When I was ten years old, my dad taught me how to cross-country ski. We went on laps through the woods in our backyard for a few weeks before I had gotten the hang of it. Once my mobility increased and my coordination was configured, we hit some trails of more difficulty. He showed me how to go up and down slopes and skirt tight corners on narrow paths. After a while, I became quite capable in my abilities and upgraded to a better pair of skis.
I always enjoyed cross-country
skiing. It is often an under-recognized sport as it falls under the
shadow of the more popular downhill skiing. While this Alpine sport
often provides more thrill, it does not emphasis the journey as much as
the destination. A ski-lift carries the skier to the top of the hill and
then the skier tries to make it to the bottom of the hill as fast as
possible. Wherein lies the pure enjoyment? The Nordic counterpart is
all-encompassing. It is not a monotonous crawl across level surfaces,
but rather a dynamic climb up, down, and around nature. In order to
enjoy the cold breeze in your face as you glide down slopes, you must
trek, often slowly and painstakingly, to the top of mounds. When you
reach the bottom of the hill, you do not try to slow yourself to a halt,
but rather incorporate your momentum into the next movement.
Cross-country-skiing is an organic and enriching experience, where work
may be rewarded and the process is what is enjoyable, not the successful
completion of a run.
The other day, I saw a woman skiing around a
cement track. She had on a very intriguing pair of skis with small
wheels attached to them that allowed her to glide like traditional
cross-country skis. I watched her for a moment, impressed by the
dedication to the sport in the absence of snow. She passed around the
track several times before I looked away. I assume this woman was skiing
for the sake of exercise. Most likely desiring some sort of cardio
workout, she embarked on this track to do laps to achieve a set goal for
exercise. When she finished, she most likely took off her skis and went
home. This made me wonder.
What is the purpose of circles? So
many exercises involve reps and laps and all types of repetitive tasks.
How do we gain fulfillment and enjoyment from these routines? As a
left-brained society, we often find solace in the mundane and repetition
is comforting, almost Zen-like. For us, exercising in a set environment
for a set period of time and doing a set cycle of activities is
comforting. It allows to achieve a set goal each time (i.e. 10 laps) and
thus complete a 'journey.' I believe it is engrained in us, as products
of a left-brained upbringing, to always reach a destination. We are
taught, whether subconsciously or not, to enjoy completion, and aim for a
So we go in circles. It is comforting, this cyclic
existence, but where does it lead us? We prefer to downhill ski because
we know when we meet an end, and do not have to face the hardships of an
uphill climb. However, in order to truly find fulfillment, I think we
should place emphasis on the process. We should not go in circles, but
rather in a curving and arching line toward an undefined destination. We should cross-country ski. Through woods, cities, and everywhere in between.