At the risk of being cli-shay (get it)? I’m going to write a long overdue blog post and it just so happens to fall close to the start of a New Year! Yet this post is not about resolutions. Nor is it a reflection of 2016, albeit parts will feel that way. It is rather a tribute to a decade of what one of my friend calls, ‘DESERT WALKING’
He lives in Nebraska, so when he says desert walking, his expression is figurative. Mine is too, but I live in Arizona…so there is some literal definition there too! I moved to Phoenix, Arizona from the East Coast nearly a decade ago when I was just about 22 years old. Now I know I’m giving away my age but it’s already on a bunch of websites (including www.shaythecoach.com) along with my height and weight seeing as how I am a competitive athlete, so ok…I can put my age in my blog and be fine with it!But that’s not the point. The point is, I can’t believe I’ve lived here for nearly a decade and even more reflectively poignant is the experiences that I’ve had in Arizona are nothing short of EPIC.
Having said that, I’m inspired to write about three specific physical fitness goals that I wanted to achieve while in my twenties:
1) Backpack Grand Canyon
2) Earn my black belt in Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate
3) Compete in a triathlon
Before I could do any of those three, I needed to lose the weight I gained in college! I think because I’m an overachiever, I needed to gain a lot more than the infamous ‘Freshmen 15’!! A lot more. I think I can comfortably say I gained the college cozies. Yup, I said it…the ‘COLLEGE COZIES’-meaning at the end of my combined 5 year Bachelors of Arts and Masters of Arts in Psychology, I had a pretty COZY body. Not too long after graduation, I moved to Arizona…yet I felt anything but COZY in my ‘COLLEGE COZY’ body.
Once I moved here, I met friends (who just happened to be from the East Coast) at a not-for-profit hosted camp out I attended and we fast made plans to backpack The Grand Canyon. My first lesson: THE Grand Canyon is not an IT! This national landmark is referred to as Grand Canyon and affectionately personified as a female. I didn’t get it at first. Until I went and experienced her for the first time. I was taken aback by her vastness and beauty. I didn’t complete a backpacking trip through her trails for the first few times I visited. The first few visits were to get to know her, to build a relationship, knowing I would be traversing through her inner paths and sleeping inside her. Intimate, I know. But think about it! 12 miles, 20 pounds on your back, 4 days. No cell phone, no microwave, no TV, no stove, no heat, no air conditioning, no bed, no bathroom! So while me and my new friends visited her to pick out which trails we would use, how may miles we would hike each day, charting out water stops and other logistics, we made a training plan. I hiked local trails in and around the Phoenix area to get ready and did resistance training with a weighted vest to emulate a 20 pound pack. But nothing can actually compare to the real experience, and what an experience it was! The first time I backpacked Grand Canyon was in 2008 and right then, I decided that if I want to know the true nature of a person’s character, I would need to spend some time with them in Grand Canyon. Sounds extreme I know, but she has this uncanny ability to bring out the best and worst in people and then also to create an indelible bond after experiencing her. I still talk to and am very good friends with one of the people I first backpacked her with.
Since 2008, I’ve visited her more times than I’d like to admit and backpacked her again and again and again. Different trails, same trails, there was even one group who CONVINCED….I mean motivated….me to train with them because they were just going to run. Yes, run down her and back up her in the same day. They said all you need is water and some snacks. I argued, “Don’t you know people die doing this?” They responded, “We’ll train for it, take plenty of water and emergency gear, sign in and out of the park.” I signed up! We did it and survived!
I’ve mellowed out my backpacking trips with Grand Canyon since 2008, and in my decade of excellence reflection, I’m making a confession…I have no desire to do a backpacking trip inside of her at this time! I visit and drive and take pictures in the main visiting sections versus the backcountry areas! I think this is what might be referred to as, “The Path of Least Resistance!” Literally.
So needless to say, that goal has been crossed off the list and a byproduct of achieving it was creating a relationship with the vastness of Grand Canyon and the peace that wells up inside of me when I visit her. What a surprise gift for all the training and hard work to reach a goal!
The second goal was equally as epic – earning my black belt. I took the scenic road and many years to accomplish this because I’ve traveled and moved so much. Rather than draw out the details of my “HOW” I earned the black belt, I want to talk about my “WHY.” WHY did I want to earn this black belt so badly?
I wanted to teach karate. In order to teach karate, earning a black belt is really important!
Why did I want to teach karate? I was bullied. A lot, more than I’d like to admit.
