Podcast: It's Okay to be a Beginner in the Outdoors


I loved this conversation I had with Martha Rosenstein on the Outdoor Explorer Podcast! We highlight overcoming barriers to getting started with outdoor adventuring, remembering what it's like to be a beginner again, and how to build functional strength at home in anticipation of winter sports.

The topics we covered include: 

  • What is a mental health informed fitness trainer?
  • Sarah's journey into mental health and fitness world
  • Anti-Bro Culture
  • How can we do better when it comes to creating an inclusive outdoor rec community?
  • Weakest link syndrome
  • Progression of new skills
  • Functional Strength and Adventuring 
  • Defining Summer Strong and Ski Babes 
  • Getting Started in Backcountry Adventures
  • Self-Awareness in navigating nutrition 

I hope you will have a listen and that you enjoy the conversation! If you have thoughts or any of these topics resonated, I'd love to hear from you

You can find the episode in a couple of places: 

You can also find a full transcription of the interview below! 

- Sarah


Martha  0:14  

It's outdoor Explorer. Hi, I'm your host, Martha Rosenstein. On today's show. My guest is Sarah Histand. Sarah is a fitness trainer who places a huge emphasis on mental health. Our conversation covers a variety of topics, including overcoming barriers to getting started with outdoor adventuring, remembering what it's like to be a beginner again, and how to build functional strength at home in anticipation of winter sports. Keep listening for more on Outdoor Explore. Today, I am joined via zoom by Sarah Histand. Sarah is a mental health informed adventure fitness trainer. She helps women have fun both outside and in daily life without the pressure perfectionism and the need to prove themselves that comes from the traditional bro culture of the outdoor and fitness world. Welcome to outdoor Explorer, Sarah. Thanks, and excited to be here with you. Yeah, there's a lot that I want to talk about today. And I feel like we could spend an entire hour just unpacking those first few sentences, which I definitely borrowed from your website. There's a lot there that I think is really important. But why don't you start about by telling us what a mental health informed fitness trainer is?


Sarah  1:41  

Yeah, well, so my background, I'm a mental health counselor, I have a social work master's degree, and I'm a personal trainer. And I have been combining these two worlds basically, like, the more I get into this work, the clearer it is that the what's going on in our mind affects our physical health and how we feel about ourselves when we move. And then when we move, and like create a cascade of hormones and everything else in the body that impacts our mental health. So what I think of as a mental health informed personal trainer is the ability to see how these things interrelate and affect each other and use them strategically to help us move toward where we want to be.


Martha  2:23  

Yeah, mental health and fitness are both so important. And they can definitely be at odds with each other to in some cases. So I think that the right approach and guidance  you talk about those can be obviously very mutually beneficial. I know that you also say on your website that you're constantly learning and learning is one of your favorite things to do. And you're always incorporating new skills and approaches into your work. But how has your journey to this niche evolved over time? Hmm, yeah, it


Sarah  2:53  

It really has been a journey. The work that I'm doing now started when I was living and working in Valdez. And I was running a gym there for the, the one gym in Valdez, which is part of the UIA system. And I was also finishing my master's degree in social work through UIA. And I was like, in the gym working with personal training clients, and like would, would just start to get to know them a little bit and scrape below the surface of what they were struggling with. And there would be all of these feelings. And like, often tears and like shame about how they felt about their bodies and their ability to follow through on things like there's just a bunch of stuff there. And I was like, wow, you should come over and like have a counseling session over here. And, and then I would and then I was doing my practicum for my social work degree at the same time. So I step over into the mental health role, and have sessions with clients there. And really quickly see that like a lot of them weren't moving very regularly. And they were learning that exercise is just as effective with depression as most of the medication that's out there, not for everybody. But for like a large majority of cases that can be really helpful. That's like, hh, I want to bring you over to the gym and get you moving with me. So there was just a really interesting time where I was in both worlds and really wanting to see them come together. And that that was one of these pieces that really made me feel like man, we need to bridge this gap and bring and bring this together. And I was learning to ski at the same time as these as this great place to backcountry ski and I was like working on my on my ability to be on my own in the valleys back country. And, and also noticing how the exercises that I was doing in the gym or helping with that and the mental aspect that I was learning in the social work field was helping me deal with frustration and imposter syndrome and all the other stuff that was coming up there and, and so it just all felt like it needed to fit together. And that's what I've been in the process of making happen now ever since


Martha  5:10  

That is absolutely wonderful. I think that mental piece of not just the mental health, but also the mental piece of physical activity is something that's incredibly, it's hard to explain to people who haven't been up against it. And it's something that is almost like you, you don't know that you've had that problem until you hit it. And you're, it's not a physical, it's not a physical barriers to mental barrier. So I think it's really fascinating to kind of see how those two things meld together. Can you also talk a little bit about your anti-bro culture approach to helping women get fit and get outside? 


