As a runner, climber, and hiker; I want to be strong, flexible, and be able to push my limits: so, why does it matter if my puffy matches my climbing helmet? Sadly, looking cute, coordinated, and decked out in all the right brand names DOES seem to matter to many of us seeking adventure. Lately, I’ve noticed that my Instagram feed is flooded with chatter of swag, flashy new gear, and the latest style. I’m following these people for the inspiration they give me and not looking to buy a new running shirt.
Head outdoors, and it only gets worse. I catch myself comparing my outfit to what the climber next to me is wearing, or coveting the running jacket a friend jogs by wearing. Talking gear with climbers, is like discussing the rainfall with a farmer. It’s just what we do; but sometimes, I need to check myself. Freedom in the wild comes when I’m doing what I love with the people that I love, and as long as my outfit lets me accomplish my adventure goals, who cares if it’s new, or even if it matches?
Sometimes, it frustrates me how I take things into the outdoors that I don’t want to. The outdoors for me, and for many many others, is a place to recreate, relax, and reconnect. For me, it’s one of the places that I go to be free of life’s frustrations and breathe. Another big place is church. Both bring me closer to God, so that’s good! I’m usually really good at letting creation do it’s work of aiding communion. However, add other people into the mix, and it’s much harder. Comparison and coveting are killers!
A large part of my anxiety is related to my self-image. I’m starting to understand that how we view and present ourselves is interrelated with how we feel about ourselves. If we feel better, we then look better. If we feel more like ourselves, we’ll portray ourselves more accurately and easily. Isn’t that what we all want? To be genuine inside and out? We can all tell when someone isn’t being themselves; their image exudes try-too-hard and fakeness. It’s not the look per se, but the congruency of the look and the individual. We’re intuitive to seeing past clothes, sometimes without even knowing anything about the person. Of course, we have to be very careful to not assume and judge, but if we observe that someone looks fake, we’re maybe sensing that conflict.
We all have a little bit of faux to an extent, and I do believe that we’re constantly desiring to get closer to our true selves. Some of us are closer than others, at different stages of the adventure. I know that becoming as whole as I was made to be is very important. I want to feel and look like how God intended me to. As we start to develop a deeper understanding of who we are, we'll more easily gravitate to and find things that resonate with us. We’ll then feel more comfortable with who we are, and we might even start to love ourselves! Because, if we can first love ourselves, then we can love our nature neighbours.
The grossest feeling to me in the outdoors is when I’m not loving myself - when I’m not enjoying myself. Often, it’s because I’m wanting someone’s new sunglasses, new rope, old pants, hair, talent, strength, girl, vehicle, life?! Ah ha!! If I’m wanting everything that I’m not, and not grateful for everything that I am, I can’t love myself. God made me, and he says, “Rejoice!” So, I’m going to focus on me and the great outdoor day that he's given me.
Living in Alberta means living with winter, whether you like it or not. Somehow, it used to shock me every time winter came, and I would hibernate in my house until the warm weather returned. There were times when I had big aspirations to not let the darkness and cold get to me, but winter seemed to win every year. Then some small changes happened: I moved to a town with milder winters and beautiful scenery; I realized that you can buy boots that won’t let your toes freeze; and I met people who actually enjoyed being outside when others are hibernating.
My goal to embrace winter has been ongoing for over three years now, and while it is still tough, I have definitely improved. Here are
Michelle’s Tips for Enjoying the Cold:
In keeping with the fun and casualness of our blog, here are
Silvain’s Winter Thoughts:
I love seeing Michelle embrace winter! You see, I like winter. It’s not my favorite season, but it’s sure better than summer in some ways. OK - only in a couple ways: less sweat, and when it snows, the scenery, in my opinion, is splendour! Only when it snows, though, because brown and grey sleet slush for 8 months of the year isn’t cool.
Anyway, about dressing for running in winter, as Michelle says: “It’s all about layering - lots and lots of them.” She does love tons of puffy, plush, and pilly things to stay warm. She’s cold-blooded: I’m the opposite. My problem is sweating, no matter the season. I could write a whole bit on sweaty hands and rock climbing in the sun. I love climbing in the shade, because my hands grip better. Some people won’t understand this no-sun climbing preference sometimes.
Sweating causes real suffering in terms of vigorous activity in the cold! (Or, different suffering, because being frozen from not being able to generate heat isn’t fun either!) The wetness can be pretty uncomfortable, and also dangerous. In winter, God’s pretty great invention to cool us down works especially efficiently and fast.
I usually overdress and have been trusting my experience and heading out with less on than I worry that I need. I’ve never really regretted it, but did think that when I start running away from the townsite trails this spring, I’ll have to rethink dressing and will have to start packing options. Trying and tweaking isn’t too hard, just a bit of effort. If you change something each time, you’ll get closer and better at the art and science of it all.
It’ll still be winter in the mountains for a while. I always chuckle when I end up on snow in the middle of summer. It’s not great when it snows in town in July; although, I secretly enjoy it. One of the draws of higher elevations is the freshness. And, when I do find snow, I grab a handful to cool my hands. It’s always very refreshing.
