When I was ten years old, my dad taught me how to cross-country ski. We went on laps through the woods in our backyard for a few weeks before I had gotten the hang of it. Once my mobility increased and my coordination was configured, we hit some trails of more difficulty. He showed me how to go up and down slopes and skirt tight corners on narrow paths. After a while, I became quite capable in my abilities and upgraded to a better pair of skis.
I always enjoyed cross-country skiing. It is often an under-recognized sport as it falls under the shadow of the more popular downhill skiing. While this Alpine sport often provides more thrill, it does not emphasis the journey as much as the destination. A ski-lift carries the skier to the top of the hill and then the skier tries to make it to the bottom of the hill as fast as possible. Wherein lies the pure enjoyment? The Nordic counterpart is all-encompassing. It is not a monotonous crawl across level surfaces, but rather a dynamic climb up, down, and around nature. In order to enjoy the cold breeze in your face as you glide down slopes, you must trek, often slowly and painstakingly, to the top of mounds. When you reach the bottom of the hill, you do not try to slow yourself to a halt, but rather incorporate your momentum into the next movement. Cross-country-skiing is an organic and enriching experience, where work may be rewarded and the process is what is enjoyable, not the successful completion of a run.
The other day, I saw a woman skiing around a cement track. She had on a very intriguing pair of skis with small wheels attached to them that allowed her to glide like traditional cross-country skis. I watched her for a moment, impressed by the dedication to the sport in the absence of snow. She passed around the track several times before I looked away. I assume this woman was skiing for the sake of exercise. Most likely desiring some sort of cardio workout, she embarked on this track to do laps to achieve a set goal for exercise. When she finished, she most likely took off her skis and went home. This made me wonder.
What is the purpose of circles? So many exercises involve reps and laps and all types of repetitive tasks. How do we gain fulfillment and enjoyment from these routines? As a left-brained society, we often find solace in the mundane and repetition is comforting, almost Zen-like. For us, exercising in a set environment for a set period of time and doing a set cycle of activities is comforting. It allows to achieve a set goal each time (i.e. 10 laps) and thus complete a 'journey.' I believe it is engrained in us, as products of a left-brained upbringing, to always reach a destination. We are taught, whether subconsciously or not, to enjoy completion, and aim for a goal.
So we go in circles. It is comforting, this cyclic existence, but where does it lead us? We prefer to downhill ski because we know when we meet an end, and do not have to face the hardships of an uphill climb. However, in order to truly find fulfillment, I think we should place emphasis on the process. We should not go in circles, but rather in a curving and arching line toward an undefined destination. We should cross-country ski. Through woods, cities, and everywhere in between.