Sarah  5:50  

I've been looking for language for this because it's like, again, like you just said, it's like, a hard concept to pin down it with words feels like, but there is this, this kind of cultural norm that we like, have been taught with exercise and adventure, where, where this idea of like, more is always better, and the end, like, overriding what your body is telling you to get it to do more is the goal and, and that, that comes from this, like, it's tied into a bunch of the stuff that's in our like, kind of cultural system these days like and, and what it does is it creates the separation between what are like the wisdom of our body, and, and our mind and like that place of integrity, where we're like, we're in line with, with what our body is telling us. And it's like this separation, where we're, where we're, like, taught that we need to be overriding that with, and like in order to be good enough, in these fields, either exercise or outdoors, I think it's probably everywhere. But that's the places where I most concretely see it. Like we to do more to be good enough, we have to like not listen to what we're getting from our body and do more instead. And so breaking free of that is this like switch from trying to live up to these like kind of invisible. These invisible goals are this like invisible threshold of good enough that like we're told that, that the culture is like leading us toward, and reorienting toward a relationship with ourselves and with our bodies. And like the rebuilding that trust and sourcing what we're doing from there. And the cool thing about that is that when we are in tune with what are going on with our body, and our body's capacity, we can rise to a lot of those challenges. But we're just doing it from a place that is like in integrity with with the body system and working with it instead of like, not listening to it and trying to achieve something external instead. Yeah,


Martha  8:09  

That's like the, you know, no pain, no gain is. I mean, it's, it's true in one sense, but also can completely turn you into a an injured, upset, annoyed athlete or outdoors personality.


Sarah  8:27  

Yeah, yeah, exactly that. And there are places where we can rise to the challenge of discomfort and like pain, quote, unquote. But if that's what we're going for all the time, then we're like creating this broken relationship with our system. And there are times when we need rest. And there are times when we need to listen and back down. And there are times when we can, like rise to the challenge.


Martha  8:52  

And this is this is an interesting idea, too, because I think a lot of the problems that we've gotten into in the like world of nutrition and diet has also come from this turning off of the signals that our bodies are giving us and not listening to those and trying to override those, which has gotten us into a lot of trouble.


Sarah  9:12  

Yeah, yeah, exactly. For sure. It connects to nutrition. And then the more I've been learning to about the social justice pieces of this too, it connects to this colonization piece to of the way we relate to nature and land and like thinking that like we need to overcome everything. It's like, it's there to in the way we relate to our bodies, like go there. We need to overcome that too. So I feel like the people who are teaching right now on decolonization, like that fits in so well to the way I'm trying to shift our relationships with our, the way we move our bodies and the way we spend our time outside to.


Martha  9:51  

Yeah, that's that's fascinating how that all fits together. You also talk a lot about how the outdoors are for everyone, and I can only speak about this, obviously, from my personal experiences with events and outdoors, outdoor recreation. But I definitely think that we have a long way to go in making everybody feel welcome in these spaces. Personally, I've certainly shied away even locally from events and activities, because I feel like I don't belong because of my ability. And I know that I've heard other stories from other people about that. And I know that's probably not the intention of the organizers of some of these events. But it's something that's a really big barrier. And again, I'm speaking from the perspective of my age and gender, essentially. And I know that socioeconomic status and race are a much bigger barrier. But how can we do better in this area? And how can those of us who feel like we don't belong find our way in?


Sarah  10:45  

Hmm, such a good question, and there's so much there? Yeah, you know, the first step, I would say, is just to recognize that it's a problem. And, and I don't, I don't necessarily see that as widespread as I would have would like it to like, I still think there, there are some folks who think that if you want to be outside, you could. And, and it's a little hard, I think, if you haven't personally experienced the feeling of being not sure if you fit in here, or if you're good enough to it to really understand what it's like to be in a in a position where you have less power and more vulnerability in these spaces. So there's like a bit of like empathy work there, like maybe trying to, like expand that view to recognize what it what it is, like when you have less privilege in these spaces. But if we can start there, and like recognize that it's a problem from from there, it's like, I think there's a lot of really intentional work in the outdoor space that we can do to speak about how we want it to be inclusive, like, like, that's something I've been shifting in my work lately is to like really speak to one of these goals, which is to make the outdoors be available to anyone, because it's so healing, it's so amazing. It's so empowering. It's something that's changed my life. I want that for anyone who else who wants it. And I know there are barriers there, because I've ran up against some of them myself in my outdoor journey. And just like you were saying, like it's there, even though we're both white women who like have quite a bit of privilege. And like, in theory could be out there just fine. But we still run up against these pressures to like, do it in the way that some people do it. And like that's kind of that fits back into the bro thing where it's like, if there's only one way to be outside, and I don't see myself represented in that space, then I don't know if I if I belong here. So if we can break free and have that way of looking at our outdoor time and expand it so that any way of being outside is good enough. And it's awesome. And we're celebrating that. I think that's one of the really healthy ways. So it's like picking berries as being outside and going walking your dog on boat around the neighborhood is is good enough and like that I like the glorification of all of the different ways. So it's not just like the first ascent on this wild peak. That is cool. But like it's all it's all amazing.


