Francis Bacon, the Renaissance statesman and philosopher best known for his promotion of the scientific method, is credited with the expression, “Knowledge is power.” But to those of us who prefer to see a world bathed in fresh new adventures, knowledge can actually be a curse.
Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we encourage our students to take an adventure first / educational always approach to discovering new experiences; to become beginners at something fresh. Attempting something new promotes a growth mindset. It reminds us to reflect on our education expertise and empathize with those we teach and lead on first-time adventures. And it keeps us from getting stale.
In this, the second installment of the benefits associated with discovering new human-powered outdoor challenges, we’d like to introduce Christine Fantini, who has toiled for years in our industry as a guide and outdoor educator. For a good chunk of her career, Christine was a sailing instructor in Massachusetts, eventually becoming director of sailing programs for the Town of Yarmouth. She helped create OWLS (Outdoors We Learn to Succeed) in Durham, N.C.’s public schools.
In addition, Christine is a certified Kripalu yoga instructor, bringing yoga to children in inner city schools, and she also taught bilingual classes within the Latino community. She has explored the wilderness by hiking, bouldering, climbing, biking, and paddling.
And now, after years of wandering around the woods, exploring off trail, “getting lost” on purpose, and once being lifted off her feet by 90 mph winds on a mountain trek, Christine is igniting her inner beginner by exploring a fresh, new pursuit. This North Carolina-based educator has taken up running as a new means of exploration.
Why running? We asked Christine to explain to us why she would abandon other human-powered outdoor pursuits in which she has had much success in order to run. Here’s what she said:
NCOAE: You admit that running is difficult. Why did you take up such a grueling endeavor?
Christine Fantini: Every single time I run, it’s hard. Sometimes I head out without a clue as to where I am going. But I wanted to be challenged and to see if I could do it. I never liked running, but then I started to see all kinds of people doing it — and not just the stereotypical runner. I started to think that maybe I could do it. So, I just started to run. I didn’t go down a Google wormhole or join a club. I just went out and ran.
NCOAE: How does it feel to be a beginner?
Christine: It feels freeing. At first, I didn’t want to be seen running in public. So, I started out in the woods and in short spurts, totally by myself. I began talking to myself in a very positive way, saying things like, “You can do it.” I told myself that short little runs were a good start.
And, as time went on, I felt less self-conscious about being seen. I was sharing something with other runners. I might run it a little different or not as good, or fast, or whatever, but we actually shared something. I didn’t have to hide to do it anymore. I found a desire to just walk out the front door rather than climb into a car. I could start exploring neighborhoods in the city.
I fell asleep at night, thinking about where I could run the following day. I literally started “running errands.” The next thing you know I was running seven miles! I discovered a new mental strength — a strength I had when I learned other activities for the first time.
NCOAE: How do you bring that “beginner feel” back into pursuits you have done for years?
Christine: Because of running, my mountain biking has exploded. I am faster, which makes the trails feel newer, more challenging. I need to stay more alert and not just ride through. And it’s because my trail experience is different. When I’m whitewater paddleboarding, my legs are stronger, and my balance recovery is quicker — which allows me to put myself in more challenging conditions and run different lines. And as far as hiking goes, I see the trail differently and I can do my mileage differently.
NCOAE: What’s next?
Christine: I am currently mapping out a Personal Adventure Race (PAR), looking at maps and piecing together trails to run that I normally would not take, and setting a mileage objective beyond what I have done in the past. No pressure. If I complete it, it will be amazing. If I don’t finish it, I will try again. You know, like a beginner would do.
NCOAE: Do you have any suggestions for others?
Christine: Find a way to become a beginner again. Be vulnerable, ignore your ego, be free of preconceptions and expectations, and just enjoy yourself.
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Editor’s note: Thanks, Christine. That’s all good advice. To our readers and followers… if you are looking for ways to ignite your inner beginner in 2021, reach out to us here at NCOAE. Our semester-long courses, instructor training courses, gap year and teen expeditions are amazing experiences for those who want to expand their horizons, grow as professionals, and ignite their inner beginner. We’ve been assisting beginners — young and old — for many years and we can help you select a course or program that can re-ignite your inner beginner!