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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville

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How-To

Jul 03, 2018

How to Use Your Body: Learn from world renowned artist Erika Lemay

Erika Lemay has used her body as a tool for a lifetime. Here, she talks about how she developed

WRITTEN BY

Erika Lemay

Erika Lemay is an internationally awarded performer and public personality. She is requested for the most prominent events on all 5 continents : Anniversaries, celebrations, TV shows, films, product launches, private functions for VIPs, celebrities, Royal Families, and World leaders. More information can be found on her website.

I was an over motivated 15-year-old, a promising Cirque artist with a strong feeling of invincibility that made me fearless. I remember how brave everyone (including myself) thought I was for performing a highly acrobatic act with a newly subluxated shoulder: two men perched on small platforms, would throw me high in the air above a net. I would execute flips and spins and then they’d catch me. My stubbornness, enhanced by a strong cocktail of painkillers, made it possible for me to perform the act, but at the cost of further damage. Today, I can’t even begin to understand what my immature, younger self was thinking. One of the most significant teachers in an athlete’s career is his or her own physiological feedback. Developing an accurate understanding of our body’s way of expression is one of the most important assets we have to improve our performance, general physical condition and wellbeing.

HOW MUCH CAN YOUR BODY TEACH YOU?

“unless you overcome the belief that listen-ing to your body makes you fragile, you won’t ever be able to use your full range of abilities and become the pro-athlete you crave to be.”

“Body awareness” is a multi-faceted term. It somehow became a taboo expression, especially in cases where we have to push our boundaries daily and often deal with pain in order to reach our peak. However, unless you overcome the belief that listen-ing to your body makes you fragile, you won’t ever be able to use your full range of abilities and become the pro-athlete you crave to be. Body awareness involves sensory awareness—the ability to identify and experience inner sensations of the body (e.g., a tight muscle) and the overall emotional/physiologic state of the body (e.g., relaxed, tense). If you have been working with your body as your main tool for a lifetime as I have (starting as a 4-year-old who took her ballet classes very seriously), you might know the feeling of analyzing every single movement, angle, type and intensity of pain. For many years, my very first thought upon awakening in the morning was: “How painful?”

I haven’t always been reasonable, I have greatly abused my own body for years

I would proceed, from my bed, to mentally quick-scan my whole body without moving and then, further examine every discomfort, recurrent pain and known injury in order to determine how my day would go and how I could adjust my training in order to get the most out of it. I haven’t always been reasonable, I have greatly abused my own body for years until I slowly learned, oftentimes through bad circumstances, to develop a two-way relationship with my body and get the best out of natural biofeedback.

OVERTRAINING IS NOT A MYTH

The first big mistake an athlete makes is to not listen to signs of distress. The human body is an amazing creature, it has the capability to communicate down to the smallest detail what’s right or wrong, giving us helpful hints in order to improve wellness. Knowing one’s exact conditions is a very powerful advantage. The sooner you identify that you are on the wrong path, the less damage you will do. If you put a lot of consistent effort into your training, yet no longer improve and even sometimes regress, you might want to ask yourself whether you are training the wrong way. Should you reassess your techniques and overall plan, or are you simply training too much? I’m no stranger to both mistakes but I can now recognize when my lack of result or my diminished strength, energy, concentration and motivation is not due to laziness but to a wrong approach or simply my body’s cry for help asking for 48 hours of rest.

We should think of body awareness as body intelligence; every input we are given can be used to enhance physical performance, especially the most subtle ones.

In extreme sports, we tend to not give a lot of value to people being attentive to pain or weaknesses. We should think of body awareness as body intelligence; every input we are given can be used to enhance physical performance, especially the most subtle ones. Managing pain and discomfort doesn’t mean ignoring it. I am not implying either that you should back off at the first sign of muscle soreness; be more open and understanding to your own body and use the weaknesses to eventually become more powerful.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

My relative wisdom is the result of a long journey influenced by many episodes of injuries, overtraining, total loss of body abilities (dramatically thinking my career was over), desperation and eventually getting some common sense. Personally, I’m still an overachiever, highly motivated to improve my physical art. Nonetheless, what has changed today, is that I retain a completely different mindset to the one I swore by when I was that 15-year-old acrobat. I treat my body kindly, and am very sensitive to all its needs. I now rarely suffer from real injuries, because I am able to prevent them by recognizing early signs and acting accordingly. I adjust my nutrition, and my training timings and intensity daily, yet I follow a fixed plan in order to reach new goals.

A FEW TRICKS TO START WITH

Learning to not only hear your body’s needs but to listen to them is the first important step to developing body awareness. This is what I believe marks the difference between a good and great athlete, and improves the duration of one’s career. Start by consciously evaluating and journaling the way you feel physically at the beginning and end of each day, detailing as many aspects as you can notice and remember. There are three basic things that you need to personalize and connect to your journaling: training, diet and sleep. Make sure to monitor these along with the way you feel. This simple task should soon become part of your athletic routine. Secondly, by simply stretching properly, you will improve your brain’s relationship with your muscles and joints and their ability to monitor muscular coordination and function. By improving such connections, the physical screening I’ve described previously will become easier and more accurate. Additionally, meditation can be a valuable extension to biofeedback. The meditative state requires awareness of internal, physical and psychological cues, and thus, may be useful as a mental skills technique especially during stressful situations such as competitions. My message is meant to reach every person, elite athlete or not. Stop listening to what you “should” be doing, and start listening a little bit more to your own body, it is astounding how much it will teach you.

Illustration by Dhruv Vyas

This article originally appeared in the Fitness column of The Outdoor Journal Summer 2015 issue. Subscribe here.

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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