Martha  13:29  

Yeah, I really like what you said about being outside in the way that other people think that you should. And I think that that's, that is. And that's something that like, I mean, again, me personally, like I I grew up being outdoors, so I know how to be outside the way that I want to be outside. But I definitely again, feel that barrier in going into new activities or trying something new. It's like, Okay, well, I need help. Or I want to I don't want to do this by myself, but like, Who can I go to? To help me because they all want to do it their way and I don't want to do it that way.


Sarah  14:05  

Hmm, yeah, yeah. And isn't that like that's why I feel like so the programs that help break through that initial like, I want to learn this but I'm not quite at the level where I see everyone else at like the the local programs that are doing that are like so helpful. And yeah, we like we'd need something to bridge that gap between being like a total novice and then being independent. And sometimes you can find that in the community like with through social networks, but but not always. Sometimes you need a program and some support and like some some people learn through being out with their friends and other people like I really like taking classes and having like an instructor and then that requires some either some financial ability to pay for it or a scholarship opportunity. So super grateful for all of the people who are involved in like creating opportunities. For life like that, for people who didn't grow up being outside, yeah.


Martha  15:04  

What are some of the reasons that you hear from women about why they don't get involved in certain activities during a training group play a new sport or learn a new skill?


Sarah  15:13  

Yeah, I hear, I hear people feeling like, they're, they're afraid of getting injured for one. So they're having some distrust of their body. I hear of like fear of failure, or not being good enough or not wanting to be embarrassed, like this, like sense of like a social judgment on people who aren't doing it really well, right away. And maybe it's social, or maybe it's internal, because a lot of us have like perfectionist roots, myself included. So it's hard to be new on the learning curve and be falling all the time. And sometimes, like, if you like, we have to unlearn that, that that pressure to be good at something in order in order to work through the the, like awkward and messy part of the learning curve. So so there's a bunch of there. Yeah, and then, like you said, not having people to do it with is another one. I think that that's, I mean, now we're in Coronavirus, time. So that's like a whole nother layer on top of it. But even before that, it was hard to find people who you felt safe with and like would be okay, moving at your pace. And there's this thing that I call weakest link syndrome, my husband came up with this term, but it's like, when you're the slowest one in the group that can feel like a lot of pressure. And it can be really hard to have fun when you feel like you're slowing the group down. So so being like finding people you can go with that will help it'd be a good experience for you. Even if you're grappling with feeling like you're the slow one. those are those are all pieces. And then there's some other fears like especially like people who are new to Alaska, there's the bare fear, there's like some of the logistical stuff about like, how do I stay safe? And what's the right line of like, doing something that's uncomfortable? And is the is okay, versus like doing something that wasn't comfortable and is risky? And that's a gray area? You know, like, that's something you have to you have to learn what is true for you in that and, and it is a it is something that takes time to figure out?


Martha  17:25  

Yeah, I think you kind of touched on something that I was that I had already been thinking about about our conversation. And that's being a beginner. And I think a lot of people who are farther along or at any point in their journey to whatever skill or sport forget what it's like to be a beginner. The most recent experience that I had with this was training for my first ultra marathon a couple of years ago, and people kept telling me that I was such an inspiration to them, and they could never do what I was doing. But in my mind, I was just an average runner, sticking to a training plan and running with my friends. So it was really strange to hear this from people, because I was so convinced that if I could do it, they could do it too, because we were no different before I started this journey.


Sarah  18:08  

Yeah, isn't that cool? That's, like, I've had that same a really similar experience where I'm like, I don't know, what you're seeing, because I'm struggling here. And I mean, all I'm doing is like, showing up messy and like, I feel like it's not good enough to like such a normal thing. And, and so like, that's the piece of it isn't talking about this, I love having these conversations and being able to normalize that phase of the learning curve. Because, because there is this part of like, like being new at something and just feeling like you suck at it. And it's terrible, and like wondering why you're doing this. And if you're ever gonna get to a place where you feel good about it. And and like there's, there's really, some people may be better and embracing that and others for most of the people I work with, it's like a real struggle and it and it's hard to get through that and to feel like like that's an okay place to be while but there is really kind of no way through it. Other than just to work, keep working at it and, and not let that feeling of like faking it or not being good at it be something that throws you off and makes you like think it's not for you.


Martha  19:21  

And I think that's where finding a community or a couple of people who really are okay with you like my hiking friends we're all like we have nothing to prove we're just going to go out and do this and if somebody needs to turn around, it's fine. Don't feel bad about it. But finding that group of people can be hard it until you've gone out to find them like you have to try some you know meet new people, you know, pull your friends, it can be challenging unity.


Sarah  19:45  

That nothing to prove peace I think that you said there is so important because that is a that is a hard thing to find. And and it it is maybe I like that language even just to like recognize that like you're when you're in a learning place you want to feel like there is nothing to prove because, yeah, if there is you're going to fail. And, and so I think that's a great question to even ask people who you're considering going out with like can we can just be like nothing to prove day. So that so that like everybody's on the same page ahead of time think the group dynamics and and help finding the language to communicate what it is you need from this experience can be something that helps take the pressure off of these kind of unspoken expectations that may or may not be there. Like sometimes we're with people who would be fine turning around, but if you've never had the conversation, it might feel like they're impatient. Because you're because you're feeling slow. And if you just like, open up the topic and and get it out there it can. So often that takes a lot of the pressure off.