The skills I learned from my karate practice stopped the bullying and the skills were more than just the physical element. The qualities I earned from my karate practice were: Confidence, Strength, Coordination, A Sense of Belonging, A Community, A safe place to go, Physical Fitness, Friends, Structure….the list of positives can carry on to epic proportions! I found the more I trained and the more I exuded a confident energy, the less violent physical contact happened in my life. It amazed me. Here is an activity known for its violence and gory techniques. Think about it, the more I grew in my practice, the less violent physical contact happened in my life. I liked this result! I wanted to achieve the rank of Black Belt so that I could pass it on to other people and have my Sensei’s (instructor’s) vote of confidence to teach. I’m happy to say I’ve accomplished this goal and still actively train!
In my journey towards and reaching this goal to teach karate, I also formed a relationship with it, as I did with Grand Canyon, if not deeper. With all of the training came a deeper level of what I call inside work. This came in the form of seeking help for some of my struggles and asking questions like:
The list of questions…well you guessed it, is EPIC!
These questions and this inside work is what my friend from Nebraska refers to as, “Desert Walking.” He believes it is important for every person to journey and ‘walk.’ I tend to agree, except I tend to also be very literal! Sometimes when I ‘Desert Walk,’ I like to take ‘guides’ or set timers! Guides could be support, friends, other desert walkers, Sensei’s, teachers, family, pets…the list is again EPIC!
After all the asking, seeking, and walking . . . I’ve come to learn that the peace comes from NOT getting the answers . . . and learning to be OK with NOT KNOWING.
Some of my friends refer to this as, “Letting go” and “Acceptance.” These are two concepts I intensely struggle with! I’d ask, “How do you just LET GO?” “If I accept, does it mean all the troubling things were OK?”We’d dialogue and I’d practice both concepts for a time…and shortly after, I’d cling back on, picking up the very thing I LET GO and still baffled by this A word!!Can you relate????
I needed to walk every mile down Grand Canyon, take every road trip, make every move, train with every sensei, take every belt promotion test, run every mile, ask every question…to literally finally come to a place of inside peace that I may never know the answers to my questions. Kind of an enigma, huh?
I don’t think I’m capable of stopping asking the questions though, I’m a persistent one! This leads me to my third and final physical fitness goal I wanted to accomplish in my 20s: do a triathlon!
Well, I didn’t achieve this one. I came close but in the final hour, needed to prioritize my resources. The triathlon was third on my list and the black belt was second. I only had so many hours in the day to train (I worked full time too), only so many finances to pay for uniforms, tuition and travel, and needed rest days in between. So I placed this triathlon goal on the shelf very consciously. That was the heady, informed and responsible reason why I didn’t do a triathlon in my 20s. There’s more to the story though…it’s EPIC!!!
One other reason I didn’t do a triathlon is because I didn’t believe I could. Imagine that! A black belt, backpacking, counselor with self-doubt…don’t tell anyone! But this self-doubt was grounded in some reality. My background that I mentioned left me with some severe injuries. Karate helped strengthen my body after the injuries but somewhat limited my ability to do endurance sports. Not to mention the training for both can be so diametrically opposed along with the type of muscle recruitment!! I was told it was unrealistic to ever do one and to put the thought out of my mind. Well, I did put it out of my mind…but just for the time being and went to work rehabilitating my injuries with some amazing healthcare providers and health fitness professionals! Along the way, I myself earned several credentials in Health Studies and started to help others in ways I could have never imagined! My COLLEGE COZY body had also been transformed into a rather AESTHETIC ATHLETIC one—more surprise treats as a result of “Desert Walking.”
Now…in my early 30’s, I put doing a tri back in my mind. The injuries? They’re still there…but this is the healthiest I have been in my life. How did I get here? I needed EVERY injection, every adjustment, every vitamin, every healthy meal, every trip to the gym, every laugh in the pool with my team, every hug, every motivational speech, every cuddling session with my cat, every inappropriate joke, and every guide that has come my way in order to believe again.
On January 8, 2017, I completed the Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon for Beginners!!!
(Hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere)!!
I had written my list of physical fitness goals at close to 22 years of age…it’s now close to 10 years later. What a decade of excellence indeed…I didn’t know then, what I know now.
I didn’t know that persevering and dedicating time to each of those goals over years on a daily basis would bring so much inside growth, so many uncanny people in my life, and so many EPIC experiences to my world. I didn’t know then that I could ever make strides to make my insides match my outsides or even believe it was possible- Not for THIS DESERT WALKER.
I’ve come to call Phoenix, Arizona my home and while I’ll never stop walking, the desert doesn’t seem to be so dry and unrelenting anymore.
The Unknowing Desert Walker,
Shaweta “Shaythecoach” Vasudeva
Shay Vasudeva is the owner and founder of Shaythecoach, a company that helps people become the best version of SELF. She is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, Certified Nutritional Therapist, and Black Belt Karate & Tai Chi Instructor. Call 480-253-9642 or e-mail email@example.com to schedule your free goal setting session now ! For more information about ShayTheCoach, go to the website.
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