Last month I had the good fortune of being invited on a 5-day surf trip to Nicaragua. Despite my many years of claiming “this is going to be the year I learn how to surf,” I had yet to actually do it. Moreover, I hadn’t taken more than a long weekend off in over a year — despite all the happenings in my life in the last year (most of which you guys know by now) — and even then, I usually worked more than I relaxed. So this trip was a milestone on several levels.
Surfing is one of the most humbling sports I have ever tried (and I have “played” pretty much every sport under the sun). First, there’s the physical skill of surfing itself, which is incredibly challenging — from paddling out to the waves, paddling to catch a wave, popping up on an unstable board which is moving underneath you, and then actually standing and stabilizing on that board as the wave pushes you towards shore — all which tested my strength and endurance. If it were just for these elements, I actually think I’d be able to “hang ten” with the best of them already. However, in the sport of surfing there is a whole other element you have to account for which is beautiful, powerful, slightly unpredictable, pretty unforgiving, and completely out of your control — the water.
People who have truly mastered the art of surfing seem to also be one with the ocean. They seem to understand and respect its rhythm, and be patient through its ebbs and flows. They seem to dance with the waves rather than fight through them, and almost seem amused with each time they wipe out, get knocked down, or get caught in a current. I, on the other hand, felt like I spent more time fighting the waves in a sort of lopsided battle with someone completely outside of my weight class — leaving me battered, bruised, scraped, and rashed to a level that simply wasn’t pretty.
However, it wasn’t a total knockout. In fact, I’m fairly sure I held my own pretty decently for a first timer (or so my more seasoned friends told me). Perhaps this was due to being an athlete in general. Perhaps it was due to a lifetime of skiing (both on snow and in the water). Or perhaps it was due to my joy of being physically challenged and my determination to conquer something once I've started it. Whatever the case, the fact that I spent more time getting tossed around with my surfboard rather than standing on it, made me appreciate when I did actually catch a wave that much more… and if I managed to catch the wave AND stand up on my board, I mean, I pretty much felt like I was invincible. That was until I then had to paddle back out through the surf for 20 minutes to get back into position. In any case, bruises, scrapes, wipeouts, and all — I was hooked.
Perhaps the only thing more challenging than the surfing itself, however, was actually unplugging and taking a break — which, much like my first time surfing, I most certainly struggled with. I think a lot of people have a rather enchanted idea of what starting your own business is like. While there is most certainly a sense of liberation from no longer “working for the man” (if, like me, you had a more structured career before), starting a business is anything but a ticket to freedom — at least not in the early stages. While you may be free from set hours in an office, answering to a boss, or feeling like you are just another cog in a big wheel, there is rarely a moment in the day when I couldn’t be working on something (and when I am working, I feel guilty that I’m not working hard or fast enough). There is no start or stop to your days (at least not that anyone is there to tell you about), and it truly requires all of your energy, passion, and heart to sustain.
Now, I say this carefully as I don’t have children (however, my friends who have both children and their own businesses have confirmed my theory is correct), but starting a business is quite literally like having a baby. You work so hard to “give birth” upon its launch, and you think somehow things will get easier now that it’s out in the world, and is a living, breathing creature. But similar to a child, as your business grows, it also demands more and more of your time and resources. It is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, but likely similar to having a child, it is the most rewarding accomplishment I have ever achieved in my entire life.
Here at The Sweat Life, we have dedicated our platform to talking about health and wellness. Moreover, we, on a regular basis, preach the importance of mental health and living a balanced life. However, this fall, it hit me in a rather slow burning, but extreme way that I was not actually taking a dose of this medicine I was prescribing to so many. Through the hardest year of my life, I just continued to push and run myself into the ground to a point that left me exhausted, injured, and neither mentally or physically my best self. As the early stage of any company is an unimaginable amount of work — not to mention I have always been a SLIGHT workaholic — somehow I thought my own advice didn’t really apply to me. However, I think my need to push so very hard, particularly in this last year, might have been driven in equal parts by my passion for what I am doing, and a need to put my head down and forge forward through some of the toughest months of my life.
While finding your purpose and challenging yourself are key elements to growing and reaching your true potential as a person, I have now learned the hard way that taking regular breaks — mentally, physically, and emotionally — are just as, if not more, key to being the best version of yourself. Business owner or not, parent or not, we live in a world where everything seems to be moving faster than ever, and we are constantly expected to stay on and connected (as we now can through all of our smart devices), and it has become increasingly difficult to take these breaks for ourselves and just unplug from the world. However, as our Sweat Life Editorial Director, Jamie, said to me a few days ago when talking about my time away in Nicaragua, “You came back better.” I don’t think she meant to insinuate that one 5-day trip healed me from all I was coping with in my life, but she was right — just that small breather from the pace of my life made me better: better emotionally, physically, mentally, professionally, and better for those around me.
Thus, I have made a promise to myself, to this company, and now I am roping you guys into it as well. I, along with The Sweat Life, will be signing off and unplugging from December 26th (the day after Christmas, as we can’t NOT wish you Merry Christmas!) through January 3rd - returning on Monday, January 4th - and we are calling it “#TheBigDark”. So this fitting two weeks of content themed “Gone Surfing” was purposely built as our holiday sign off into our dark. While we will miss interacting with you every day, we know we will be that much more excited to reconnect in the new year. We also will not be shutting down the site, we just won’t be adding any new content during that week or posting on social media. So if you still need some holiday reading, feel free to go back and check our some of your old favorite articles and episodes, or some you might not have had the chance to see yet. However, I say this with all of my heart, I truly hope you join us in #TheBigDark. I promise, you will thank us and, more importantly, thank yourselves.
However, WE ARE NOT UNPLUGGING YET! Not only do we have an amazing and inspiring holiday content lineup, led by the amazing Surfset Fitness, but we are doing “12 Days of Sweatmas” over Instagram, with some can’t-miss giveaways. Content wise, this week on the site will be a mix of surf stories, and stories celebrating the spirit of unplugging for the holidays: Surfset Fitness NYC owners Diana Garrett and Aaron Thouvenin talk about their indoor surf workout; Dr. Jeffrey Morrison explains why the Vitamin D we get from the sun is so important for our health; Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams explains how she let her positive inner voice win out; and The Sweat Life Food writers share their favorite healthy holiday recipes to warm up your kitchen.
Again, I truly encourage each and every one of you to join #TheBigDark, unplug and take time for yourself this holiday. In the meantime, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season and the sweatiest of New Years!
See you all in 2016!!!
Founder, CEO, and Host
The Sweat Life