Martha  20:44  

It can also be a safety issue too, right? Like you're out in the outdoors with people and you're not comfortable. And you have to be able to say that to them. So that nothing happens to anybody because the group all needs you need to stick together or you know, you're you're relying on each other. So it can also be a safety issue too.


Sarah  21:01  

For sure. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And that, that goes back to this. This idea that, that we're kind of taught that we need to override what's going on with us in order to make other people happy or make it feel good. Like there's a bunch of like, people pleasing and codependent stuff wrapped up in there. But especially for women, it's something that that we bump up against a lot, and especially outdoors, if we're feeling a little insecure about our abilities there. Anyways, the the tendency is to not say that you're concerned like not say your fears, because we kind of tend to prejudge them as weaknesses, or like they're not like, like, it's, it's something wrong with us that we're feeling that stuff. And so then not share it with the group. And you're right, it does throw off the ability for the group to work together and be and be safe together if you're struggling, but nobody knows about it. And then we're making decisions that we that like the group thinks is right for everyone, but but if it's not, like if you're dealing with some internal stuff that's not that makes it not accurate, then can't make a decision as a group. And like, I want to make sure to say that like that's not to shame anyone who's been in that place or to like add another layer of like, feeling like you're doing it wrong. It's a whole systemic thing that we've been taught about what it means to be in these spaces, especially as someone with less advantages and less privileges. So it's a natural thing to do. And it's something to recognize that like, some conditioning, though, I want to ditch my callous, I'll let go of that. So that we can show up as ourselves. Let people know when we're having a hard day, let's have that be totally fine. And then work with like work from where we're really at, rather than where we feel like we should be.


Martha  22:51  

So how kind of expanding again, on this idea of starting small and easy and expanding into bigger things, which is something again, like I've, I've been spending a lot of time outside hiking this summer, because what else? What else am I gonna do? I'm socializing with all my friends. And my progression has been, you know, start with the things that I know that I'm comfortable with, and then sort of go on to things that are like maybe a little bit outside of my comfort zone. But that's been a really natural progression. And I've been doing it with the same people. So we're all kind of on the same page and on the same level. So other people see me going out and doing these things. And they're like, Oh, I again, I could never do that. And it's like, well, no, there was this, like, natural progression that you maybe didn't see. So how can we apply this idea of starting small and easy and expanding into bigger things to help people feel less intimidated to start these new things or learn these new skills?


Sarah  23:42  

Oh, yeah, well, I mean, you you just said it right there. It's like there is this whole learning curve that you were a part of, and the more like, it's so easy to post the summit pictures on your Instagram, talk about the big accomplishments, like when it starts to look cool. Because it is cool, and it's something that's easy to share. But I but I am a huge advocate for opening up the, like, the stages to the process, so that we're talking about the days where we wanted to do this in and turned around or like we started with the many things and work there. Like, the more we can show that like I didn't just end up here from like, and then just start at this place, that there was a process involved, the more that that starts to feel normal like it and it's, I mean, it's the way everything works, you know, like there is a learning curve for everything so it's so it's so I like I don't quite understand why our like brains seem to like assume that like there wasn't that for, for especially these outdoor things. We just like think that people must have been born like that. But Of course, that's not true, like anything else, you know, we crawled and then we walked and fell a bunch. And then we eventually were walking. And then eventually we were like doing other stuff. But like that is that's part of the process anyway. So I guess my big answer there is just to like, let's all talk about the times when, when we're, when we're learning and making mistakes, and let that start to normalize all that and let that be a part of the process that we are accepting of in. Yeah, just normal.


Martha  25:33  

I think part of the problem, at least here in Alaska is so many people grew up doing a lot of these things. So, you know, like, as adults, other adults see them, and they're like, Oh, you just know how to do this, when in fact, especially people who are not from here, they didn't grow up necessarily doing a lot of the stuff that we do here. So it looks like we just all know how to do all of these things and, and have been doing them forever, because we have, but I think a lot of us could do better to recognize that that we did have at some point, we did learn how to do this ourselves.


Sarah  26:03  

Yeah, it's interesting how after you're kind of good at something or something is like something that you just do naturally, you don't have to think about it a lot, it is kind of hard to remember what it felt like to be totally new to it, and, and to be like, learning all of these new things at once. So so there is that? You're right, that's a big piece of it, isn't it? Like some of it is just so ingrained in our culture and our families or in our way of being that? It's? It is, yeah, there's a gap.


Martha  26:32  

So maybe we all need to go out and do learn a new skill, like all of us, so that we can figure out how to teach other people and be welcoming, more welcoming into our spaces that we are experts in or good at.


