02/29/2012 10:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

An Athlete's Domain

In my opinion, cross-country running and skiing are almost polar opposites. So why is it that they both have the same effect on me?

They take me to a place that's hard to explain, a place my mind travels when I run or ski. This place is somewhere in my mind where I do not feel exhaustion, pain, strain or any sense of limitation. I like to call this an "athletes domain." This athlete's domain is a place where an athlete connects with their inner strength and exceeds what they think their limits are.

Cross-country running makes me feel calm and collected, and skiing makes me feel alive and awake. I feel that both of these scenic and beautiful sports are related not in physical ways, but mental. Whenever I run or ski, I feel energized, like I could do anything because I know that whatever I do -- if I fall, or trip, or fail to make a new personal record -- I did my best. With basketball and soccer, it's easy to miss a shot or a pass or even let the offender by, and people can and will criticize others for these mistakes.

But cross country and skiing share a special linkage. I believe that these two completely opposite sports have much to relate to each other. They are both soothing and they wake up the mind and body in ways that may "unlock" certain muscle groups or just clear the mind. Whenever I ski or run, I feel my body open up. I think that whenever an athlete enters the mindset of the athletes domain, they are more awake and alive than they have been before in their lives. It makes me feel like attempting certain activities that I would have to think twice about normally, such as squirrel-suit snowboarding (it is when one jumps out of a helicopter in a squirrel suit and a snowboard on their feet and they fly down to a mountain where they proceed to snowboard down the rest). I do not feel scared or frightened easily. My adrenaline rushes through my body and I feel that I could run or ski a course five times as long.

Part of the connecting to skiing and running is physical. But part of it comes from my roots. My mother loves skiing, she grew up skiing, and when I was very young, she strapped on those little plastic boots with some skis and sent me to my first lesson. I remember that lesson quite well, and it is a beautiful memory. The day was gray and I was a bit bored after the long drive, but that didn't stop me from rolling around in the snow like a dog would roll around in a smelly, possibly dead thing. When my mom strapped on the ski boots, I remember saying, "Mom, why am I wearing space-man boots?" She tried to explain, but I didn't understand. After getting my skis on, my mom proceeded to try to teach me how to put my skis on, which resulted in me tumbling down the tiny hill we were standing on for leverage. Once I had my skis on, we walked, or slid rather, over to my instructor. He said that he had never seen a first timer get their skis on so quickly. This excited me and I asked, "Can we go up the mountain now?" He laughed out loud. He had me take off my skis and walk over to the bunny hill, and just practice putting them on and taking them off. Five minutes later, he said I was finally ready to started skiing. Overly excited, I begin hobbling my way over to the ski lift. He laughed again and pointed to the rope to the top of the tiny bunny hill. He had me practice pizza and french fry until the lesson finished and I went to the lodge and ate some real pizzas and french fries. After three more lessons, I finally convinced my mom to let me go on a very small green circle, the easiest course. It was very easy for me, and I only became a better skier with time because I experienced a feeling that I never had before. My first time being in the mindset of the athlete's domain. Being in this mindset allowed me to be very relaxed and more focused so that I could learn faster and understand better. Running came from an early experience one Thanksgiving when I ended up on an elliptical. That feeling of running fast was intoxicating. And then I remember watching my brother run and win at track. The example he set with running and that my Mom set with skiing were the two moments I remember best.

My theory is that an athlete's domain is created when they are very young. It may be the first two or three sports that a child is shown. I may be wrong, but I am the most comfortable at skiing and running -- the two sports I was exposed to early on. They feel very natural to me.