Culture Shock: A tool for growth and adaptation

I am fortunate enough to have been able to travel to many different places around the globe. From the mountains of Austria for a wrestling tournament, to the fjords of Norway to coach a team of female athletes or the beaches of the Philippines just to get away. Besides the breathtaking scenery, tropical climate and ancient architecture, travel can have a profound and lasting impact on a person. The biggest is the effect culture shock has on a traveller, and the growth and adaptation one can experience from being uncomfortable in a new place.


Now I’m not talking about the travellers perched at an all-inclusive in Cancun. I’m referring to the trips where you are the only English speaking athlete in a small town in France, trying to find the tournament venue. Or the trips where you are on such a tight budget, you have to weigh the options of hitch-hiking back to Auckland and purchasing a bus ticket so you don’t miss your flight home. One particular trip that I struggled with the most was travelling from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, Philippines. An excerpt from my journal was:

“Holy uncomfortable batman! Last night we took a 6-hour van ride to El Nido without knowing if we had any accommodations when we arrived. The whole town was booked up, our cell phones didn’t work and the topsy turvy highway left us a little too queezy to think straight. The only place we could find in the dark, had one room left, just for us. This room was something special. There were no windows. When the air conditioning was on, it was so cold that our paper-thin blanket could not stop us from shivering. When the air conditioning was off, the room produced a smell so unique and offensive that it kept us awake. As I lay there, unable to sleep for a single second, I plotted. I plotted ways to get back to Canada by first light. I plotted all of the money we should have wasted on an ultra-luxury hotel room. I plotted. My sleep is sacred to me and the lack of it made me so incredible uncomfortable.”


The next day we packed up our stuff and took a long walk along the beach to try and figure out a solution. After going door-to-door along the beach front hotels, we happened upon a room that had become available moments before we had showed up. We were 10-meters from the water and had quickly forgotten our sleepless night. We had arrived in paradise. We had used our feelings of discomfort to fuel our problem solving, and were rewarded for our efforts.


I believe that there is power from embracing discomfort. Not relishing in it. But acknowledging it, and using it to adapt or better our situation. Getting comfortable with discomfort also puts a few things into perspective; 1. It helps decipher the scale of the problem that is making us uncomfortable. Having one sleepless night is nothing compared to a major injury, or never having sufficient shelter like so many homeless people experience. 2. Working through these states of discomfort, teaches us that we can survive quite a bit. Once we’ve ‘survived’ something once, the subsequent times are easier and easier.

Next time you go to book a trip to a place where you do not speak the language, you do not have easy access to Google, or you are travelling solo, look for those moments that you can work through an uncomfortable situation. Celebrate staying fairly calm and trouble-shooting your way to a solution. Recognize the knowledge that has been gained. Culture shock can be fun guys (well maybe not fun, but definitely exciting).

Athlete Inspired

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Where is my Safety Blanket?

Just this past weekend, I was able to visit my sister and my niece on the island. My niece is such a cool little cat. Without any fear, she climbs the furniture, jumps off the stairs, and hangs on the big kid monkey bars. Even though she is a bundle of freaking joy, she’s still only two, and that age range can come with some wild mood swings and a lot of meltdowns on the floors of various public places.

Toddlers seem to thrive with routine. Doing the same things over and over. It’s safe and familiar. They have their bottle they always drink from, their stuffed animal friend that comes with them everywhere, and their warm and cozy safety blanket that tucks them in at night. But then, the time comes when their bottle needs to turn into a cup, their stuffed animal friend is hanging on by a literal thread, and the cozy safety blanket is still there but does not cover the whole surface area of their new big kid bed.

My niece fights it at first, flailing on the floor of the local coffee shop because she wants her bubba. Shrieking at a pitch that is deafening to all mammals, insects and invertebrates over having to drink from a cup. You feel like the worst Auntie in the whole world (mainly because you hand the screaming child back to her mother and walk away, pretending as if you don’t know them). One day though, out of nowhere, she’ll be asking for more juju in a cup and the bottle has been long forgotten.

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Just like a toddler who detests being uncomfortable with change, we adults don’t react to it much better. We do everything in our power to avoid it. To stay in the safe zone. The monotonous environment that holds little to no surprises. And….little to no room for any sort of growth; physical, emotional, social, etc.

Discomfort is essential to growth.

My sister, like many others, is painfully afraid of heights. She thinks what I do for a living is insane because I am constantly putting myself outside of my comfort zone to learn new things, to overcome fears, to adapt. Well she surprised me on my last visit with a trip to the local climbing gym. She was determined to work through this uncomfortable feeling of believing she was going to fall to her death if she got on that climbing wall. The sister in me, found this irrational fear hilarious.

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She made it to the very top of the wall her first time and didn’t stop trying new problems until our hour session was up. I was really proud of her. Knowing her daughter, who was already eyeing up the 5.11 problems on the wall, she’ll need to do lots of these things to keep up.

It’s so easy to revert back to what is safe and painless.