Sarah  26:36  

Oh my gosh, that's such a good answer. Yes, I think that's so true. Like, like, find start something that's new to you and be bad on it. Like what does it feel like, it's, it's easy to avoid that as an adult to be like, I only do things that I'm good at. And, and it's, it's one of the things that I feel like, even just in the workouts that I'm teaching, I'm trying to help us, like, do a new move, and realize how awkward is is at first, and then realize that that's part of the process. And notice what happens in your mind when you're like feeling awkward at this and like wishing it was something different. Like notice that process that starts off. And then like even just like learning a new exercise and working your body through that that little mini learning curve, you know, is is this way to untangle the need to be good at everything and, and get more comfortable with being wobbly and being messy for a little while. And so that like but I think like the more we do that on like a super small scale, those skills translate to bigger things, too. So it's another reason why I feel like all of these things fit together so well. Because you we can practice these skills of being new and even relating to people who are new things in many ways, just in our own body and, and start to expand our ability to be with that powerful stuff.


Martha  28:25  

This is Outdoor explorer on Alaska public media, and I'm your host, Martha Rosenstein.


Unknown Speaker  28:32  

You're listening to outdoor explorer on Alaska public media, find the show anytime as a free podcast in the iTunes store, or Connect with us online at Alaska public.org.


Martha  29:21  

You're listening to outdoor explore on Alaska public media. I'm your host, Martha Rosenstein and Today my guest is fitness trainer, Sarah Histand. So let's shift gears a little bit and talk about functional strength and adventuring. So functional strength. Can you just talk a little bit about what exactly that is and why it's so important.


Sarah  29:42  

Yeah, so I think of functional strength as the strength that lets us do stuff. So it's like, it's like, I mean, any kind of strength will help you do certain things. Like you know, if you're doing a ton of dead lifting, you'll get super strong for deadlifting, but when I'm talking about functional strength, especially for adventure, it's, we're talking about the kind of strength that lets us move in all the different directions that happen to, to our bodies when we're outside, and to be on unstable surfaces and still be able to find stability in like, uneven and slippery and funky situations. And so so I'm talking about like, not a super linear stable strength with like, both feet on the ground, I can be strong, like, that's kind of like, when everything's going really well I'm can handle it. I'm talking more about like, the the strength that we need to like, slip and lose your footing and like recover and bounce back or even fall, even have a fault and, and be able to kind of roll with it and get back up. And so we're talking about like moving laterally, we're talking about, like, feeling what a slip feels like and getting back to stable from there being being out of balance a little bit. And still being able to keep ourselves upright, that kind of stuff, is what I think about when I think about functional strength.


Martha  31:21  

You have two programs that you run on and off throughout the year. Can you tell us a little bit about those?


Sarah  31:27  

Yeah, well, so all of this that we've been talking about. I'm like tying that all into these, these two online programs. The winter one is called ski babes. And the summer one is called summer strong. And I in these programs, and I'm offering workouts, their living room workouts to try to make this like as doable as possible. But with the focus of building the functional strength and the mental. All of the mental stuff we've been talking about, you know, the ability to be funky for a little while and be okay with it in perfection, dealing with imposter syndrome and being able to work with our mind as well as our body when our like when your body is challenged, noticing what happens with your mind, all that stuff. So that's all wrapped up in the workouts and the mindset work that we do in, in these programs. And then like the winter one has this orientation toward winter sports, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, fat biking, like all this stuff that, like compliments. It's really the point, you know, the workouts are like the way to work it into our daily lives, especially if we're busy. So that when it's time to play outside our bodies already, we've got that functional strength base so that it doesn't suck. Like when we're outside and our and we don't have functional strength in there, it is really hard. You know, it's like, one of the things that I feel like we need to tell people who are new also is like, like, it's gonna be really hard physically for a while until your body learns what it is that it needs for this activity. And it's kind of, it's pretty hard to have fun when your body is, is struggling, like when you're physically tired, and stretched to your max. So the more of the functional strength, like base building we can do before we're in the challenging situations, the easier it'll be, the less injuries we'll have. And the more fun we'll have to because we won't be like in this like, super stressed out place with our physical body. So winter, we deal with a lot of like the foot. Yeah, so in ski babes. It's like, what dealing with slippery surfaces and all the muscles that it takes to accommodate that. And then a bunch of emphasis on like, the different muscles for skiing and things like all the other winter sports and in summer, it's a little more focused on agility and summer sports tend to be more like needing to deal with some impact on the body because we're like running and hiking and like there is more impact on the joints. And so with a slightly different emphasis is for for the seasons. And it's been a really fun way like one of the one of the neat things for me about having put this all online. So I started these workouts when I was in Valdez in that running the gym like teaching these workouts in person with people now that I've put them on mine. We've started to build this community of people around the state and like in some like rural areas that don't have gyms and like outside of Alaska to like a lot of it's turned into this place where like minded people who, who want to find a way to get outdoors and get exercise in their life in a way that feels good to their body in their mind. Like we're all kind of coming together. To hear to also like help change the way that we think about outdoor sports. So it's been a really neat, neat way of like all of these pieces coming together. Yeah.


