Dear Drewbie: Enter a ‘Youathlon’ for mental health with events you love and just one winner — you!
July 24, 2017
The perfect day — the day that makes all your troubles seem to fade away, even if just momentarily.
As a counselor, people always ask me for advice on how to be happier, feel better and be the person they want to be. I have a temporary prescription and it is so simple: A Youathlon, a day of all your favorite positive activities.
In May, I needed a day of just fun. Giving this event a cool name made it feel awesomer, and so The Drewathlon was born. The goal: One day with as many of my favorite activities I could cram in, like being a kid in the candy shop of Summit County. A day to jumpstart that part of me that I really like, all things positive, fun, active — my favorite version of Drew.
Having just got our typical 5 feet of May snow, my options were wide open. The day was perfect: blue sky, sunshine and warm weather, with fresh powder. The agenda was a game time decision. With some ideas in mind, I didn't want to ruin the day with frivolous nonsense like planning.
The Peak One Disc Golf Course in Frisco with my dogs, Lucy and Linus, would be the first "event." An open tee box, not a movement of wind and the course to myself. Hole One was a drop-in birdie.
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"Today is gonna be dope," I thought to myself. The course was in great shape and I played it at eight-under-par with two near-aces. I am grateful for the TOF for giving us such a great disc golf course to play on, and for free.
Next up on the Drewathlon: skiing. The Basin it was. A hug and brief chat with head of ski patrol Tony C., 10 to 12 runs, a few hikes on the East Wall (where the wind from Frisco must have congregated), prayer flags, a dude skiing Notch Two on snowblades — just radical!
Oh, and was that world record holder Jay DeBaggis? I should try to get an autograph and listen to the Jayathalon, which starts with skiing and biking, and then ends with some wife smoochin' (smart man). Some aggressive moguls to finish out event two. Great success.
Event three was mountain biking: the activity I am unequivocally the worst at. A freshly dry Horseshoe Gulch was the scene. A couple laps around Blair Witch, just lovely. Oooooh and then Hippo Trail — that sounds fun! — followed by a wrong turn on the Colorado Trail for ooooooh a downhill. Map says turn around. Crap. Now uphill. Extremely tired legs and a super-gnar ride!
My body was wiped out. All the beef jerky and energy bars I ate were burned up. Time to go home. A bit of yoga to work out the lactic acid and jerky, followed by a little painting and art time. Finally, delicious bass fish tacos with my wife, Molly, and our soul sister, Malia B. Then hot tub session, a smooch from Molly (good call, Jay) and the first Drewathlon was in the books. And the winner? Me!
I played like a school kid on the first day of summer break, going as hard as I could, embracing activity-ADD and making it all about one thing — fun. My favorite athletic activities, making art, amazing food, interacting with incredible people I love in a community where I belong. A successful Drewathlon! The day cost very little. I have a ski pass, and both disc golf and trails access were free. There is no reason this can't happen more. I felt awesome, exhausted and sore, but alive, proud and fulfilled. The smiling, singing, laughing, exercise and fun reinvigorated my spirit.
While there are limits to your Youathlon — money, time, location, seasons and weather, experience, safety, etc. — your Youathlon should be about doing your favorite things, just a plethora of them. A day about you, for you and by you to improve your current emotional state. As one of my students, Tommy, told me: "Self-care is not selfish" (sounds like a future article to me).
What, where, when, how and who are involved? It is a fun question to think about if money were not an issue. That would make for a great chairlift conversation. However, with your current restrictions of money, location, season and ability, what is your Youathlon? The end goal is the same: A day all about you and fun, an easy "prescription" for all levels of stress, anxiety, depression and worry, or just a way to feel better and increase joy.
Youathlon training plan
Here are some tips for forming your Youathlon:
Don't limit it to just one type of activity: Mix in some physical activity, socializing, art and rest. If it is fun to you, do it!
Set some goals for yourself: I had three goals for the Drewathlon: gratitude, slowing down and fun. Make goals about the experience that are fun and qualitative. Joe Howdyshell and a small crew completed a Joeathlon on July 4: Bike up to Fourth of July Bowl, ski down, enter the Independence Day 10K run and then finish a lap in the Firecracker 50. Super bada**! He wanted to finish safely, have fun, crush it and end with enough left in the tank for celebratory beers with his buddies. Joeathlon.
Remember the planning fallacy: You will spend more time traveling between events, changing gear and preparing for an event than you think. Everything will take longer. Don't be scared to cut events. Get up early and prioritize.
Don't rush: Slow down, stop and smell the wildflowers, powder, petrichor, pine, campfire, river or whatever. Enjoy, be present and practice mindfulness.
Be safe: Comfortably and safely push your limits. Know the risks, conditions and best practices for all activities. Just because you want to be an ice climber does not mean you are an ice climber.
When planning, think about what is best for you: Choose the activities that make you feel awesome — healthy, positive, self-affirming activities for your favorite version of you. Light, legal substance use can be positive for us 21 years and older, just remember to be responsible, safe and healthy with your use. Don't make it the focus of the Youathlon.
Bringing friends along is great, but not necessary: I did the majority by myself (with my dogs, of course), but I also had dinner with Mols and Malia, saw Jay and Tony C., and made friends en route. If friends do come, make sure they can hang with you and positively support the Youathlon (then support theirs). No Debbie Downers allowed!
Playlists: I recommended about an 80 percent Phish playlist, but it's your call. Plan music wisely — every Youathlon needs a rockin' soundtrack.
Hydrate to dominate: Or, as a hippie-show attendee told me, "Hydrate to celebrate!" Either way, drink water — lots of water.
Plan food wisely: Maybe meals are a part of your Youathlon in the form of lunch with a friend, happy hour or a nice meal. Have food for your activities, such as bars, gels, jerky, nuts and good fuel. Unplanned food stops can really slow you down, but a perfectly placed and timed Bloody Mary is an event in and of itself.
Be grateful: Think about what you are doing, about the fact that you are physically able to Youathlon, about the beauty of the world, and the motivation you have to get out and do it.
Hearing about my friends' Youathlons has been so fun. I love the creativity, with pretty much any sport, art, hobby, recreational activity and things like gardening, reading, writing, crafts, phone calls to old friends, meditating, camping, 14ers, time with dogs — whatever it is that makes you happy and feel better, people are doing it. Do your Youathlon, Summit County!
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