  • To go back to the couch and watch Netflix instead of the gym because your muscles still ache from that inaugural workout
  • To avoid going to that new Meet-up group alone for fear of having to strike up a conversation with some stranger (who could end up being your next new friend)
  • To only jog or bike as your form of physical activity because the learning curve for rowing, climbing or cross-country skiing is just too intimidating

If we fail to work through these moments of fragility, we will fail to ever come close to our potential. Adapt or die is a thing. Our brains need new challenges to grow and build new synapses. Our muscles need new stimuli to keep from atrophying and to protect our joints from injury.

So next time, you find yourself experiencing that impulse to reach for your ‘safety blanket’, consider riding that wave of discomfort to the other side. It may take you to a new place. A place which you will never want to return from.

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She inspire’s me to PK

Over the past two years, parkour has taken a backseat to various martial arts and my stunt training. The whole strengthen your weaknesses and maintain your strengths approach to building up a skill set. Being back in Calgary this winter has re-invigorated my parkour training. I have always enjoyed the community here and Varkour ladies make training so very enjoyable.

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As I continue to work on my building my business, I find myself needing the motivation to balance training with business’ing. To be honest, I’ve always preferred doing over talking about doing it. That being said, it’s pretty hard to be a coach or a leader if you do not have any students or peers to coach or lead.

I am fortunate to be influenced by so many strong female parkour practitioners who not only walk their talk, but manage to enrich their lives beyond parkour. What better way to reflect on the power-femmes in my life, but to put together a Top-10 list.

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So over the next couple of weeks I am going to highlight the parkour women who have inspired me, not only to move, but to give back to my community and to go after what I really want in life. Just a warning, this list does not just contain the “best” female parkour practitioners from all the lands. Those lists have been done and they’re so subjective. Skill alone does not an idol make. These lady freerunners have something in their practice (or outside of their practice) that gets me all fired up.

Feel free to share that well-rounded traceuse that lights your fire. I’d love to build a bigger list.

AthleteInspired

 

Working Out, Through Grief

Everyone experiences great loss in their lives. Some more unfortunately than others but everyone loses something or someone very important to us. It has a profound impact on us and how we deal with it can have an even more profound impact on our futures.

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Recently I lost my aunt. To call her an aunt is a misleading representation of our closeness. To myself and many of my 13 cousins, she was our babysitter, our camp counsellor, our social worker and the person many of us depended upon to make sense of the world. When my mother passed away, she was the person who swore to be there for me no matter what, to offer guidance & support while also calling me out on my sh*t. Her unconditional love for us, mixed with her dry wit and love for nature made her a very special person.

I find it quite fascinating how differently people cope with loss. I have known many who pretend they are fine and push onwards without acknowledging the pain that must be processed, I have known others who have literally drank themselves to death within a year, not able to manage what was now missing from their lives, and many more who have tried to mask their pain with substances, eating disorders, seclusion, sexual promiscuity or a neurotic work ethic that consumes them.

When my mother passed away over a decade ago, I did not have the tools and resources that I now have to cope. I gave into many of the above mentioned coping mechanisms but there was one thing that truly helped carry me through that period of emotional desperation. That was sport. It helped me then and is helping me now. Back then, only constant in my life was wresting. The sweat, tears and adrenaline of a physical workout granted me some sort of clarity and mental strength to slowly move forward.

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There has been quite a bit of research done on the benefits of high intensity physical activity on stress and grief management. Dr. Mercola explains in his article, “Sweating Out Sadness”, that high intensity exercise gives you a sense of control as it requires great internal focus. Not to mention the benefits of increased blood flow to the brain, release of endorphins (those happy neurotransmitters) and the sense of accomplishment that can help rebuild general motivation.

Now I am not saying that every single time you are feeling sad, down, low, unmotivated, paralyzed, impartial, etc., that you should get up and rock a 20-minute HIIT workout. That’s an unrealistic expectation that will just lead to feeling even more lost and disappointed. There have been days this past couple of weeks where just brushing my teeth, showing up for work or eating something other than chocolate & Skittles all day is considered a victory. I am talking about those moments when you feel like you want and need something to help you feel better. Those are the moments to try and get your sweat on. Just as the grief diary I will share at the end of the month will demonstrate, the actual process of processing typically looks much more like a 2 year olds’ drawing of a cat. It rarely is a straight inclining line.

The path to saying goodbye is probably filled with many ups, downs, happy moments when you think you should be sad, sad moments when you want to be happy, moments when you want to lash out at the nice barista who put just a bit too much foam in your cappuccino and flashing moments of your old content self. My best advice is not to rush it, to own your feelings whole heartedly and to do a little bit most days. Use the loss in order to strengthen you for the future. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of a small company called Facebook, wrote a beautiful piece about grief when her husband passed away. She does not touch on ‘sweat therapy’ but I leave you with this article and hope that it gives you some insight and that exercise becomes a helpful tool in your tool belt.

http://www.businessinsider.com/sheryl-sandbergs-essay-on-dave-goldbergs-death-and-grief-2015-6

AthleteInspired