Perseverance OR Revisiting the Slackline Challenge

Perseverance OR Revisiting the Slackline Challenge

I wrote this post last year when I was about half-way through my Slackline Challenge and realised that I never published it…happens a lot. I write something and think I just want to edit it a bit and then forget. In this case I decided to publish it now, despite the delay. Visiting Freiburg in June I actually went back to the slackline and tried crossing it again – I wasn’t able to do all I could do last year but then I have been without a slackline for over seven months so I’m not too surprised…it was still cool to be able to cross it, even though I lost my balance trying to turn around.

The post from October really just contains some thoughts on perseverance:

It is erroneous to think that success should come easily as a result of being naturally gifted. Perhaps, to a certain degree, natural aptitude does play a role – but the greater part is hard work, discipline and perseverance.

I once had the chance to listen to a concert pianist practice.
He had started playing at a very early age and it was soon apparent that he was gifted in music. He received tutoring and was supported and encouraged to develop his talent and pursue music in his studies. He would practice five hours a day, sometimes more.
That dedication was evident in listening to him.

What does it mean to persevere?
Am I someone who perseveres?

I think the three questions that influence whether or not I persevere are:
1) Is it worth it?
2) How badly do I want this?
3) Do I believe I can achieve the goal – or am I heading towards failure?

If I am pursuing something but continuously pondering these questions in my mind, it is unlikely that I will press on. If I am not convinced that something is worth it, if I am not fully engaged or if I have doubts about being able to reach the finish line – these thoughts alone are enough to hinder success. Like I wrote in my post on marriage and running – if you start running a marathon but don’t commit to run to the end, you probably wont. Committing and making a personal decision to follow through help you to focus on your goal and to give it all you got.

But how do you answer these questions? I think everyone has their own way of weighing up priorities, risks and setting goals. I find that for me, it is really important to allow myself to actually care enough about something to really fight for it. To permit desire, passion, determination. Sometimes not caring is more convenient – because that way you are never disappointed. But then you also miss out on the joy of experiencing what you dreamed of, or achieving what you set out to do. You need to dare to care and spell out exactly what you are going after – and then not allow the fear of failure or the uncertainty of whether or not you have what it takes distract you.

It is like climbing. Choosing a route to climb is risky. What if I go up half way and realise I lack the strength to finish? What if I slip and fall?
Once I was climbing in the gym and my climbing partner suggested a route with a slight overhang. It looked like an interesting route and I wanted to give it a go – but when he pointed out a few things to watch out for after the overhang I replied something along the lines of, “I’ll keep that in mind if I even get there!” He responded that I probably wouldn’t if that was the attitude I started out with!
And its so true. I need to face a task with a positive “I shall conquer this” attitude, rather than a non-committed “we’ll see how this turns out”. I need to be focused on the goal, rather than distracted by the fears or possibilities of everything that could go wrong.

I also experienced this in slacklining. I am now half way through the slackline challenge and its been so much fun! The first few days I felt I’d made a lot of progress and was very excited to be more and more comfortable balancing on the line and taking several steps. Then I had to pause for three days because I had no slack line or it was raining – but somehow I expected to be just fine starting up again. Wrong! I felt like I had to practice a bit more before feeling the same confidence on the line as before. It was discouraging – but instead of letting that bother me I decided to take it as a challenge and put in more effort to regain my balance. In the end, I managed to cross the slack line and successfully did some turns on the line – both of which were goals I had wanted to achieve. I also learned a few things about myself and how I work best. I realised that its easier to slackline when there aren’t a lot of people around to distract me and its also easier during day light, because I can see my focus point better. While walking across I usually focus on a point in the distance on the other side of the line and that helps me to keep my balance.

So once again, I find that sport offers a nice metaphor for life. In slacklining you want to keep your focus, ignore distractions and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going. Don’t let people’s comments or your own fear of falling stop you from pursuing your goal. And don’t compare your own achievement to that of others! I watched some videos on youtube of slackliners doing amazing tricks on the line and its easy to feel silly celebrating my small victories compared to their jumps, flips and longlining or highlining – but that’s not the point. I am not competing against them, my goal of what it means to conquer the slackline is defined by me, not by what they can do.
And the same is true for life! Its also important to stay focused and not compare yourself to other people. Don’t let fear or people’s opinions dictate your next step. Celebrate your big and little victories and don’t mind if you fall, just get up again.

