- Personal Development -

STRONG BODY, STRONG MIND: Adventure Quest

Our fitness editor tests the waters on a paddleboard — and discovers the benefits of leaving her comfort zone.

Person standing on stand-up paddleboard

I’m shaking as I push off from shore. My hands firmly grasp the paddle and my feet are practically superglued to the board. In the face of fear as I set out on my first stand-up paddleboard venture, my extremities have forgotten that holding on tighter doesn’t guarantee I won’t fall.

Not 5 feet from the little beach on the north side of Bde Maka Ska, the lake in Minneapolis where I’ve rented my craft, I’m already hurting: My toes are gripping the foam padding of my board so hard, I wonder if I’m strong enough to accidentally break them.

“Do you know where you’re going?” calls the skeptical teenager stationed at the rental shack where I obtained my gear. I glance to my left: The high-visibility lake is filled with sailboats and anglers and windsurfers taking advantage of the day’s gusty breeze. To my right is a dark but calm canal that leads to Lake of the Isles.

“That way,” I call back without turning around and I take off toward the canal. I’m still shaking and my feet are still throbbing, but I’m out here looking for adventure, I remind myself. Not knowing what lies ahead of or beneath me in the canal seems like a good start to my seeking.

Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, long held a strong draw for me. For one, it’s a great workout, lighting up the core and upper body as well as the fine stabilizer muscles of the hips, knees, and ankles. Moreover, it’s yet another way to connect with nature. I love water in all its forms — and I also fear it. SUP, with its emphasis on gliding upon calmer water versus catching a wave in rougher conditions, felt accessible and powerful.

I finally stepped onto a board in July 2015, thanks to a challenge from a friend. Martin Rittenberry, a Twin Cities–based fitness coach and graphic designer, got tired of hearing people complain about being bored, especially in the summer and especially in Minnesota — when and where there are plenty of activities to relish during our long, glittering summer days. He created Move in Minneapolis as proof that adventure lies as close as your backyard, if you’re willing to go looking for it.

The monthlong challenge had a simple goal: See how many new experiences you can collect right where you live. There were no rules and it wasn’t a competition — simply a call to action to create your own adventures, big or small, wherever you are.

I took up the mantle with SUP as my first challenge. The day after paddling, I rented a bike and retaught myself how to ride. In the days and weeks that followed, I tried static trapeze and acro yoga, bouldering and German-wheel acrobatics. I hiked around Minnehaha Falls, an iconic waterfall in the middle of the city.

Some experiences, like SUP, were things I’d meant to try but hadn’t gotten around to. Others, like German wheel — circus tricks performed inside of a large hoop — were activities I would never have known to try if I weren’t attuned to adventure seeking.

I discovered new beloved hobbies: I began training in static trapeze and went on to perform in two circus recitals; Minnehaha Falls is one of my favorite spots to visit all year round; and I try to get out on a paddleboard at least once each week all summer.

Many of us who joined Martin became reacquainted with a truth that regular adventurers hold dear: You don’t have to go far, spend a lot of money, or risk your safety, because even small toe-dips into unknown waters can imbue life with richness.

Now each summer I take up Martin’s challenge to get up, get out, move around, and see what I can see, out in the world and inside myself. Yes, there’s room for adventure every day, but setting aside a month dedicated to bringing and keeping it top of mind made a difference in my follow-through. And the more new things I tried, the more willing I was to get out of my comfort zone all year round.

It’s a reminder that adventure isn’t a goal that has to wait for a reshuffling of time, money, or priorities. It’s just there, wherever I choose to see it.

RKC, MFT-1, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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