain or even keep up with our family and friends. And when we don’t feel like we’re good enough, we let that take over. We have negative thoughts, which leads to poor skiing, which leads to more negative thoughts, which leads to more poor skiing, until our confidence is so shot that we may not even want to ski anymore. A key component in mindfulness is on being present, without passing any judgments on what your body is doing. So you’re not generating the negativity that can screw you up. You’re thinking about the moment, without worry on what may or may not happen or on whether or not your skiing meets a certain level of expectation. And that can make you a more confident skier.
Yes, you can do it.
I’ve always been the sort of person who, when directed not to think of an elephant, will think of an elephant right away. But in spite of this, I’ve been meditating daily since January, 2016 (I haven’t missed a day yet) and yes, I think it’s made a difference, both on and off the slopes. I find that I have a greater ability to calm myself, to be more patient, and to handle tough situations better.
You’ve probably heard that meditation involves emptying your mind of all thoughts. This isn’t exactly true. Instead, it’s more about directing your focus to just one thing — usually breathing, which keeps you in the present. Thoughts will inevitably come into your mind, and that’s okay. The idea is to redirect your focus back to your breath. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.
I started out using an app, and yes, I found that was a good way to go. There are many out there, both paid and free, that can help. Whichever way you choose is simply a guide to help you let go, drop your resistance, and relax into the present moment. You may find you’re capable of things you never thought possible.