At the end of the 30 days I had completed all my goals.
When I started on day 1 I went from not being able to balance at all to being able to balance on either foot and count to 20 and take seven shaky steps.

After thirty days I wanted to be able to:
– balance on either foot for as long as I like (say 2 minutes)
– walk the length of the slackline and back again
– get up on either foot without losing my balance
– change direction midway

I was able to do this after 28 days, some things sooner. Achieving some goals quite quickly, like balancing on one foot or walking the length of the line,
I tried other things like:

– the chongo mount
– the sit mount
– jumping onto the line
– jumping on the line
– lying on the line

I was not always very successful with those things…but it was fun trying. My highlight was being able to do a really short highline in the climbing gym with harness 🙂 (I didn’t measure it, would guess it was 3m high and 4-5m in length)

This month I am doing a new 30-Day-Challenge – its a 10-minute work-out every day. I was inspired by the Monsoon rain which makes it hard to do any sport outside. I realised I was getting rather moody, was not sleeping well and felt the need for exercise…I was always a bit skeptical of work-out videos but its been fun and I intend to keep it up. It usually ends up being more of a 20-30 minute work-out but saying 10 minutes makes it seem like I could definitely fit it in any day of the week and tricks me into getting started – and persevering to the end! 🙂

30 Day Challenge: Conquer the slackline

30 Day Challenge: Conquer the slackline

So I’m home again, my muscles were sore for two days after going climbing – but it was the good kind of sore that makes you feel happy and accomplished and impatient to go out again. I went climbing again on Saturday on my own, just to some rocks near where I live – but without a climbing partner (I don’t recommend that, there were others out there too though so I wasn’t alone) so I was limited to choosing a really safe route I could do without rope. It was still fun though, the view was beautiful – and got quite exciting later when a team of firemen showed up! Another climber had called to warn them of a fire that hadn’t been put out properly. I had heard the call being made and ended up going with two other climbers to show the firemen the spot so they could put it out. It probably wouldn’t have been enough to start a forest fire, but it was still good to be safe and a good reminder to think twice before foolishly starting a fire in the woods!

I’m pretty motivated to keep climbing, but the weather hasn’t been so good and I have to organise myself with gear and climbing partner – but after a week of lots of sports and being outside and realising how amazing that was I decided I have to make it more of a priority in daily life. I know its something that helps me focus, clear my head and is simply super enjoyable and a good balance to studying – so instead of thinking I have no time due to studies (I do have to study A LOT these next weeks!) I want to make a bit of time every day. But since I can’t exactly go climbing or on a bike tour every day, I have instead opted for conquering the slackline! You know how teachers always tell you that practice makes perfect? Its supposed to apply to learning your French vocab words, your creative writing skills, solving maths problems, singing in choir, playing an instrument, reciting poems, cooking, sports and most things in life. Well, I have decided to put this claim to the test for a specific time period and see what improvement I can witness in just thirty days of practice. Of course, the idea is NOT to give up doing something after trying just thirty days – I am fully aware that real learning takes longer than that and requires a bit more effort, investment and perseverance – but when you are trying to start a new habit, the decision to follow through for a month is a good place to start.

I have been thinking about slacklining for a while, always amused by how popular it is here in Freiburg and how silly people look trying to walk across with their arms in the air. It is good for balance, focus and body control, though – and actually quite a challenge to master well and a lot of fun! It is also extremely accessible for me right now since there are two slacklines permanently installed on the lawn in front of my house. So, what’s the plan? I intend to go slacklining 10-30 minutes every day for the next 25 days* and see how much I improve. I must confess I am a complete beginner and look like a fool trying to take a single step, but hey – that’s what practice is for, right! So I started this four days ago – what’s my progress so far? When I started on day 1 I went from not being able to balance at all to being able to balance on either foot and count to 20 and take seven shaky steps! Yeah! Today I was up to 40 and felt more confident getting up on the line, especially with the right foot.