Martha  35:10  

I think also, for me something that's been a big mental shift, which you've actually really seemed to capture this in your programs listening to you talk about this is this sort of like, I always have loved training in training for races, and like doing races and trying to do better than I did the last time. But that doesn't always equate to being in the right shape to like, go out and do things with my friends. And so over the past few years, I've really like shifted kind of my mindset around that to just going out and doing things. So that was like a kind of aside of race, specificity or event specificity when needed. But I want to be in good shape. So that when I go when somebody is like, hey, do you want to go do this hike? Or hey, do you want to go do this thing? I don't have to worry about being am I like, am I physically fit enough to go do this? I think just go do it. And it kind of seems like that's really what you've like, put into this program.


Yeah, isn't that like, that's the perfect place to be in my mind is like, when your friends invite you to do something, you can say yeah. If you want to say yes. To that, you can say yes. And you don't have to grapple with that, like, Oh, am I going to like ruin the day? Because I can't keep up? Or am I going to get injured or these other like doubts that that can get in the way of like doing the thing that brings us joy? And like it's this outside? And it's so good in so many other ways? Yeah. How do you know that's a place where you've gotten to?


Yeah, for sure. Sorry, How have your own adventures shaped and kind of developed, shaped the way you develop your programs and the way that you teach?


Sarah  36:46  

Yeah, well, they've been hugely impactful in all of this, like the, the trips and adventures that that I've stepped up into, like, I've taken on more and more challenging and longer trips as, as I've spent more time in the outdoors. And then I met my husband, Luc Mehl, who is like a super adventurer, and has been doing really long adventurous trips for a long time. So then, like, he brought this extra element of challenge. And also of like, he really likes to do trips that are kind of new, like, like, he looks at a line on a map and like, draws a route and then we'll go see if that works. And so there's this element that has that was new to me of, like, we don't know, if it's going to work out, we don't know what this is going to be like. And it So anyways, all of that has really, like there's so much learning in, in that process for me to go from like feeling like a like a newbie outside wanting to follow in other footsteps, other people's footsteps to feeling like I can rise to the kind of challenges that that happened when you're on a trip that you're running into a bunch of new stuff, and you're just having to, like adapt to whatever it is you find. So, but the truth of all this is, like, I run up against my, all of my own fears, and uncertainties and insecurities. And like, basically, a lot of these trips for me are, is this internal process of noticing where my comfort zone is, when I'm out of it, tools to deal with that, what I need physically for my like body to feel like it can handle what it is that we're up against, and what my mind needs to feel like I'm capable of it, and not overcome by the fear, or whatever else gets in my way. So I'm grappling with all this stuff. And and I have a an amazing partner in Luc who like helps has really helped. Like we've, we've turned into this, what feels like this really cool team of like being able to to do this stuff together. super lucky to have his support in getting more and more comfortable with it over the years. But like I've been able to rise to the challenges and and it's one of the things that makes me believe that like anyone even like from whatever place you feel like you're at right now, wherever you feel like you're at with your abilities or yeah with with even your goals, like there is there is a lot of potential there if to do more or to rise to a new challenge.


Martha  39:46  

I feel like you're saying kind of the same thing that I said earlier like you if you can do it, anybody can do it. Yeah, kind of. And that sort of it's like reason for your for teaching almost is like all I got.


Sarah  40:00  

Yeah, it really is. Yep, it totally is the things that I'm like, running into and then learning how to work with outside are, then I do I like take them and translate them into things that might work for other people. And like, that's, that's one of the ways that I've learned that I teach is like, through my own experimentation process and like figuring out what works, what didn't, and then offering that to people as strategies that may that may work for them, you know, and of course, everybody's different. And no strategy works 100% of the time, which is why we need a bunch of different ways to work with stuff so that you can play around with learning what works for you.


Martha  40:42  

Yeah, for somebody who's looking to get into more back country type adventures, what is a good way for them to get started?


Sarah  40:52  

Well, I, I like the starting with what's comfortable and moving, moving from there. So I like both that and like, have a goal in mind, I love to have the like, the kind of big like stretch goals, like I'd love to do this thing. That's like, maybe way out there. And, and like kind of keeping that in your sights. But then the real work is in the like, meeting yourself where you're at right now and letting it be okay, that you're right there and then taking baby steps to keep moving forward toward toward that big goal. But like, most of us don't get to that big goal by just like jumping there blindly. Like, that's when you get into like the place of like, this is yes, you're outside of your comfort zone. But you're also outside of like, what's safe, quite net for if you do that right now. So starting with where you're at, like, like the approach that you talked about this summer, where you like, find a people, group of people who are happy working with that, and then do something that's a little bit harder, a little bit more challenging. And then step back and check out how that felt. And if that went, well, you probably have a little bit more comfort zone now. And you can do something that's just a little bit, a little bit harder next time. Baby steps.


Martha  42:06  

Yeah, I definitely doing some of the harder things that I've done this summer, it's kind of like, Okay, well, I learned how to like navigate through that. And I can definitely see how this applies to a whole host of other experiences and how those suddenly don't seem like they're quite as intimidating. And it's really hard to explain that until you've experienced it.


