Lessons from the Vancouver Grouse Grind

This morning I did the Grouse Grind. If you live in Vancouver, and possibly if you’ve visited Vancouver, you know about the Grouse Grind. Maybe you’ve made the climb. I find the Grind to be somewhat of a meditation for me. Yes, it’s challenging, but step after step after step, breath after breath after breath, becomes alternately a good thinking time and meditation for me. Here’s what I learned today. Lessons on the Grind as lessons in health and in life:

1. The hardest part of many journeys is making that first step. 

I had planned to do the Grouse Grind many times this summer. It’s now nearing the end of August and finally I’ve committed to go despite not being able to find anyone to go with me. Sometimes we need to be our own motivators. If we wait for the perfect timing, the right people, the ideal combination of events to start something we’ve intended to do, too often it never happens. Want to exercise more? Eat healthier? Finally get the help to treat and manage your health issues? Take that first step.

2. Sometimes the better path is the longer one with smaller steps; sometimes it’s the shorter one with bigger steps.

Every now and then I had to chose: to one side where the steps are steeper, but more direct; or way to the other side, leaving the straight line upward for smaller steps? Sometimes I took the harder short path, sometimes the easier long one. Want to make a change in your life? Sometimes jumping both feet in, full gung ho, is the way to go. Cold turkey quit smoking. Start yoga with a 40 day challenge. Enroll in school for your new career. But sometimes dipping your toes in to test the waters is a better start. If you won’t make the big changes (yet) make some small changes. Have one less coffee. Pile more veggies on your plate and less of something else. Call a friend and go out for a bike ride. Either way, you’re on your way – onward and upward!

3. Trust yourself.

There really isn’t a lot of thinking required when doing the Grouse Grind. That’s part of the reason why I find it relaxing. But I did have to decide on each step (hard-direct or easy-roundabout). Each time it depended on how I felt. I didn’t think it over for long at all; I just kept moving. We face many small decisions daily. I like the idea of not sweating the small stuff, but trusting my intuition and knowing that I’ll still make it to where I want to go.

4. Sometimes it’s best to focus on only a few steps out.

I’ve bungy jumped, parachuted, and rappelled down the side of a building. Usually the lesson is “don’t look down”. I quickly learned, however, that when it comes to climbing the Grouse Grind, it is best not to look up. Looking up always meant a view of a challenging incline. If I was looking for a reprieve, I wouldn’t find it. When setting goals, know where you ultimately want to find yourself, but focus on just next few steps so you don’t get overwhelmed. Want to run your first marathon? First, work on healing your injuries. Start with your current fitness state and build slowly. Find out what foods would best support you. Setting many small goals means many mini celebrations, and that is way more motivating than several frustrations that you’re not there yet!

5. Keep moving!

I remember doing the Grind with a good friend of mine. We stopped a lot. A LOT! After that I didn’t do the Grind for several years. I hated it. In my mind, it was painfully boring and I was completely demotivated to try again. Luckily I later went with another friend and because we kept a fairly continuous pace with short breaks, I’ve since learned I like doing the Grind. When setting out to accomplish a goal, I’ve found it best not to let that goal sit idle too long. Other things are likely to get in the way of continuing to pursue the path if you leave it too long. I know many people who’ve set health goals to start next month or in a couple of months. How often have a seen those goals forgotten, abandoned? Too often. See #2 here and take small steps, but keep it moving, if the big steps are too daunting.

6. Pause for reflection. 

Yes, keep yourself motivated for movement. But also pause occasionally to celebrate your victories along the way. I find the first half of the Grind much harder than the second half. When I reach the halfway point mark, I like to take a short moment to celebrate, “Look how far I’ve come!” Celebrate your successes!

7. Create your own journey.

I’m always surprised at the variety of people doing the Grouse Grind. Some have clearly done this many times before. They run up with babies strapped on their backs. Some appear to have arrived with no idea of what they are getting themselves into. We each choose our own pace. We move aside when someone faster approaches. We pick up the pace to pass those who are slower. I’m competitive, but I know that I would injure myself if I tried to keep up with the experienced climbers. You are on a different journey, though the path may be the same. Your friend and you may decide you will both lose weight. Your friend may drop 5 pounds that first week, while you fluctuate up and down a couple of pounds. What gives? You’re doing the same thing! Recognize you are different from each other. Find what works for you. You are on a different journey, though your path may be the same.

8. Learn from your experience

From past experience with the Grind I learned that I do best with a slow steady pace. Completed the Grind in 57 minutes this time. I had no idea how long it would take me as I had never timed myself before, but I set my goal to beat the “average” time listed on the Grouse Grind website of 1 1/2 hours. This time I learned to check my iPod battery before setting out. Though the coincidence of the song that was my last one will be written in a separate post soon enough. In health and in life, what have you learned that you can take into your next experience?

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About Dr. Melissa Carr

Dr. Melissa Carr, B.Sc., Dr.TCM has the highest standing with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Association of British Columbia as a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She began her career in health with a Bachelors degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Guelph in Ontario. After two years in Japan, one of which was spent doing research at Ehime Medical University, she returned to Canada to complete the 4-year training for Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As part of the program, she interned at two hospitals in China. During her schooling in Vancouver she worked as a nutritional consultant where she advised people on the use of western herbs and supplements. She also taught nutrition at the West Coast College of Massage Therapy. In addition to running her own health practice in Vancouver, Dr. Carr also loves writing and offering health seminars, anything to help people help themselves be healthy. She is an Advisory Board member for Alive Magazine has lectured for the The Arthritis Society, Fraser Health Authority, and Women's Enterprise Society of B.C.

  • Brittany

    Great tips Melissa! I definitely agree with #4 – setting small goals and looking to the next few steps. I find taking baby steps along the way is also very helpful!

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