How Can Mindfulness Help Snowboarding?If you are a snowboarder, you are already practicing mindfulness without even realising it. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we, what we are doing and not getting distracted or reacting to things around us.

Katie Blundell


4 weeks ago in News

If you are a snowboarder, you are already practicing mindfulness without even realising it.

Picture this, you are at the top of a wide fresh field of white fluffy powder, you set off from the top, carefully positioning your weight onto your back foot, concentrating on having your shoulders and your body in the correct position. As you come into your turn, you consciously push your back foot out to finish the carve and kick up a billowing cloud of powder (FACE SHOT wooohooo), relishing in the ACE feeling this gives you.

THIS is mindfulness.

Being totally in the moment and aware of how your body feels. Simple. So, when you are snowboarding and focusing hard on how you need to operate your body- fully immersed in that and nothing else, THAT is being mindful. Snowboarding forces you to be present whilst you are focusing on your technique.

But there is a huge difference from your average 1-week-a-year snowboarder to your Triple-Cork top pro. Is Mindfulness the key?

There are ways you can really optimize being mindful to progress you snowboarding to the next level (not necessarily Triple Corks!) and more importantly, enjoy it more. Mindfulness has almost become a buzz word in the snowboard world and in life in general. It’s fashionable. Many tops sports people attribute mindfulness to their success. Accomplishment in snowboarding I feel is as much physical as mental. You can train the mind just like you can train your body.

My Mindfulness

I used to get SOOOO nervous snowboarding. Not so much nervous about getting hurt or falling over (of course that would go through my mind too), more nervous about what people thought of me or looking silly for trying things? Or people would think that I was rubbish, or should go back to the day job. Basically, I thought way too much!

Everyone has their own demons I guess, many will be different to mine.

When I started going to the terrain park these nerves got even worse. I loved it so much but again, I worried that people would think I wasn’t good enough to be in the park. I would literally time my park run so no one would see (check the chair lift, check the rest of the park to make sure no one was watching!). Bad weather days were my favourite as no one would be in the park and the visibility bad so people couldn’t see me anyway.

Then I started competing. I loved the buzz this gave me, but my nerves hit an all-time low. I would actually throw up at the start of the course, get all shaky and feel like downing a bottle of vodka. Something had to be done as it was really affecting my performance. The thing was, I REALLY loved snowboarding, especially freestyle and competing, so why was my brain messing it up so much?! Interfering thoughts BE GONE!

So, I started practicing mindfulness….in a very loose way. Ironically, I didn’t even realise that there was a term for what I was doing, I had never really heard of mindfulness before. I was just really accessing/breaking down what was happening with me. I needed to find a way to channel all of my nerves into adrenaline instead and use them to help me rather than hinder me.

The Mental

I started to think about WHY I was nervous….and did it really matter what people think? Did anyone really care?? Did I really care?? Was it really going to affect my life massively if someone thought I look silly? Did I care if I did in-fact look silly??!! Why was I even bothered??!! There are far bigger first world problems than Katie falling over under a chair lift whilst trying to do a 180. Zero point worrying really. Worse things happen at sea and who really gives a sh*t anyway!

This (I learnt later), is the part of mindfulness where you are aware of all of your feelings, don’t judge them, but just accept them and try and move on.

The Physical

Then I would try to remember why I was snowboarding in the first place. It was purely because I loved the feeling of it, the buzz it gave me. I wasn’t doing it to please other people. It was for me. So I would focus on how I actually felt whilst snowboarding…..how free I felt whilst riding along, how I loved the sound of the snow underneath my board as I turned, how the fresh mountain wind whizzed passed me, and how beautiful the mountains around me looked and how small I was in comparison to mother nature.

This (I also learnt later), is the part of mindfulness where you live in the moment, purely focusing on what is happening at that given time to your body.

Scientific Conclusion

So, I came to the scientific conclusion that the way to get rid of my nerves was to be at one with my feelings, and basically try not to care about anyone else or what they thought. Simply become involved in the hedonistic feeling snowboarding gave me in the present moment.

 

So How Can YOU Use Mindfulness to Help Your Snowboarding?

Be flexible – not in the literally sense (although I’ve heard splits can help with snowboarding?!). Try not to focus on the outcome of your snowboarding as you will only be disappointed if you don’t reach it. Just be adaptable, reacting to every situation that’s thrown at you and absorb the moments.

Be kind – to yourself. You will be your own worst critic, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do something. The main thing is you are there and you are trying. This leads me onto the next point….

Learn how to speak to yourself – in a more positive way. For example, don’t tell yourself “you’re a terrible snowboarder”, say “you’re an awesome snowboarder, in fact pretty pro compared to your average Jo Blogs off the street who has never even been to the mountains.” Don’t say “Omg that was so embarrassing when I fell over”, say “That was really funny when I fell over, that’s going to provide great stories at dinner time”.  Basically, really focus on flipping every negative thought into a positive.

Break the cycle – of snowboarding. Snowboarding is supposed to be fun, that’s why we do it! If it stops becoming fun, then do something else for a bit. No point doing it for the sake of it and just going through the motions. You often need a mental and physical break to feel refreshed and get the love back. This break may sometimes involve a hot tub and Prosecco.

Reflection and self – if you feel yourself starting to get anxious, stressed, angry, frustrated, nervous, any of those negative feelings, take a moment. Take yourself away from the crowd and think about how you are feeling. Take some deep breaths of the revitalising mountain air, absorb the view, a have a little talking to yourself. Accept that you are feeling like this, but then remind yourself how lucky you are to be snowboarding in the first place. At the end of a day’s riding, a good warm down or yoga can give clarity and a conclusion to the day. Almost like a mental warm-down.

Be in-tune with your body – Mindfulness allows people to be more aware of their bodies. Learn to listen to your bodies messages and know when to quit. This will make snowboarding a lot safer.

Focus on snowboard technique – the more you do this, the better your snowboarding will be AND the better your mindfulness practice will become.

Find your own tool – to help YOUR mindfulness whilst snowboarding. It’s so difficult to focus your mind, so find something that helps you. For me that’s music. I religiously listen to music when I snowboard as it helps me block out the outside world and concentrate on what my body is doing. Other tools could be yoga, breathing, meditation…hugging a tree…..or maybe your mind is a lot stronger than mine and you can do it all by yourself??!

Visualise – try to go through exactly in your mind the stage by stage process your body will go through to execute a certain manoeuvre, “visualise” yourself doing it. This process in itself will help calm your nerves if you are feeling anxious. This technique always helped me, especially when hitting a big jump for the first time or before a Slopestyle competition run. Visualization of my run/ my body snowboarding, partnered with the right tune, was the perfect combination for me

 

The Outcome

You shouldn’t be doing mindfulness with a goal to nail those Cab-Double-Under-Flips (although that may happen!). You should be practicing mindfulness relax your body and mind which allows you to enjoy snowboarding to the absolute max. This is a more organic and natural way to progress. It’s when you are relaxed, chilled out and having fun that progression happens.

 

And honestly, I’m all about the fun these days. Life’s too short and the powder is too fresh.

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Come and join Katie on our Ladies only Snowboard Camp, which runs annually.