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All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien

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Athletes & Explorers

Aug 17, 2018

Erika Lemay Partners with The Outdoor Journal

"Every show is literally a life defying moment – and she makes it look easy" - Sky Dancer, Erika Lemay officially becomes a brand ambassador for The Outdoor Journal & Voyage

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

This partnership will result in Erika working with The Outdoor Journal, its partners, contributors and ambassadors to create a truly unique strand of content. Focusing on the body, and how, with hard work and understanding, anything is possible within the many adventure sports that we cover around the world.

“the importance of applying this knowledge could be invaluable”

Speaking of the partnership, Sean Verity, Director of Content Strategy said: The experience and knowledge that Erika has, both with regards to understanding your body and its capabilities is fascinating. However, its also very interesting to think about how this expertise can lend itself to various disciplines. Climbing is an obvious example, and the importance of applying this knowledge could be invaluable, possibly the difference between life and death to amateur and professional athletes alike.

Outdoor Journal Editor-in-Chief and Founder, Apoorva Prasad said “having known Erika for some time, I’m always fascinated by how her hectic travel lifestyle translates into wellbeing, fitness, health and also outdoor adventure, which are all values that we promote. She is an incredible example of how someone can achieve great things while being true to themselves, and it is an honor to have her join us.”

Erika Lemay

Canada born Erika Lemay has become a beautifully disruptive icon in the world of live performance, using her body in ways that defy both gravity and human possibilities. Her journey has taken her from her first ballet class at the age of four, to worldwide success and accolades. Erika is recognised as a world-class artist, although her lifestyle is one of an Olympic athlete, with strenuous hours of daily training and performances across all five continents with no off-season.

Erika is living proof that work ethic and daily discipline, can give one the freedom to live an extraordinary life.

“Poetry doesn’t have to be expressed with words”

As the creator of Physical Poetry, Erika claims that: “Poetry doesn’t have to be expressed with words”. She is also a highly-coveted brand ambassador, public speaker and cause activist. She has performed extensively as a soloist guest star with Cirque du Soleil and is an Arts Ambassador with the non-profit Pensare Oltre. Vanity Fair even nominated Erika as the New Queen of Circus in an interview featuring exclusive pictures by legendary photographer and Hollywood icon-maker Douglas Kirkland, who’s latest book ‘Physical Poetry Alphabet’ is a tribute to Erika’s work.

ERIKA LEMAY

In 2012, in the midst of a brilliant career and with awards from some of the most important competitions in her field, Erika embarked on a new challenge: a complete One-Woman Show, designed to create a true connection with the audience, pushing her boundaries through this 75 minute acrobatic performance.

A previous example of Erika’s writing can be found here: How to Use Your Body: Learn from world renowned artist Erika Lemay

The Outdoor Journal & Voyage is a global adventure lifestyle media and travel startup that aims to inspire and enable audiences around the world.

For more on this exciting development and everything coming up at The Outdoor Journal & Outdoor Voyage, visit their websites: www.outdoorjournal.com
Facebook: The Outdoor Journal
Instagram: @theoutdoorjournal
Twitter: @Outdoor_Journal

Fly with Erika Lemay and follow her around the world on:
Instagram: erika.lemay
Website: www.erikalemay.com
Facebook: ErikaLemayOfficial
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/erikalemay
linkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erikalemay/

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Athletes & Explorers

Feb 15, 2019

Flow State: The Reason Why Alex Honnold and Steph Davis are not Adrenaline Junkies.

“When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

Recently, while watching Alex Honnold’s film, Free Solo, I began questioning the motives behind why he does what he does. I imagine that like me, you asked yourself, what is the driving force behind his compulsive need to risk his life? Why does he have such a passion for free soloing difficult routes, while the rest of us sit paralyzed in fear, simply watching in awe?

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the directors of the film (which has recently won a BAFTA and has been nominated for an Oscar), touched on Alex’s reasoning a little. For Alex, it is when he is climbing without a rope and is closest to death, that he actually feels most alive.

As an extreme sports athlete myself, with a background in whitewater kayaking, I can relate to this feeling. When I am kayaking a difficult and consequential rapid, my brain is 100% focused on the present moment. In the book, “The Rise of Superman” (if you haven’t read it, do so now), Steven Kotler discusses Flow State. Kotler describes it as being “so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof.” Dr. Ilona Boniwell, a European leader in positive psychology, says, “The State of Flow happens under very specific conditions – when we encounter a challenge that is testing for our skills, and yet our skills and capacities are such that it is just about possible to meet this challenge. So both the challenge and the skills are at high levels, stretching us almost to the limit.” Flow State is very difficult to achieve. The perfect balance between challenge and skill must be met, and the result is a very elusive zone, which is tricky to replicate. In Kotler’s book, he describes action and adventure sports as the only way to consistently trigger this flow state. Flow state is often triggered by a sense of being close to death, which, in return, triggers the maximum sensation of being alive. Kotler describes it simply, “When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