After 30 days I would like to:

– be able to balance on either foot for as long as I like (say count to 100)
– walk the length of the slackline and back again (need to measure it…)
– get up on either foot without losing my balance
– change direction midway

I have no idea how quickly I will achieve this goal, that’s what makes it interesting. Maybe this is super easy and I will make it after ten days – or I’m underestimating the slackline and require longer.

In case you don’t know how to slackline, here’s a nice video to teach you the basics 🙂

How to slackline

and in case you think slacklining is dull, check out this competition and maybe you’ll change your mind…

2016 GoPro Mountain Games Slackline Highlight Reel

*every day unless its raining A LOT or someone ate the slackline, then any other sport can serve as a substitute for that day. Day 3 I went cycling 🙂

Discovering: 3-day bike tour day 3 – from Sigmaringen to Ulm

 

Passing through the village of Munderkingen

On Monday my brother and I rode from Sigmaringen to Ulm. It was a beautiful bike ride – we passed through some pretty little towns and villages and also had some nice paths right along the river. I would say I probably preferred day two with the impressive rocks – but both was beautiful and very much enjoyable in it’s own way 🙂 We stopped in a small town called Ehingen to have a late lunch break – it was a nice stop and a well needed rest to get some food and refill our empty water bottles.

Ehingen

 We arrived in Ulm and spent two days relaxing and playing tourist which was a lot of fun 🙂 we were able to stay with a friend which was cool and he welcomed us with a splendid dinner. Enjoying good food together always has a high priority – and we had plenty of that!

Pakistani breakfast of parathas and fried eggs

What can you do in Ulm? Lots 🙂         My favorite spot is probably along the river Danube in the Fischerau – there’s a bridge there that leads to Neu-Ulm and it’s a great place to go swimming and jump into the river. Very refreshing after a long bike ride 🙂


The city centre also has it’s charms – with some pretty half timbered houses and little alleys and of course the Münster – the church with the highest steeple in the world at 161,53 m! We went all the way up (costs 3,50-5,00 Euros) and had a sweet view of the whole city – was definitely worth the climb!

Tuesday afternoon we went to a small lake to go swimming – it was a really sunny day which was great. Ulm tends not to be known for it’s good weather – I did pray for sunshine though 🙂

Wednesday was quite a sporty day with cycling and rock climbing on our agenda! I’ve always loved climbing and as a kid I would climb up any wall or tree I could – at school I spent many a break time or afternoon up my favorite tree on the playground. I also went rock climbing a few times and always wanted to do more but it wasn’t til recently that I finally signed up for a beginners course at my uni and spent a weekend in a climbing gym and out in the Black Forest to climb some rocks. It was amazing. Of course you’re up there and there’s the feeling of – “why am I doing this?” and “this is incredible” at the same time! I like the challenge, the team work and the time you get just you and the rock, your head and muscles. Or lack of 😉 And that’s what led to us going climbing in the Blautal near Ulm.

 I had heard that there were some places around for climbing, some friends of mine are passionate climbers and go out a lot – so I had asked our host, also a climber, if it would be possible to organize a rope and go climb. It all worked out and was pretty sweet! We cycled about 20km to the cliffs and hiked up a little way up a mountain and then our friend climbed up first lead climbing so that my brother and I could climb top rope. It was challenging – the rock was real slippery in some parts and I must admit I fell a lot! But I was always caught safe by the rope and it was a good exercise to just try again and work a bit harder. In the end I also got to do a short climb doing lead climbing which was especially cool – it was a totally different feeling to know that I really shouldn’t fall or at least to be aware of my climbing higher and securing more rope making a fall safer. Even then I did fall and get a few scratches – but it was worth it!

