Yesterday as I was snowshoeing up a mountain, breathing so hard I felt like I was about to spit my heart out of mouth, I had the opportunity for some serious rumination on breaking trail. For those unfamiliar with breaking trail in snowshoeing, it simply refers to being the first one to cut a track through deep snow. I have always sought out contemplation at such moments as the last thing I want is my mind solely on the rigors of the effort at hand. So there I was, my body gasping for every precious molecule of oxygen available, but my mind busy building a list of the lessons of breaking trail.
Lesson one – Breaking trail is HARD!
Serious revelation, I know. Why is it so hard? Because it is the very act of going somewhere that nobody has yet been (at least since the last big snow). In fact, it is the act of going somewhere that you haven’t yet been either. You are seeking and venturing into new territory, and that is never going to be easy. The paths blazed by others, or previously by you, are always going to be easier but they also won’t yield anything new. Understand that you will have to accept great challenge to get into uncharted territory in any area of your life.
Lesson two – You can go further with the help of others.
My dog Duke was my only company on yesterday’s venture, but I have snowshoed in groups often. With a group, you take turns breaking trail, rotating through the lead duties. It is incredible how much energy this method conserves. You can go so much farther, so much faster, taking turns at the front. If you are trying to get to new ground in any facet of your life, but you’re trying to do it completely solo, I’d say you have a very long path ahead with minimal chance of reaching your destination. Supportive family members, friends, teammates, coaches, therapists, etc. make all the difference.
Lesson three – Break things down.
When something is as daunting as breaking trail, the last thing you want to be thinking about is how far you have to go. When the goal is a summit as mine was yesterday, it’s not too helpful to just stare up at that vast stretch that still lay in front of you. Your steps are so small in comparison to that distance, and the effort is so great, that it is about impossible to remain positive and engaged if your focus is on all that is left to cover. I pick little goals to break the effort into sections…..’just get to that next tree’ for example. Interestingly when I set these little goals I often feel like I’ll barely be able to reach them, but when I get to that next tree many times I feel energized, even renewed. When you are facing a long hard road, do yourself a favor and at least break it up into a bunch of short hard roads.
Lesson four – Efficiency is everything.
With any effort of a reasonable duration, especially one that requires high repetitions, efficient movement will pay massive dividends. It is quite literally the little things that count. When I initiate the movement to pick up my foot and move it forward again am I bringing it up first each time so I don’t end up pushing my snowshoe through more snow increasing resistance and thus amplifying energy expenditure? Is the timing of my pole placement correct? Am I keeping the movement of my limbs linear and limiting lateral force applied? Is your movement toward your current goals efficient?
So accept the difficulty of seeking new territory, enlist and value the support of others, break that long road into attainable sections, and be efficient at every step. We all have uncharted places we seek, let’s get to work breaking trail.