Words By: Janelle Smiley
Photos By: Megan Peterson
The shift in my life began just after one of my largest athletic feats – crossing the entire European Alps in 36 days. I was emaciated, completely exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. I needed a break. I rested, drank a ton of green smoothies, and somehow a little baby girl began growing my belly. I didn’t take to it smoothly. The burning desire that I see in other women did not exist in me.
Curiosity and exploration have always been my motivating forces, and athletic performance my form of creative expression. I was driven to push the limits of what was possible. How far could I run? How fast could I cross a mountain range? How many mountains could I climb? When would I break, physically or mentally?
In my 20’s and early 30’s I had so much time. I could spend hours, days, in the mountains. I had quantity. Now the quantity is just not there. Albert Einstein said that time is an illusion, a construct of our minds. Did he consult new mothers on this theory? Becoming a mom has changed my life in so many ways, perhaps most significantly in how I approach my athletic pursuits. As I adapt, I have found I am more intentional. During this new chapter called motherhood, I have learned the art of quality over quantity, as well as the importance of perspective.
I am a strong proponent that how we view the world shapes our lives. Our thoughts influence our emotions, shaping our actions and dictating the direction of our lives. With less time to spend in the mountains, how do I assure I am truly present for that precious time, and relish every moment? I want to completely appreciate each part of my life as I experience it.
Studies that gauge happiness have suggested, with data to back it, that people are most happy when they are present. My life is rich and full. I am an athlete, a mindset performance coach, a Graduate Student pursuing my degree, a mother to my two-year old, a wife to my mountain guide husband. Aiming for being intentionality immersed in the present moment, right here, right now, is a practice. It is something I work at over time, always striving to improve. It reminds me of a story I heard about an Aikido martial arts Master. A student asked the master “how is it possible that you are never knocked off balance?” The Master replied “I am knocked off balance often, but I have learned to regain my balance so quickly, that it appears I am always in balance” This is the reality of life – we all get knocked off balance, the difference between the Master and student is how quickly we can recover.
I want to live a life that inspires my children to be curious, explore, and follow their hearts. The mountains are where I explore my strength, and the aliveness that it activates. Being fully present in the mountains, allows me to be a more present parent. Creating quality experiences outdoors is a way that I model the example of what I want to pass along.
Arc’teryx is launching a Global Challenge May 17th to June 6th — 20mins, 4 times a week. This challenge is offering a time to join others, and be fully present. Engaging, with others, in an intentional focus on quality over quantity. To move the body and take a step towards health, or continue on the journey. The average length of time a person spends on social media each day is 2 hours and 22 minutes — with that perspective, can we together choose nature for a fraction of that time?
Motherhood has made me more present as I embrace the quality and intention that is required in the duality of being both a mother and athlete. I will be joining you on this challenge as I enter, with curiosity and an open mind, another large shift in my life. Between the time that I write these words and when they are published, I will give birth to my second child. I’ll be with you as a postpartum mother, and I look forward, together, to spending quality time in nature.
There are several practices I do to bring myself into the present moment. invite you to join in this simple practice:
Stop what you’re doing
Close your eyes
Breathe in through your nose to the count of 1-2-3-4
Breathe out through your mouth to the count of 1-2-3-4