Susan joined the CL team in 2016 with some general goals to build strength and endurance while adding in running, meeting others and having fun. Last year she hiked regularly (including a team hike up Kendal Catwalk) and built running into her schedule. Unfortunately, injury issues sidelined her part of this year but Susan was able to find the silver lining and took it as the push she needed to address some strength and mechanical imbalances she knew about but like all of us had not found the time to focus on.
But…. Canoeing? That was a new one.
However, Susan has canoed occasionally over the years but never really thought of a trip like this until she got invited to join at the urging of her former crew coach and friend. They’d be doing the world-renowned Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit that encompasses a 70-mile chain of lakes, waterways and portages in British Columbia.
What did she do to physically prepare?
First, a little hesitantly, she told us she had signed up for something a little crazy and a little scary and wanted to us to redirect her focus to help get her ready. What did we think? Fantastic!
We were already working on overcoming injuries and imbalances so we built on that. More strength training, general cardio conditioning to keep her fitness up and then canoe specific workouts to build the specific muscles she would need to have be strong and with good endurance to canoe for seven days.
Susan was able to go for a test-canoeing trip and came back with a very sore shoulder. This highlighted the need for certain mechanical strength issues and caused us to consult a physical therapist to help us find specific ways to work through the issues.
In all honestly, Susan had hoped that signing up for this event would motivate her to get in more strength training and it did. She added in more strength training and more conditioning. However, life got in the way at times as all of have experienced, and she was unable to do as much physical preparation as she had hoped.
Many people use events to help motivate them to stay consistent or on target for goals. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not! The goal Coach Lesley puts out to all her athletes is to work toward a balance of life, work, and fitness. Often these demands can make it hard to be as prepared as we would hope but the biggest thing to know about this is, THAT IS OK! Work to get in what you can, set realistic goals and give yourself permission to do the best you can. Often if we keep a little better balance in all areas of our life, our athletic performance will be better than if everything is way off-kilter. Coach Lesley would rather have you go into an event a little under trained and less stressed out or fatigued from burning the candle at both ends.
What did she do to mentally prepare?
As we found out later, Susan was mentally “obsessed” and frankly more anxious about the whole upcoming adventure than she let on. In fact, she wondered what excuse she could come up with to bow out of the trip because she was so anxious about it! But, at the end of the day, what drew her to attempting this canoeing trip was the lure of spectacular scenery, wildlife and the challenge itself.
Sound familiar? How many of you have tried to logic yourself out of an event or adventure?
We love that saying that if it were easy, everyone would do it. This wasn’t going to be an easy trip but that didn’t mean she couldn’t do it. She still did regular and consistent strength and cardio workouts and had a weekly check in with Coach. Those weekly check-ins were invaluable for reminding Susan about why she was doing this and helping her work through planning for what she could actually control and plan for. It was a great time to review training and focus but even more so look at what background conversations were going on in Susan’s head and how we could set them aside.
What did she do to handle the pressure?
Susan was quick to admit that she had a lot of fears about this canoeing trip. She was worried that out of the team of 10 people canoeing, she would be the weakest link and hold everyone back. How many of us hold back for this exact reason? Fears that we are not fast enough, strong enough, good enough can limit everyone.
As with any event that we have a lot invested in, the pressure we put on ourselves is great. What Susan learned was that everyone else was out there for the exact same reasons as she was. In the end, it turned out that Susan was ready for the challenge and definitely not the weakest person on the team. Even if she had been, it would not have mattered. No one was judgmental and it just did not matter.
Pressure is an interesting concept to think about. The pressure we put on ourselves for all kinds of reasons can take a toll. It’s important to look at this pressure and make sure that it’s not impeding training. Are you spending a lot of mental energy worrying about things you cannot control? Are you worried that friends or family will judge you if things don’t go how you hoped? Are you worried about the weather or what some other athlete might think? Are you worried you are letting someone down? Pressure can often enhance motivation and concentration except when the pressure becomes too much.
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the pressure and answering some of the questions above with a yes, this is a time to take a step back. Remind yourself why you chose the specific challenge and what are the real goals of the event. Having multiple goals can help ease some of the pressure.
Coach often asks the question of why do we do these challenging events? And, Coach likes to remind everyone, it’s for FUN!! Of course it is for the adventure, the challenge, the camaraderie, the experience, and, in this case, the scenery too. Regardless, fun does not mean that it will always be easy.
Canoeing the Bowron Lakes