When The Outside Thing Just Doesn’t Feel Right It’s OK to Go Home (Outdoor Diary)

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Humans outside episode 362

How do you handle zero-fun outdoor time? Push through and get the goal anyway before calling it quits? Wrap it up and head back to the car? Beat yourself up about quitting? Know that it’s OK?

This week on a mountain adventure with a few friends I found myself having a zero fun time. It just didn’t feel right. And I was big done. So what did I do?

Listen now.

Some of the good stuff:

[:46] OK, so I like a challenge

[:59] But even I have to draw a line

[1:55] So I started trying to work with my nervous system

[2:48] But you know what? No.

[3:44] Here’s the permission we didn’t need but we have anyway

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Ever go on an adventure or do something outside and get into it and think: what the heck am I doing here and why am I making myself do something that feels this bad?

You know I’m all about doing hard things outside, or new things, or challenging things, or thing that take mental stamina to overcome, or things that I don’t want to do in the moment but know that I will look back and be glad I did them. So it’s really something for me to be in a moment and say, hey, I don’t like this and I think we should stop doing it.

But that’s where I was this weekend. On a much looked forward to and planned hike up a nearby mountain with my friends, we crested one of the ridges to find howling, blowing stiff, cold wind. It was about 12 degrees in the parking lot, so go ahead and imagine how it was feeling on the ridge in this wind assault.

The sun was out. I’ve endured howling wind before. But during this hike, I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t having fun. I found myself complaining, which probably wasn’t fun for the people with me. I remembered the last time I was on this mountain, during a race last year in even worse wind conditions for way, way too long.

I wanted to get out of there. I also wanted to want to keep going.

Now I’ve spent some time learning about regulating my nervous system during big adventures with the help of Sarah Histand, a mental health informed fitness trainer who I’ve had on this show a few times. One of the things she’s taught me is that these moments when I feel like I am somewhere I don’t want to be and I should definitely get out of there — whether its actually dangerous is irrelevant — I can work with my nervous system to make myself feel safe, so I can keep going and overcome that moment.

So while we were hiking I thought about what she’d taught me. I gave myself some positive self talk about enduring. I breathed. I thought about a safe spot aka my warm car.

And that was great. Except it occurred to me that, hey, there was no truly good or real reason that I had to keep going further into something that was simply not fun in any way, shape or form. And wasn’t this supposed to be an adventure with friends where I felt like I was having fun?

And so I instead I chose to ask my friends if they’d be OK with turning around. Was it important to them to keep going? Because if it was, I could do it. But if it wasn’t, what the heck were we trying to prove?

Good news: it wasn’t important to them. And even tho the end point was in view, we turned around and ran back down to the car.

As soon as we got out of the wind I felt a little wussy about my decision. Was it really that bad? I mean honestly Amy, what is wrong with you?

That’s me being me — harder on myself than anyone else ever is.

Because at the same time I know that the benefit of heading outside and doing something tough is so multi layered, so wide and big and complex, that I don’t have to finish the thing to experience those benefits.

And I know that it’s OK and human to say, hey, this isn’t that fun and I have nothing to prove. It also feels bad. So I’m going to stop.

I am giving myself permission to stop outside things when they aren’t serving me — and on a day when I was supposed to having fun with friends, suffering in wind wasn’t serving me

And I am giving you permission, too. You don’t need it from me, but you have it anyway. The thing I like about 20 minutes outside and the endless variety of things you can do there is that there will always be an option that doesn’t include only suffering. So really, if all you’re trying to do is get outside time, there is no reason you should be having negative amounts of fun.

And if you are having negative fun, you have my permission to stop.

For what it’s worth, while the rest of the mountain was still and the fun returned, it’s currently blowing 20 mph and cold – air temperature is 22 degrees so the feels like is probably far less — right outside my window. That sounds like negative fun, too, so I’ll be inside for now.

You can see a photo of my mountain hike with my friends and many other actually fun outdoor things on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Show me your fun times, too. Tag them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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