I remember the first time I experienced Flow. I was running Itunda Falls on the Nile River. Itunda is known for being one of the biggest rapids on the Victoria White Nile stretch of whitewater and is a rapid that, if not executed correctly, could be fatal. I recall Flow State kicking in as soon as I entered the rapid. My mind went completely blank, and I experienced a hyper-focused state in which every paddle stroke I took, every drop of water that hit my face, every little bit of it was a slow-motion, full experience. I felt nervous before entering the rapid, but as soon as I dropped in, my nerves faded, and I relaxed into a calm state of execution. While in that Flow State, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, perfectly. I made zero mistakes and had a perfect line through the rapid. It was the first time in my life that I felt I had 100% fully experienced something – not only in a physical sense but also in a mental and emotional sense as well.

“My favourite state of being.”

In a collaboration between The Outdoor Journal and Mercedez-Benz, I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of their sponsored athletes – free solo climber and BASE jumper, Steph Davis. When asked about Flow, Davis described it as, “the feeling of taking a deep breath, letting it out and feeling totally good and at ease with nothing else in my mind and truly in the moment.”

When performing high-risk activities, like BASE jumping, Davis says her brain has no choice but to enter a hyper-focused Flow State. “With BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE, getting there is pretty much guaranteed because it seems like there’s no choice but to enter that state of pure focus when leaving the edge – although it’s a pretty short-lived experience because BASE jumping is over very quickly.”

Read Next: Steph Davis: Flow, Focus, and Feeling in Control

The film, Free Solo, suggests Alex’s ability to achieve Flow State. When I spoke with Alex Honnold about the topic (also in a collaboration courtesy of his sponsor, Rivian), he shared a similar sentiment towards free solo climbing. “I think that has always been a big part of the pleasure in free soloing is that it forces you into that state more than other kinds of climbing do.” Alex says that he can tap into the Flow State while climbing with ropes as well, but it is rare and doesn’t come as easily.

For Davis, Flow State while free solo climbing isn’t as much a result of being close to death, but rather a result of getting away from external influences. “For me, a big factor for reaching focus, or Flow, is getting away from outside energy – so free soloing inherently works really well because you are alone.” No matter how she achieves Flow State, Davis can’t seem to get enough of it. “It’s my favorite state of being.”

The Science

According to Kotler’s book, Flow State originates in the brain. The release of five mood-boosting chemicals – dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and anandamide – creates a high that athletes, just like Davis, “can’t seem to get enough of”. It’s a wonderful experience – Flow State. So wonderful, in fact, that when you achieve it, it can become addictive. Dr. Ilona Boniwell describes the addiction to Flow State well. “Even activities that are morally good or neutral, like mountain climbing, chess or Playstation, can become addictive, so much that life without them can feel static, boring and meaningless. A simple non-gambling game on your computer, like solitaire, which many people use to ‘switch off’ for a few minutes, can take over your life. This happens when, instead of being a choice, a Flow-inducing activity becomes a necessity.”

Searching for Perfection

This addiction to Flow is different from an addiction to adrenaline. An athlete addicted to Flow is not an ‘adrenaline junkie’. They are not searching for that adrenaline rush that comes when you do something risky – like bungee jumping or skydiving. They are searching for perfection in what they are doing. Honnold says he is searching for the feeling of effortlessness. “When climbing feels good, when it feels effortless, when it feels flowy. That’s Flow State. And that is the appeal of climbing in a lot of ways is to get into that state. To feel like you’re doing something well and that you’re performing well.”

“I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scraping through it”

Davis says when she has had experiences BASE jumping in which something almost went wrong and she “got lucky” – which may be a situation where an adrenaline rush could be triggered – she is usually unhappy with that experience. “For me, it’s not really seeking an adrenaline burst. It’s more seeking the ability to do something that maybe should be impossible, and yet doing it in a way that’s actually pretty reasonable… When I’ve had those moments where it just barely worked out, and I almost felt that I got lucky, I’m usually really dissatisfied with that experience. I prefer to feel like I’ve entered the situation in a very calculated way. I’ve really prepared. I’ve gone through Plan B, Plan C, Plan D scenarios. I’ve tried to really think through everything that could ever go wrong and feel like I have a plan for that. And then when it starts happening, I feel like I’m very in control of the situation because I chose to get into it feeling like I’m really ready for it. To me, those are always the most satisfying outcomes. When I either land from a jump or top out a climb and I feel like, ‘wow, you know, I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scrapping through it’.” A perfect balance of challenge and skill.

But for Steph, addiction to Flow is not the main reason she continues pursuing these high-risk activities. For her, it is simply a way of life. “I’m 46 now and I’ve been climbing since I was 18, so my entire adult life I’ve been doing these sports in various forms… it is honestly really hard for me to imagine not being out in the mountains and the desert and just doing these things that I love doing.”

Thanks to Rivian and Mercedes for the interviews.

Cover photo: Vincent Kleine for She’s Mercedes.

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