Sarah  42:27  

It does, though it like expands your, like your sense of what is safe, like you go out there and you and you bump against the edge of that. And then it like something changes on your on your whole system level. Like there's a nervous system thing going on there too. Or it's like, okay, that was uncomfortable. But then look, now I'm back safe. So it must have been okay. So then you're you're it's all your window of capacity. And that middle that that place where we're like, we our system, our nervous system is able to meet the demand. So that's that are being asked of it. And so if we like went a little bit uncomfortable, and then realize that that's safe, then that's your zone of capacity bumps out a little bit. So you're like, oh, okay, I can do that. Now with less discomfort. And so that means maybe I can try just a little bit more, and then we'll like bump back in and reevaluate again. And if that was too scary, then maybe it's a no go, you know, it's not a linear, like roll more and more more and more thing, but it's more like a bumping out. And then and then coming back in to evaluate and then maybe go in again, with tons of support. Like I always, that's another thing that's been really helpful. For me, like I was talking about Luc and my brother was another one of my original trip partners when I was pushing the boundaries. And we did our first winter classics together, which was a huge challenge for me and my identity, feeling like, I wasn't good enough for that for a while. So having people that you that you trust, to help when you're scared, or to be okay, backing down, if it's time to back down is really good. And that's another nervous system thing to where it's like, if we're with people that we can trust and connect with and feel like they've got our back and they're supporting us rather than pressuring us. That's one of the things that helps those places that are on the edge of our window of capacity or our comfort zone. Feel like we can we're okay, because we've got some some other people there that can help us carry the load. Yeah. 


Martha  44:36  

I reached out to a couple of people who I know who were actually in some of your programs and ask them if they had anything that they wanted to talk wanted us to talk about. And I actually had a couple of people who asked about fueling your adventures with nutritious food. So is that because I definitely think that that's an important piece of all of this is well, number one, you have to fuel your adventures. But how do you do that and and do it appropriately and do it in a way that continues you continue to allow you to meet your goals?


Sarah  45:08  

Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, it's such a, it's an interesting one. Because nutrition, our bodies are all really different. And, and so I tend to, like advise experimentation, that's the way to go with with nutrition because any of these kind of prescriptive diets or, or methodologies tend to, we got to run them through your own body and like, see if it really works for you. So. So that's like, my number one recommendation with with food is like, try some stuff and see if it works. Notice, like, build the building self awareness, and the ability to notice the the impacts of different food on your system and on your energy level is super helpful. Like self awareness helps us everywhere, but especially when we're doing experimentation on our own, like what works. The noticing the subtleties of like, what what, what do you feel like in your body, when you're running low on fuel, you know, that's one of the ones that I feel like is, is has been the most helpful for me. And a lot of the people that I work with is, like we, we kind of are taught that if you can go like go without food for as long as you can. That's like the kind of front country way we are all kind of taught with food is like, if you don't if you're not hungry, don't eat like if you're like, less food, the better. And when you're outside, it's kind of the opposite. I mean, I don't know, that's an extreme way of putting it but like, we do kind of need a different way of thinking about fuel when we're using our bodies consistently over time. And a long day outside, it's going to need a lot of fuel. So tuning in early to hunger signals, is a super helpful and like for a lot of that. For a lot of us. It's more like a subtle, like, maybe it's not hunger in your belly, but it's more like a jitteriness, or like a frustration like some some of that, like, What does I call it? The Snickers commercials? Yeah, like angry people turning into monsters? Or the Hulk? Yeah. hangry. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Those a little bit like subtle. So hangry is the big one when it gets really obvious. But can we catch it when it's like when it's like a one on a one to 10 scale, so that so that you can get the fuel added early before it turns into the Hulk. So yeah, I guess that's, that's where I would would start this conversation at least is like tuning into what works for your body, doing experimentation on yourself. And then recognizing that most of the time, especially if it's, if we're talking about outdoor activities, we need more fuel instead of less. Our system gets stressed when it's low on fuel, and that shows up in a bunch of different ways. But adding adding extra calories, however you need to get them in is, is one of the things that helps us again, like feel safe. Feel like we have capacity to handle whatever it is that we're up against. What's your favorite trail snack?


I am really liking I'm actually liking Heather's choice. The Packer runes right now. I got into those this year, and they've been there a new favorite. Yeah, there. Those are delicious.


Martha  48:42  

So again, shifting gears a little bit as we shift back into winter season and are likely going to face a certain degree of isolation and some more hunkering down. What recommendations do you have for helping to keep helping people to keep a good perspective and kind of thriving through this current situation that we're in? 