 Now our Ulm adventure has come to an end and today we hit the road again – not cycling all the way back, but taking the train via Friedrichshafen, by the Bodensee (Lake Constance). There’s also a really nice cycling route along there – from Ulm to the lake and then even all the way to Basel – maybe something for another time 🙂

So would I recommend a trip like this? Definitely! The bike tour and discovering Ulm are both worth it – it wasn’t my first time in Ulm but I never get tired of it either. I’ve already decided that I would love to live in a city where I can jump in the river any time 🙂 though I guess I would really have to pray for good weather all year round then 🙂

Discovering: my first 3-day bike tour OR: What’s next? 

So I know I promised some more pictures and details of the Black Forest and hikes…things have been a bit crazy lately and I didn’t really get around to it. After my Black Forest camping trip and super important final exam I had some time with friends and family and actually even spent a day at the North Sea 🙂 and then had to do a lot of work for Uni, organizing some stuff and actually preparing for what comes next. I’ve talked about finals and how I’m in my finishing sprint for exam but never really mentioned what I’m going to do when those exams are done. Two years ago I shared my post “A choice you make“, saying how in the end, no matter how many things you’re interested in or passionate about or how many options might even make sense – you can’t do everything and have to be brave and choose something while saying no to something else. Finishing Uni the logical step would have been for me to do 1,5 years teacher training at a school in Germany – working and preparing lessons and already with a salary but under supervision and with some additional classes and testing. Another option would have been to take a bit of a break – since the last two years of studies were rather intense – to just keep working as a freelancer and take time to rebalance and invest in church and evangelism and student ministry. But there was this dream I had as a teenager and it never went away – I always dreamed of going back to Pakistan one day, as an adult, not just for a visit – but to stay, for a minimum of two years and give something back to the country and the school that meant so much to me growing up. Of course my childhood wasn’t perfect – there were things that were hard and I might even wish different – but I think that would have been just as true if I had grown up anywhere else. So at some point as a teenager I prayed about this and told God that I didn’t really know where I would live and work and build a family long term, but that maybe two or three years in Pakistan could be a stop along the way? That was about ten years ago. Now, as my studies are ending and I’m ready for the next step, I’m preparing to go to Pakistan for 2,5 years. I’m excited and happy to be going back after nine years and hope and pray that God will bless the road ahead and give me strength and wisdom for my new role and responsibilities in this post-student-life chapter.
So that’s also why things are a bit crazy – in the mist of my exam preparation for my Spanish finals I’m also preparing to move to Pakistan, praying for my Visa and thinking about how I’m going to say goodbye to Freiburg and Germany – a place I really grew to love and appreciate, despite myself! And a place where I was blessed to meet so many amazing people that became friends and classmates and colleagues and neighbours – and family. But that’s not really the topic of this post, because it’s still too early to say goodbye! I still have a couple months and have my own little bucket list of things to do before goodbye really does come. What’s on that list? Well, I won’t share everything…but here’s one for starters: I really wanted to go on a bike tour! Why? Because I love riding my bike and that’s one thing I won’t be able to do in Pakistan – and I must confess I’ve never really been on a bike trip longer than one day…somehow always found the task of organizing that too daunting…
But that’s what I’m doing right now. I talked with my brother about the idea and he had been thinking about doing a tour in Switzerland, in the end we decided on a 3-day tour along the Danube from Freiburg to Ulm via Donaueschingen and Sigmaringen. I’m super excited and happy to be on the road, getting plenty of beautiful landscapes, fresh air and exercise and just hope my bike holds out for the whole trip 🙂


Today was a light start of just 30km from Titisee to Brigachtal – I took a slight detour but that brought me to some really pretty villages and woods so it was totally worth it. Tomorrow should be about 90km til Sigmaringen and there’s some really amazing cliffs and rocks along that stretch of the Danube so looking forward to a beautiful day 🙂 and on Monday we’ll have about 110km from Sigmaringen to Ulm. Will let you know how it works out, but I’m confident that it will be a nice little adventure 🙂


  

On marriage and running

One Leo and two Rahel =)
One Leo and two Rahel =)

These past two weeks I found myself thinking a lot about two things: marriage and running. Now you might first wonder why – and then ask what the one has to do with the other! But somehow I found that they make an interesting comparison.