We may never agree on a favourite season, but we will continue to embrace all weather!
I haven’t quite figured out if climbing is good for my anxiety or if it increases it.
As expected, I definitely have increased tension before the first climb of the day, starting the moment I wake up or even before. If it’s the first day in a new area or climbing spurt, and if there’s a bit of organizing to do before, there’s additional stress. To be fair, this apprehension is no different than a transition travel day or an exam day, for example. For these more stressful mornings, I’ve found that it’s helpful to breathe, not rush, stick to routines, eat a good breakfast, hydrate, shower, and take a few moments of quiet time. As I understand myself more, I’m more able to identify my anxiety quickly, allowing me to share my thoughts with my climbing partner. Putting the climbing day in God’s hands, as with any other worries, is vital.
I find that I have almost no anxiety after climbing, even non-climbing irritations. There’s a release. Perhaps the parasympathetic system kicks in. I think that climbing helps me with my daily anxiety, teaching me how to deal with the increased anxiety of climbing might help me deal with my lesser, daily worries: a desensitization or conditioning of sorts, maybe. It teaches me that confronting a worry is at times a helpful way to heal anxiety or at least manage it.
Ironically, there’s incredible mental peace, even in the mental fright and physical shaking, while climbing. I don’t know if this is an illusion and actually just hyper-focused fight-flight-freeze or if it’s really a calmer state of mind. Maybe, they’re the same thing. However, the clarity of mind on the wall, although super aimed (ie: “Where do I put my right foot?” “OK, I need to commit to this move.”), gets me thinking that it’s not quite the same as running away from a bear. Mind you, I’ve never had to run away from one! I was mindful of scorpions, snakes, and spiders at Red Rocks; not worried, though!
The first time I went climbing, when we ventured to Juno Wall in Jasper National Park, I remember having no fear. Because partially, I fully trusted my friends to keep me safe while being on top-rope; and somewhat because, I hadn’t taken the time to fully consider all of the things that could go wrong. As I improved and pushed myself to be as good as my climbing partners, I realized that a strong mental state is imperative in becoming a great climber.
I quickly found myself being petrified of climbing above my bolt when leading, stressed when there was extra slack in the rope, and always nervous of going over the edge when coming down after a climb. Researching, practicing, and talking with fellow climbers has helped me to build a strong mind. It was exciting for me to conquer some of my fears while climbing in Red Rocks. I had a looser grip while clipping; I didn’t scream every time I was lowered; and there were times when I didn’t think twice about climbing above my bolt.
Take for example our first day at Red Rocks: I strapped on my snazzy new climbing shoes and aimed for the mindset of “how small of a rock can my foot balance upon?” With my toes screaming in agony due to unbroken-in shoes, it was great to feel the strength and control that each tiny toe gave me. As I became more confident that “Yes! My feet will hold me,” my body shook less, and I had more energy to do more climbs in the days that followed.
Then there was Day 5 of our Red Rocks adventure. This was the day that I left my fingertips on the wall. I was so focused on conquering the route that I threw my cares (or most of them, at least) out the window and pushed through the pain of gripping the crimp holds on an ice-cold, shady route. Sadly, I never did end up sending the 5.10a, but I’ll be back to finish it; hopefully, with my fingertips still intact!
Whether it’s a fearful climbing day or not, I’ve loved climbing since I started. I love how my mind is clear and focused, and the energy that I normally use to worry and stress can be rerouted into climbing energy. As a developing climber, I believe that my mental strength is just as important as my physical strength.
We find ourselves, this first day of the new year, rock climbing in Red Rocks Canyon. Last year’s biggest event for us was getting hitched, but our greatest moments are our small, crazy ones - planned and spontaneous. We’re working on embracing “flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants” and being crazy! Forever!! We want to follow our hearts and God. He wants us to have an abundant and whole life, and we’re chasing it! Today, we’re relaxing on Fremont Street at the Container Park. It’s a great place to take kids (if you do happen to take them to Vegas!). There’s a green space, some fun restaurants and shops, and it’s much more family-friendly than the rest of what we have seen in the city of Vegas.
To back up a bit, when we first arrived and were overwhelmed by the craziness of the Vegas Strip on the first day, we swore up and down that we’d never take kids to Vegas; then we went to Red Rocks. With its handy location, short hikes, warm weather, interesting rock features, and numerous caves, boulders, and cliffs, it’s the perfect place for kids! We loved watching the families hang out and hike with their kids while we rested from our climbs; There was so much joy and playfulness around us. At one point Silvain had a cheering squad while he tried to muscle his way up a climb; they definitely got a good show when he fell from above his bolt, and Michelle went flying 10 feet in the air!
Now, we’re half-way through our trip, have experienced a little bit of everything, and are ready for more climbing, more adventure, and probably a lot more interesting people watching.
Who We Are
Hi! We're Michelle and Silvain: a married, Christian couple that's always seeking to learn, explore, and take on new challenges. Our adventures take us up mountains, down trails, and to faraway places. Follow us as we live, love, and are crazy! Forever!!