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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.

How a consciousness practice can replace willpower and give you freedom

Women's fitness

By Kristen Ulmer

This may surprise you, but discipline, perseverance, setting an intention, drive, and the will, as usually taught by sports coaches, are completely outdated. Same with goal-setting.

Here’s why. I remember having to perform a difficult ski photo shoot while still recovering from an injury. I wanted to maintain status and sponsors so I “sucked it up,” “did it anyway,” “refused to give up,” and “pushed through the pain and fear.” Sounds powerful, right?

Such willed effort is fine in a pinch: I skied great that day. But here’s the problem: doing something I didn’t feel like doing was the first step toward future burn out and ultimately resenting my sport.

There’s a better path.

Let’s say you don’t feel like going the gym but force yourself to go anyway. Sound familiar?

Picture a hose. All day long feelings and experiences flow through that hose. In this case ‘should I go to the gym?’ shows up. Next comes ‘no I don’t want to!’

Now picture you’re a corporation made up of 10,000 different employees. The mind is one of these employees. Throw in determination or a fitness goal and the mind becomes very clever at suppressing any employee who gets in its way, in this case; ‘No I don’t want to.’

She puts duct tape over ‘No’s’ mouth and throws her down the basement stairs. You trot off to the gym feeling victory over perceived ‘negativity.’

The mind does this enough times and guess what? The employee of ‘No I don’t want to’ isn’t taking the abuse quietly. She isn’t dying in the basement. She’s fighting back, plotting, building strength, having to do her job in a covert, pathological way and will even scream now in order to be heard.

Your hose is now kinked, and a war has started. You are now at war with your self. And you can’t see it because it’s being carried out in your subconscious.

But you can feel it. Repressed experiences and emotions remain in our systems and run our lives covertly, sometimes for decades or even lifetimes. They come out in the most disruptive ways — straining our relationships, causing injury, showing up as disease and body aches. They pinch off the possibility for happiness to enter. Over time you become burned out. All because the mind and the will refuse to be intimate with anything negetive ot working against a master plan.

What if, instead you had a consciousness practice, where you could first see how the mind and all her buddies act as slave drivers. To see it is to stop it. Stop that war. In today’s evolutionary world, next you welcome your emotions and experiences as they flow through the hose, and this way your mind instead sets you free.

What would you do with that freedom? Could you just listen to the wisdom of each moment as it flows through the hose, rather than crack a whip?

If I could go back and feel that pressure to ski injured over again, I would have honored fear and pain instead, and chosen my ‘No.’

How about you? When you think you should go to the gym and ‘No’ shows up, would you let her be this time? If so, she’ll only speak for about 15-40 seconds before she’s gone and another employee shows up.

It might even be this time: Yes.


Photo: Edson Hong

Don’t ever turn to stone. Take a leap to learn new things.

By Kristen Ulmer

People ask me all the time why I started Ski to Live.

I want to tell you a story about my past you may find shocking. It explains why I started these evolutionary mindset ski and snowboard camps, and also illustrates the next top mindset tip.

When I was 22 years old I was competing in local Utah mogul competitions and generally coming in last place. Heck, I hadn’t even owned a pair of ski pants until two years prior — just competing in anything was a big step.

That summer, while my fellow competitors trained on snow at expensive camps at Mount Hood, Whistler or even South America, I decided to take a trip to Asia by myself. For 5 months. To work on my self esteem.

I had two rules on this trip. I made these rules because I realized my self worth was entirely based on the fact I was pretty, and could ski well. I realized I wasn’t going to always be pretty, or always ski well, and I thought I’d better find a way to build a more solid personal foundation.

My rules where this:

1. I would make myself as ugly as possible: wearing coke bottle glasses instead of contacts, not washing my hair and wearing frumpy clothes.

2. I was not allowed to tell anyone I skied.

On that trip, I volunteered for Mother Teresa’s House for the Destitute and Dying in Calcutta, India. I was robbed in the Philippines by a group of 30 scam artists and forced to leave the country at gun point. I almost lost my right leg to gangrene in Nepal. The challenging but magical summer ended and I came home.

The first mogul competition that next season was a special event for the entire west against the best technically trained mogul skiers in the country. I felt funny just being there. But I didn’t come in last place like usual. I won. I killed it, actually.

Within one single year, I then made it on the US Ski Team. That same year I also filmed 3 ski movies, and was subsequently named by four different ski magazines the best woman “extreme” skier in the world.

Here’s the math: I became world class at two different sports, in one year, without a single drop of technical training. I’d never had any technical training actually.

That trip forever changed my life and how I saw myself. We all hear mindset is everything in sports. Well, I know it because I lived it.

THAT’S why I started these camps. Now I teach it.

Tip #6 is this: shake yourself out of your comfort zone, take a bold step away from what’s familiar, and try something new. And I don’t just mean skiing with your boots unbuckled for a run.