Why marriage? Two weeks ago I went to Gemany to go to the wedding of two friends. It was a great weekend, a beautiful celebration full of joy and an opportunity to see lots of friends again. I felt a little sentimental seeing my friend Rahel get married. We had met in Bible college and later moved to Freiburg together and shared a flat for two years with another friend, Leo. It was by far the coolest flat in Freiburg =) Lots of good memories. Times of laughter…craziness…prayer…tears. And now she was looking so gorgeous, all grown up, with a beautiful smile on her face and walking down the aisle! I’m so glad I could be there for the special start to this new chapter in her and Matthias’ lives!

Why running? Next Sunday I plan to participate in the Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon here in Madrid! I’ve been doing a lot of sports this past half year in Madrid and started training more or less for real a few months ago. But then I also had some trouble with my knees and my right foot…I started getting worried and wondered if I would even be able to do regular sport anymore. I went to the doctor and got special soles for my shoes but still had trouble. I also asked friends from my church to pray for me – we had been seeing people get healed in the streets and I wanted to believe God could heal me too, but it didn’t go away completely. So I wasn’t running that much anymore – and the date of the marathon was coming closer! So the Sunday before last was a beautiful sunny day and in the afternoon I decided to go out for a ride with my bike. But then I felt like no – I NEED to go for a run! I was a bit scared, thinking I would surely not be able to run very much…but felt like I should try to run a longer distance than normal. My half-marathon would be about 21km so I tried to think of a decent route where I would come close to that distance and remembered someone suggesting I run to my University to train…it was such a crazy idea – I liked it! I looked it up on google and figured I would just run my bike route. I didn’t really intend to run all the way – I had eaten random food that day, didn’t stretch or warm up, put on ¾ jeans, T-shirt and a sweater and just figured I’d start running and see where I ended up.

It was a sweet run. The first half hour I always find the hardest – and more so on a Sunday afternoon with lots of people on the pavement and all those traffic lights making me stop every few hundred meters…but after about forty minutes I was content to be running and when I reached the Cuatro Torres just as the sun was setting…I figured I might as well keep running. So I kept running and passed through the little town of Fuencarral and thought to myself – if I’ve been crazy enough to run til Fuencarral I might as well run to my university! So I kept running.
And this was when it hit me – I was running and I was feeling JUST FINE! I had no pain whatsoever in my knees or feet! I began to run faster and just laughed and praised God as I ran, feeling so happy and loving the moment! God is so good!

The goal in sight!
The goal in sight!

I arrived at my campus after two hours and three minutes. Suppose if I subtract the times I waited for a traffic light or stopped for a drink at a water fountain I would improve my time…but in the end I didn’t care so much about the minutes. I had arrived!
And that’s what got me thinking – in the end running has a lot to do with commitment. And so does marriage. It’s about making the conscious decision to go all the way. To not give up, to not change goals. I think in our society there’s often a lack of commitment. And I understand that – I mean, its scary! Its serious! I was scared when I thought of having to run 21km and didn’t really think I could…in the same way you might be scared to think of taking marriage seriously – as a life long commitment! Can I do that? Wont I get tired after 7 years – just like I might get tired after 7km? Well people always say that long distance running is a mind thing – and I think that goes for marriage too. If a marathon runner keeps having to ask himself if he will continue or not – I doubt he will reach the finish line. So once you decide to run the marathon – don’t go back on that decision. There will be difficulties for sure – like thirst, muscle cramps, whatever…but keep the goal in mind and don’t quit. RUN! And like I found with my run – its God who gives me the capacity for everything! If you build your relationship, your marriage on God as foundation with the love of Jesus Christ as your example – striving to honour HIM and maintaining love, respect, humility, honesty, forgiveness, patience – HE will help you carry through! May God bless all you couples out there, especially if you’re passing through tough times, and renew your love and strength!!! And blessings to all fellow runners too =)

Delightful inconvenience

Río Manzanares(following attempt at poetry is not to be taken too seriously)

I so wanted to go for a run
despite the cold and lack of sun
so trainers on and off I went
out the door, around the bend
yet forgotten had I in my zeal
that I’d only just enjoyed a meal
and by the time I reached the river
I felt a strangeness in my liver
soon realising what was at fault
I gave up the run and slowed down to a stroll
what disappointment, oh what a shame!
Frustrated I was, with only myself to blame!

