For as long as I can remember, I have loved spring. Flowers popping up and reaching for the sun through a thinning patch of snow, the sounds of birds chirping, longer, warmer days, and the smell of mud. Beyond that, spring has long been my season of rest, rejuvenation and adventure.
When I was a high school student at Burke Mountain Academy, spring meant dawn runs, gully work (an all-time favorite, which was Burke’s version of military strength training, which always included a belly crawl through the mud and pull-ups from a tree branch), and the beginning years of “60 days of toughness”, dreamed up by our coach, Matt Whitcomb.
What 60 days of toughness entailed was picking an adventure of any variety every day for the next 60 days. These types of adventures could include creative resting, such as finding a new hobby, trying a new skill, or taking a nap next to a stream.
They also included things like running around the base of Burke Mountain through an epic swamp and a field of pricker bushes that reached well over my 5’ head, swimming in cold rivers and lakes, starting a plank holding contest, running the 3000, or getting up at 4 AM to hike up the mountain twice before the sun rose.
Even now, 17 years after I graduated from Burke and 4 years past my own ski career, I still get this giddy desire to run up a new mountain, do 1000 pushups, go to a yoga retreat, or sit in a remote cabin alone somewhere and write.
As a coach, I see some part of my athlete self in many of the athletes I train. I can see their uncertainty when I mention the words “time off”, and the way they fidget at the thought of unstructured hours after school. It is what made me want to write these thoughts down for all the athletes, old or young, who struggle with this kind of time, you are in good company. I encourage you to embrace the uncertainty of the hours and do something you would normally not make time for. Try a new skill, ski 50k, simply because you can, take a meditation course, go skydiving, jump in a cold lake, run up a new mountain, make a new friend. Time is a gift and sometimes it feels like structure free moments are few and far between, so embrace every last minute of them, so when May hits, you are fully ready to jump in with both feet.
Photos: Featured Image: Pete Vordenberg, PC Skiers: Liz Stephen, Others: Jen Santoro