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To improve at your sport, always be in a state of leaning in


By Kristen Ulmer

If you really want to improve at your sport, it’s important to always be in a state of reaching, or leaning in. You may be surprised by what that means.

The simple part is: You play tennis on your front foot, not your back. Great skiing happens when you’re reaching for speed, not resisting speed. If you’re running and sense the wind pushing you back, you’re not leaning in. Lean in and you’ll sense the wind pushing you forward.

Leaning in is all about yes; to everything. And here’s where it gets hard. Everything means … everything. Lean in to all of life, not just the good stuff.

I know you love your sport, what about leaning in to those times when you hate your sport? How about reaching for frustration when it comes up? Reach for disgust. Boredom. Arrogance. Reach into the lessons of your injuries and pain. Reach for what ever is true for you at any moment. Each moment then passes and there’s a new experience revealed.

In this, passion remains. Not always the passion for your sport, but the passion for your life as it evolves and unfolds, faster than the speed of light. In this you will remain open and available to learning and improving.

Resist any of it though, and learning and improving stops immediately. You become stuck.

The most common way athletes become stuck is by repressing or leaning away from their emotions: such as fear, anger and sadness. If you try to block these emotions out, that effort may free you for a day but it will lock you into a war with that emotion.

Imagine a base jumper trying to resist gravity. Crazy! Humans trying to resist emotion is the same. Embrace that emotion, and land a few minutes later having had a great and quick adventure. Avoid and the emotion will torture you, sometimes for decades.

Another example: Consider a deer. If a deer is feeling fear, she startles and runs. She doesn’t argue with herself about whether the fear is justified, or tries to get rid of the fear, or wishes she didn’t feel the fear, she simply expresses it and uses it for strength and motivation to run magnificently through the forest. Then the fear is gone and she’s back eating in a meadow 2 minutes later. She doesn’t get emotionally stuck. She doesn’t need therapy. And she doesn’t get sick or have knots in her shoulders because of the effort to repress her fear.

So lean into it all: Passion and boredom, glory and pain, love and hate, and you will always grow, effortlessly express yourself, improve and evolve.

Each experience and emotion is like a drop of water. Let them flow and you’re on your way to becoming a mighty river …

About Kristen Ulmer

Kristen Ulmer has been named by Women’s Sports and Fitness Magazine as the most extreme woman athlete in North America. She is a pioneer in big mountain (extreme) skiing and was, for about a dozen years, named the best overall woman skier in the world by the media and her industry peers. She is also a popular speaker, television show host, and sports journalist.

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