Yet what surprise of pleasant nature
I began to enjoy my little adventure
for walking leisurely, walking slow
I noticed the city lights aglow
and pretty reflections in the water
laughing children, an inline skater
some birds in the sky and some happily swimming
a group of boys walking by, grinning
the beautiful cathedral and palace grand
a couple walking hand in hand
a boy chasing after a bright orange football
the old train station and busy shopping mall
so much to see, so much to enjoy
things I would never have noticed, just running by…

Additional note: Maybe I would have enjoyed the sights running too, but I would surely have missed a lot. It made me think of how hectic our lives sometimes are and how its so important to slow down once in a while and to just savour the moment, enjoy the view instead of always rushing by…

I did end up running on the way back home though which was fun and just as beautiful since by then it was dark and even more lights were on so the bridges along the river and a lot of the buildings looked rather pretty =)

Truth hurts – or a win-win-situation?

Today I found myself in the odd situation of being relieved and disappointed at the same time. The reason? Basketball. I had been thrilled to find out that the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid has a girls basketball team and was eager to make the try-outs. Last week on Tuesday I was told to be at the gym at 7:30pm to meet the coach and team. Not having being aware of the practice earlier I hadn’t come prepared to play, so the coach told me to come back on Thursday and looking me in the eyes he declared that he would then “watch how I play”. I went home wondering how good one had to be to get on the team and returned on Thursday feeling rather nervous. I tried to remind myself that this was not my first time on a basketball court, but not having played in a team for over five years made me feel a bit uneasy. The first ten minutes or so were fine – the warming up and stretching. Then I soon discovered that a couple things were definitely not in my favour:

What a lovely view

a) language barrier: I hadn’t even considered that this could be a problem, since I’ve been understanding so much…but conversations, classes, movies or sermons are one thing – a coach barking instructions and expecting immediate action…quite another thing.

b) fitness: not only were my ball handling skills a bit rusty, I hadn’t been doing regular exercise and sprinting up and down the court soon made me, and the coach, take note of it

At the end of the practice the coach told me to come back on Tuesday, but informed me that it was very unlikely I would be able to make the team. A bit down, I spent the weekend pondering the matter. If I was on the University team, it would mean three hours of team practice every week and a game every Saturday. I was already wondering how on earth I should find enough time to study AND do things with friends – like a trip to the nearby town Segovia or a biology excursion to learn about the birds of the region. The more I thought it over, the more convinced I was that NOT being on the team would really be the best thing after all. I could still sign up for a less competitive team that played in the afternoons. So I went to the practice today, feeling pretty relaxed since I knew I wouldn’t be staying and just wanting to try my best and have fun with the team. And I did have fun. And it turned out like I expected – the coach took me aside and told me my skill level was lower than the other girls and that this wasn’t a class, it was training. Ouch. But a win-win-situation, right? I knew it would be too stressful for me to play serious basketball during my ERASMUS year and didn’t make the team. Then why did I still feel kind of disappointed? Kind of sad? I guess in the end, it wasn’t the team that mattered – it was what the outcome implied. Truth hurts. I was sad because someone had told me that I was no good at my all-time-favourite-sport. And that bothered me. But then, I can never be sad for a long time – and since its pretty logical that liking something doesn’t automatically mean one excels, I could only blame myself for not dedicating enough time to developing better skills. Yet as much as I love basketball, I could not spend hours every day on the court practising. There are too many other things out there that I find equally fascinating…And so my sadness was soon forgotten as the following things succeeded in distracting me:

  1. First I ran into someone learning Japanese and hoping to work in Japan, which was cool since it related to my interest in languages and other countries.
  2. Then, chatting with a fellow passenger in the train, I found out that the University is extremely close to some stables with lots and lots of horses and was invited to drop by sometime…
  3. And the climax came at home, when my wonderful flatmate informed me, that a wonderful friend of hers is in possession of some tickets for the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu – and I suddenly remembered, how much I love football too =)