Look to the infinite world and get creative! Shave your head for a cause. Wear tap shoes to the grocery store. Take a year off your sport to study Taoism. Get a cat instead of a dog.

It’s hard, I know. The biggest addictions we have in society aren’t drugs, alcohol or sex. Our biggest addiction is to who we believe ourselves to be. Those beliefs and habits are hard to crack. It’s rare when anyone truly expands outside the stone rock of their comfort zone.

But please, take a leap. Don’t ever turn to stone. Be an open, empty, upright cup ready to receive new teachings, to learn new things.

Because when learning happens, magic happens.


Photo Credit: thriol

Why discipline and will power are completely outdated, and an evolutionary alternative

Workout

By Kristen Ulmer

This may surprise you, but discipline, perseverance, setting an intention, drive, the will; all those celebrated states usually taught by sports coaches, are completely outdated. Same with goal setting.

Here’s why. I remember having to perform a difficult ski photo shoot while still recovering from an injury. I wanted to maintain status and sponsors so I “sucked it up” “did it anyway” “refused to give up” “pushed through the pain and fear.” Sounds powerful right?

Such willed effort is fine in a pinch: I skied great that day, but here’s the problem: doing something I didn’t feel like doing was the first step toward future burn out and ultimately resenting my sport.

There’s a better path.

Let’s say you don’t feel like going the gym but force yourself to go anyway. Sound familiar?

Picture a hose. All day long feelings and experiences flow through that hose. In this case ‘should I go to the gym?’ shows up. Next comes ‘no I don’t want to!’

Now picture you’re a corporation made up of 10,000 different employees. The mind is one of these employees. Throw in determination or a fitness goal and the mind becomes very clever at suppressing any employee who gets in its way, in this case; ‘No I don’t want to.’

She puts duct tape over ‘No’s’ mouth and throws her down the basement stairs. You trot off to the gym feeling victory over perceived ‘negativity.’

The mind does this enough times and guess what? The employee of ‘No I don’t want to’ isn’t taking the abuse quietly. She isn’t dying in the basement. She’s fighting back, plotting, building strength, having to do her job in a covert, pathological way and will even scream now in order to be heard.

Your hose is now kinked, and a war has started. You are now at war with your self. And you can’t see it because it’s being carried out in your subconscious.

But you can feel it. Repressed experiences and emotions remain in our systems and run our lives covertly, sometimes for decades or even lifetimes. They come out in the most disruptive ways — straining our relationships, causing injury, showing up as disease and body aches. They pinch off the possibility for happiness to enter. Over time you become burned out. All because the mind and the will refuse to be intimate with anything negetive ot working against a master plan.

What if, instead you had a consciousness practice, where you could first see how the mind and all her buddies act as slave drivers. To see it is to stop it. Stop that war. In today’s evolutionary world, next you welcome your emotions and experiences as they flow through the hose, and this way your mind instead sets you free.

What would you do with that freedom? Could you just listen to the wisdom of each moment as it flows through the hose, rather than crack a whip?

If I could go back and feel that pressure to ski injured over again, I would have honored fear and pain instead, and chosen my ‘No.’

How about you? When you think you should go to the gym and ‘No’ shows up, would you let her be this time? If so, she’ll only speak for about 15-40 seconds before she’s gone and another employee shows up.

It might even be this time: Yes.


Photo Credit: jontunn

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

Deer

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 …

If you want a lifetime of happiness, never be satisfied

Olympics

By Kristen Ulmer

One of my clients admitted the first gold medal he won in the Olympics made him feel happy and satisfied for about six months. His second gold medal he was satisfied for only a few weeks.

Sounds like a bummer, actually. All that work and subsequent glory is supposed to lead to ‘happily-ever-after’ right? The bragging rights alone should carry for decades.

Yet here’s my advice: If you want a true lifetime of happiness and love for your sport: Never be satisfied.

At first, we figure happiness and satisfaction will be found externally. If I make enough money, get the cool job, find the right partner, get fit, become famous, etc. we think, then I’ll be happy. We get super motivated in this belief. I’ll work my butt off to get what I want! If I win the gold metal in the Olympics it will have been worth all this effort! If I run today then I will look and feel good.

And it works — at least a little bit. Get rich and famous, run today, win the gold medal … great stuff. Then it fades quickly. Being rich or famous doesn’t lead to happiness — everyone knows that. Why would I have thought glory or money could make me happy?

Then we hear “true happiness is found internally.” Well, of course! That’s the truth! So we mediate, do more yoga, and look within for our passions and motivations. If I can become one with my sport and not make it about medals or validation, no ‘selling out’ or ego trip, I will finally be at peace within myself. This is certainly the right path.

Ten days into a silent Vipassina meditation retreat and sure, I find peace and happiness. The solo weekend climbing trip certainly feels holy and reverent. But by Wednesday I’m back to being dissatisfied again, dammit. And we think: those hippies were full of $#@%. Two weeks after the gold medal even, which I devoted to world harmony and the love I have for mother and I’m back to angst, already.

