When a Runner Learns to Snowboard

When a Runner Learns to Snowboard

If I could summarize three snowboarding lessons in three words, those words would be challenging, fun, and humbling.

And, if we will add a fourth word, cold! But that’s a given for when you fall down into a deep blanket of snow on the side of a mountain every ten feet.

When a Runner Learns to Snowboard

Ryan and I decided early last year that we wanted to learn how to snowboard. We live only 60-90 minutes from two ski resorts nestled in the Cascade mountains. Skiing and snowboarding are as popular out here as hiking, if not even more so.

Snowboarding appealed to both of us because we had already learned to ski and because there seemed to be less injury risk with snowboarding. Every time I fell when skiing, my legs just splayed out in different directions…ouch! But with our feet bound to a single board and a helmet on our heads, snowboarding just seemed safer.  And, it also appeared more fun and laidback! 

When a Runner Learns to Snowboard

When I say I had skiied before, this was Midwest skiing. Some of the snow may have been artificial and the slopes were on hills. Out here in Washington, skiing and snowboarding are done in the mountains. And not the gentle alps that you first see when you enter the Cascades…the ski resorts are all deep in the mountain passes, at 3000 feet base elevation.

When a Runner Learns to Snowboard

Put a pair of hiking shoes or snowshoes on my feet, and I’ll easily trek both up and down a mountain. But unlike hiking or snowshoeing, snowboarding came with a steep learning curve. You don’t just strap a board to your feet and go…you have to learn the skills of how to stand upright, turn, control your speed, and stop (and get off that darn lift).

By no means I am good at snowboarding – I still have hours of practice to do before I can make it down the gentlest of slopes without falling. Ryan has already made it down the green slopes multiple times without falling; right now, that’s my goal.

When a Runner Learns to Snowboard

While I didn’t learn how to master that heel side to toe side turn (someday soon!), I did learn many things in our snowboarding lessons:

Being a runner doesn’t mean you are athletic.

I might be able to run a marathon, but I’m uncoordinated and inflexible. Any sport (or skill) that requires coordination takes me a while to learn. But there’s a part of my brain that assumes that, since I am a runner, I should be able to pick up other activities easily!

Give yourself some patience – snowboarding, skiing, or whatever other sport you try will take time to learn and won’t feel easy at first. Did running feel easy at first? Most likely not! 

Everyone falls; it’s getting up that matters

I lost count of how many times I fell during snowboarding lessons, especially the second and third lessons on the green slopes. I fell on my butt, I fell on my knees, one time I even fell and rolled a couple times. Who doesn’t fall when learning to glide down a mountain side on a single board? But each and every time I pushed myself up with the determination to do better.

What else was my option? To lie on my butt in the (very cold) snow and not try again? To quit because I wasn’t good the first time around? Or to grit my teeth and keep trying until I finally mastered it – no matter how long it took?

Natural talent isn’t always the indicator of success. Whether you take to a new skill naturally or not, what indicate success is how much grit you have – the amount of hard work and perseverance you pour into a task.

Embrace the soreness.

Falling hurts, but honestly it’s the getting up from falling that made me the sorest. My upper body and arms ached the day after each lesson. I felt as if I had done dozens of those nasty burpees with the push ups – on an incline.

Since snowboarding moves through a different plane of motion than running, you will use different muscles. I was sore in many of my lateral muscles, including whatever muscle is on the outside of my right calf (lead foot).

Too much fear of falling causes the fall.

I need to improve on this. Each time I go to transition from heel side to toe side or vice versa, I subconsciously worry about falling over and lean uphill to counterbalance – which then leads me to falling over. It’s similar to choking during a goal race or fear of failure in the work force: the fear of failing that leads to the biggest failure. 

[Tweet “When a runner learns to snowboard… @thisrunrecipes shares lessons learned! #snowboarding #optoutside”]

What lessons have you learned recently?
Would you rather snowboard or ski?


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20 Responses

  1. I remember getting SO sore from snowboarding! It took me years to figure out how to go from my heels to my toes, but once I got it down it made it so much easier and enjoyable! You will get there soon! It really is a great cross training workout for runners but I never thought about it like that back when I used to snowboard.

  2. Confidence will come over time and then you will stop falling as much 🙂 Think back to when you first started running. You didn’t “fall” but you probably stopped short of how far you could run out of fear, and now you run marathons in record time! Be gentle with yourself and, like running, just enjoy being out there and teaching your body new ways to move!! Great pictures and I would LOVE to ride the west coast again someday!

    1. Thank you so much, Allie! 🙂 And yessss you should come out to the PNW to ride! There are so many awesome places out here – we already are considering a trip to Mt. Bachelor or Whisper!

  3. The last one is part of the reason that I stopped skiing (other than the whole getting sick thing): I started having anxiety and anxiety attacks surrounding bein gon the mountain, and it caused more problems. I wonder how good I would be at snow sports now. When I started them, I was horseback riding and had really great muscular coordination and control, plus mad glutes and adductors.

  4. I’ve never been snowboarding or even seen that much snow in person! But it looks like you had a fun time and I’m glad you got to try snowboarding :). It seems like you really enjoyed your off season after CIM and that is a good thing- we all need a little break sometimes, I guess.

    1. You should visit somewhere with this much snow – as cold as it is, it’s magical and fun! It’s good to take a break from running or to do something else than running even during training – becoming a better athlete is part of becoming a better runner.

  5. So awesome that you and Ryan took time for some lessons and to learn a new skill. I used to ski….love it, but then just fell out of going. I might be willing to give snowboarding a shot just to try something new. The more skills like this you have, the better athlete you will become. 🙂

    1. Yes! You should try it out – even if it’s a challenge, it’s really fun to learn. We really liked the Summit at Snoqualmie – we took the First Class package with 3 lessons.

  6. Congrats!! I learned to snow board about 20 years ago when I was 18 and I remember being SO frustrated…and sore! But you just keep getting back up and going again.
    I taught my husband how to snowboard when we moved back out the mountains in BC (Canada) 7 years ago and he learned in a couple of days..no joke! Why is it that guys can pick up sports so quickly?! But of course I’m glad because now we have a blast together on the mountain 🙂
    It sounds like you’re doing awesome…keep it up!!!!

    1. Thank you! My husband picked it up so much more quickly also – probably because guys skate boarded and scootered as kids! It is so fun to be on the mountain together!

  7. I MISS snowboarding big time. I need to go to the mountains. The latest storm brought a bunch fo snow to
    Northern California!

    It’s funny how one turn is always harder than the other, isn’t it? But practice, practice, practice and you’ll get there… you did great for only a couple of days of snowboarding so far! 🙂

  8. I learned to ski for the first time two years ago and was able to pick it up pretty quickly, but I definitely still have the fear of falling which, like you said, causes me to fall more. That’s definitely something for me to work on as well. Theoretically I would like to try snowboarding, but to me it seems scarier than skiing, probably just because I’ve never done it before. I guess that’s a good reason to give it a try, right? 😛

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