Sarah  49:03  

And this one feels so important. Because you're you're absolutely right, like, we are all under a whole new load of stress this year and turning forward into winter. Like, there's a lot of challenge that comes with that, too. So I think opening up this question for yourself is, is a great place to start just like really doing an honest evaluation of like, where you're like, where your capacity is, if you're already feeling max capacity, then we got to figure out a way to like, take some of that pressure off your system so that you can be ready for whatever else winter is going to have in store for us. And my my favorite, I think a lot of us are at that place where you're like, I already feel like I'm maxed out like, gosh, all the people who are homeschooling or like teachers who are teaching online and like everything else, like there's a lot of people who are maxed out now, so So ways to like reduce that load on the system exercises is again, like that's one of those primary ones where it's like, if you're holding a lot of stress in your system, we have to complete the stress cycle and like get that stress and the the cortisol and everything else that's like building up in a system, we have to use it, you have to actually use it to get it discharged out of the body, so that we can come back down into that window capacity and like, have the space to rest and digest and like chill out without still being stressed. So, so it's one of the reasons why I love at home workouts, especially this year, because it's like, where else you're gonna work out and like, maybe only have 40 minutes to give to this right now. So you can get a lot of that stress discharge plus the functional strength benefits into like, 45 minute workout from your living room with like, even with the kids running around, around at the same time. So finding a way to get into a exercise routine is one of my top recommendations there. And then, like the social connection pieces, and is another one that is extra complicated right now. And a lot of us I feel like I did okay on that this summer, because we were able to be outside and like have some social time out that outside with some space. And like, that was that was like manageable. But the colder it gets, the harder that gets to do. So. Like, that's, it's gonna take some extra strategy I do, like we're doing this interview over zoom. And zoom isn't perfect for social connection, but it is possible. It does, it just, it takes some adapting because like, again, our nervous systems are social, we're social creatures. So we're, we know how to connect when we're in real life with people. And, and when we're on a computer, it's a little bit, it's just a little bit harder. So you have to be more intentional about it. Like when you're when you're in a room with someone like making eye contact, and like really looking and pausing for a minute to notice that like, here we are connecting it, like it takes a minute you got to kind of slow down to let it sink in. Because it's easier for the system to be like I'm just on a computer, I don't know what's going on. But we aren't connecting right now, you know, like in this moment, so so I would recommend that and then I I think that outdoor sports, winter sports are going to be another one of the critical pieces for anyone who's up for it's another reason why it's like, outdoors or for everyone. And I really think that everyone should give it a try this winter because it's one of the ways that we can be with other people with a bit more safety, you know, a bit more space. And that, like it's easier to that airflow and everything else. So walks and skiing and recreating with with other people is always a great way to to build social connections, and to combat winter darkness and seasonal affective disorder and all that stuff. But like even more, even more critical this year. Absolutely. Yeah,


Martha  53:21  

I always I always tell people like outside exercises. So I'm a nurse practitioner and health is important to me and my patients. So I always tell people outside activity is important. But it doesn't have to be you have to go skiing or you have to go for a run. You can go walk around your block with your dog after dinner or I tried to tell people to do it when it's laid outside. But that's still being outside that still counts as being outside going to sit on your front porch for 15 minutes, just because that's all you can handle that still counts as being outside. So I think also maybe shifting, shifting what we we personally accept as going outside and doing something outside is important too.


Sarah  54:00  

Yeah, yeah. 100% I'm glad you glad you reiterated that and that's that is super important. Yep. And and yeah, if there's a way to make that a social thing to like, even if it's like maybe can't be in person with someone outside but you could call someone who you care about and and have the conversation over the phone like I like I do, this is going to demand a lot of creativity from us. This winter is like what what is going to where we got to keep trying stuff and yeah, stay in our power and like look for creative solutions.


Martha  54:35  

So if people are interested in joining the next round of ski babes, when does that start?


Sarah  54:41  

The next round is right after Thanksgiving. It's gonna start the 28th of November. Okay, so we do rounds every every seven weeks throughout the winter, the this is the midwinter round that's going to start right after Thanksgiving and then there's another one that's going to start like middle of January is when that one hits.


Martha  55:02  

Okay. I'll be sure to share the link for those in the notes for the show on the outdoor explorer page. And if people want to connect with you or follow along on your adventures this winter, where can they do that?


Sarah  55:13  

I'm doing most work on Instagram these days, it's been fun for me to share pictures and thoughts like I, I'm often like turning around these different like mental health, nutrition, fitness and outdoor stuff like grappling with these intersections. And it's been, it's been fun to like, try to put those into words and get them out. And that's where Instagram has been the place that has been working the best for me there. And it's a really nice way to connect with other people in the community too. So yeah, like, send me a note there. Let me know you are interested. And it'd be fun to build some connections that way. Absolutely.


Martha  55:52  

So I'll I'll also put a link for your Instagram into the notes for the show, which is on the Alaska public media website. There's an outdoor explore page, so I'll put links for that there. Sarah, thank you so much for talking with me today. I think this conversation has been really great. And I hope that a lot of people will find some something from this to take away that's beneficial for them. Great. Yeah, it's been really fun. I hope so too. That's all for today's show. Thank you to my guest, Sarah Histand. You can find more information about various programs, ski babes and summer strong, as well as links to her website on the outdoor explorer page at Alaska public.org. Thank you to our producer Eric Bork. And from all of the hosts here at outdoor explore. Thank you for listening, and we'll see you outside. Outdoor Explorer is a production of KSK public radio in Anchorage, Alaska. Theme music is by Portugal, the main views expressed are those of the participants and do not reflect the station or its underwriters. You can find outdoor explorer on Facebook and in your favorite podcast app. To see what's coming up on outdoor explorer and add your voice to the conversation go to our website at Alaska public.org. Life informed This is Alaska public media



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