Coaching, Kayak, Lifestyle, MTB, Thinking

The edge isn’t comfortable…

I don’t know when the change happened, whether it was a gradual awakening or a sudden realisation, but I have woken up.  I have realised that there really is only one person’s opinion of me that is truly important, one that matters more than any others, and that is my own.  And, this has undoubtedly made me a better leader and coach, and I have been able to give myself permission to move away from ‘the edge’.

You see, with this realisation, there comes ownership and a sense of release.  The release is in the knowledge that you do not have to do anything simply to impress others.  In this era of sharing, likes, kudos and followers we can start to believe that people are watching us and keeping score of our achievements.  This leads almost inexorably into doing ever more difficult and dangerous challenges, raising the bar all the time, living on the edge simply to draw attention to ourselves and impress our ever demanding audience.  The growing body of evidence surrounding the number of people who are dying taking selfies is alarming, and looking more specifically at risk sports, it is my opinion that people are pushing harder and, critically, sooner than ever before.

In this era of sharing, likes, kudos and followers we can start to believe that people are watching us and keeping score of our achievements…

Part of the problem is that we, as a collective, are sending out the wrong messages.  If you search for footage of ‘whitewater kayaking’, ‘mountain biking’ or even ‘sea kayaking’ you are unlikely to be led to imagery of ordinary athletes having a good time, and instead will be led to talented extreme athletes at the top of their games doing dangerous and outrageous things.  Now I am all for the best athletes pushing themselves and the envelopes of the sport.  It is and has always been a part of the magic of extreme sports, but it is almost disrespectful not to acknowledge the rare combination of aptitude, practice and experience that has allowed the athletes at the top of the sport to excel.  Too many people now judge themselves by these standards, see them as achievable and race towards them at all costs.  The prevalence of the ‘go big or go home’ tribe can make people push themselves too hard too soon, with sometimes terrible consequences, or persuade others to leave the sport, feeling inadequate failures because they can’t ‘keep up’.

Not normal mountain biking
I have mountain biked for over 20 years, but never this…

You see, living on the edge isn’t comfortable.  Hits of adrenaline are fun for a while, but there is more to all of these sports than subjecting yourself to a series of ever more difficult challenges; higher grade rivers, more demanding conditions, bigger swells, steeper trails, double black diamonds and ‘gnarly drops’.  It is mentally exhausting, physically destructive and, most of all, can start to make you dread the next time you have to suit up and get out there.

But there is hope.  There is joy to be had in mastery of skills, in fun days with friends on familiar terrain, in playing at your local spots and surfing, shredding, skidding, slaloming and smiling all afternoon.  Remember that every time you go out is not a competition, nobody is actually keeping score.  You can break the cycle, do what YOU enjoy rather than what you think THE TRIBE expect of you and just maybe you can relax and bask in the flow and simple pleasures that outdoor sports bring.

It is mentally exhausting, physically destructive and, most of all, can start to make you dread the next time you have to suit up and get out there.

But please don’t think this blog means I am against pushing yourself, improving skills and finding your limits.  I said up front that the realisation gave me both a sense of ownership and release.  Ownership of my progression, my journey, setting my own goals and deciding for myself what is important and achievable, what risks I am prepared to take and what sacrifices I am happy to make.  Absolutely, go out and find your edge, it would be hugely hypocritical of me to suggest you shouldn’t.  Just do it for the right reasons, for yourself, and set realistic expectations of yourself.  And then enjoy achieving them…

Dane Jackson
Dane Jackson – inspirational definitely, but aspirational for the average paddler?

I recently started playing tennis again after more than 20 years away from the sport and am enjoying developing my skills, but I don’t ever expect myself to achieve Roger Federer’s excellence, and don’t feel this means that I am a failure as a tennis player.  So why when I get in my boat would I expect myself to match Dane Jackson’s achievements?  Or climb onto my bike and ride like Danny MacAskill?  We are not failures simply because we cannot do what the very best can do, we are not even failures if we cannot do what some of our friends do.  We are only failures if we lose who we are and forget that we all originally got into these sports to have fun.

Go hard or go home?  Thanks for that unnecessary ultimatum, but if that is really your attitude, I think I’ll go home…

IMG_2076
Finding you are out of your depth…
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7 thoughts on “The edge isn’t comfortable…”

  1. I love this blog. I sometimes need to remind myself it’s ok to just do what I enjoy, without always trying to do better. Recently I’ve been pushing myself to run ultras. Unfortunately, this has led to me hating running. I have one more challenge run in my calendar and your blog supports my decision that, after that, I’m going to go back to running shorter distances. I can’t wait to go out for a short run over the hills in the sunshine, just because I can, and because that’s what I enjoy. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is so good to reach people and in some way help them to help themselves. I’ve struggled with this issue myself for a while but am doing much better lately and as a result enjoying myself much more. I hope you can get back to loving running again.

      Like

  2. Great read and perfect timing. (he says as he recovers from his recent mountain bike accident) My old mantra: If you’re not crashing you’re not going fast enough. My new mantra: Slow down dumb ass.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on and commented:
    This blog by Live2Flow is in the same vein as my earlier one regarding learning to Roll too soon. It’s an interesting point that in adventure sports the more extreme boundaries seem to be more within grasp of mere mortals than in the more traditional sports? Most people wouldn’t think they could give Usain Bolt a run for his money when they put their beer down, but somehow dropping in on a huge waterfall feels somehow more achievable…. An interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great read, thanks Simon. I wish more people focused on skill development rather than pure achievement. Don’t get me wrong; achievement should be celebrated, but so should the smaller things that make up that journey be congratulated on a more frequent basis. Finesse over finish – out of all the teams that are playing the World Cup, there will only be one winning side, but there is a lot of talent to see and enjoy both individually and collectively, who won’t be on that side.

    Liked by 1 person

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