So where is peace actually found? It’s not found externally. It’s not found internally. Aahg!

Peace, my friend, is found in the effort. Peace is found in the struggle. And the more dissatisfied I am, the more I keep moving, seeking and efforting.

I always say: you want to torture someone? Give them everything they want.  Become satisfied, and I have no purpose. No purpose, no happiness.

The best athletes, are the ones who know this. The best athletes are the ones who remain never satisfied. I am enjoying my suffering right now and it feels good. I failed and have fresh motivation to do better next time. Two gold medals are simply not good enough.  I enjoy the struggle and the journey, not the destination, because frankly, there is no destination.

Photo Credit: Miss Barabanov

Consciousness is power: a lesson from pebbles

Runner

By Kristen Ulmer

While a body builder, Schwarzenegger was rumored to say lifting weight 1 rep in a conscious state enhanced results more than lifting the same weight 10 times in an unconscious state.

While we wouldn’t take relationship advice from the guy, perhaps this comment deserves pondering!

Ever hear: Knowledge is power. It was relevant when whomever first said it. Yet the world is evolving so fast knowledge is now available with a click of a button, and this statement is no longer viable.

What is viable today? Consciousness is power. Awareness is power. You want to be the best athlete you can be: become as conscious as you can. That way you can see where you’re stuck (and we’re always stuck) and effortlessly make shifts (second by second).

Problem is, becoming more consciousness is not a natural state for us humans. Lifting weights 10 times like a robot repeating an unquestioned pattern is our norm. Training our bodies, pondering technique, eating right, recovering are all good things, but they can take up your whole training life and turn you to stone.

Add a consciousness practice though, and you will do great things. Sure, it’s scary, perilous and one of the hardest things imaginable, plus it never ends – it’s called practice for a reason. But we all know you have to practice anything to become good and remain good at it.

Consider this: When you’re a kid 2 + 2 = 4 is a big realization. Then in High School you solve algebra x and y problems and that’s a big deal. In college you calculate speed and gravity mind twisters and are blown away. Imagine what you learn getting a Ph.D. in physics? Same with consciousness. If you keep seeking the next level — if you keep your empty cup extended — you will transcend and include each level until eventually, awareness has you flowing like water.

Reminds me of a great story. Three holy men are spending their lives camping in the desert, waiting for an awakening experience. Suddenly one night the sky opens up and a mighty voice booms from above: “Gather together all the pebbles you can in your bags tonight!” Then the sky closes and the moment ends.

What? Pebbles! The men are so disappointed. This is the message they’ve been waiting for? They gather a few pebbles but it’s late and they feel stupid so their efforts end quickly.

The next morning they wake up and see the pebbles have turned to diamonds.

If you’re willing to take your experience with your sport beyond what you’ve already created, by starting a mindset practice, you will have access to infinite power, rather than being limited to the power of only one self.

Gather those Pebbles. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo Credit: Alain Limoges

You can’t become powerful. You can only realize you already are powerful.

When I was on the US Ski Team as a mogul specialist, I noticed when my peers where in the gate for a competition — a mere second before they pushed off they all abruptly clacked their poles together. Every single one of them did this! So being no dummy, I tried it too.

Clack! And off I went. I’ll be damned if something in me didn’t shift.

It seems most pro athletes have a ritual; the prayer, the nose rub, a tap tap tap on the leg. I know a football player who would tie and untie his shoes 15 times before every game. What the heck are they all doing anyway?

They’re shifting from one form of consciousness into another. They’re shifting into focus, in an instant. Just like us mogul skiers, without any effort.

Imagine you’re standing on the left track of a railroad track, but you want to be on the right track. Same when you’re in one form of consciousness (the normal, unconscious self), but you want to be in another (say, the powerful, athlete self). How do you get there?

Most look up and see it appears the two tracks meet up waaay off in the distance. Hurrah! So they start walking down the left track, hoping with enough effort, time and commitment they will eventually get to the other track. Some will even run, thinking this extra effort will get them closer, faster! But how long will you have to effort down that left track before you’d meet up with the right?

Forever. And the longer you effort down that track the more invested you’ll be with your process, and unwilling then to try anything new.

Stop now. What great athletes know how to do, and most of them don’t even realize they’re doing it, is with just a little pause or ritual, they jump track. In an instant. Into focus. Into the right mindset. It is indeed as simple as walking into a grocery store or lifting up a book. You don’t think about it, you just do it, without the need to understand.

You can’t become powerful, the only thing you can do is realize you already are powerful.

And suddenly like Bruce Lee, you’ll know: “The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”


Want to experience this shifting in person? Come to a camp with Kristen Ulmer this year. Find the consciousness that works best for you, and jump track again and again. The more you practice it, the more easy and familiar it becomes.

Photo Credit: draculina_ak