Friday, April 17, 2015

Adventure Training

Serving my country in the 1980s as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, it was often said to me that I had two professions: one as a dentist and one as a soldier. I learned that by being in the Canadian Armed Forces, you became a part of a community that spanned our country, was close-knit, and succeeded based on trust, because one day our lives might depend on it.

Some of the perks of being a part of this community were really great in unexpected ways. One of those perks was called adventure training. Thanks to this, I learned how to ski, snowshoe, and more. But one of the most memorable training exercises that I ever embarked upon was a four-day bicycle trip in the Canadian Rockies on a circuit known as the Golden Triangle.

I have ridden bicycles since I was 5 years old. I have one younger sister (13 months younger) and we learned how to ride our bicycles at the same time.  I was more timid than her and afraid to take off the training wheels. But she just burst forth and went. I could not possibly let my younger sister show me up, so off I went, too, and I have been riding ever since. (Oh, sibling rivalries, don’t you just love them?)

I have always enjoyed riding, sometimes for two or three hours at a time, but I had never done a multi-day trip that involved 60 to 100 kilometers of mountain highways before. The thought was intimidating. But the whole dental detachment in Calgary was going and I could not let the others show me up, so I trained for this trip. (Oh, workplace rivalries, don’t you just love them?)

The trip was held in September, after the summer traffic on the highways had greatly diminished and the wintry weather had yet to settle in. (After all, we were in the mountains, where it can snow 12 months of the year.) We had glorious weather and an army truck that hauled all of our gear, so we only required daypacks. It was an amazing trip. I love road trips, but sometimes when you are driving, there is a lot you don’t get to see, because you are concentrating on the road ahead. Walking lets you stop and smell the roses, but you cannot cover great distances and variety in a short amount of time. It seems that bicycle touring was just the right speed to really see great things at a pace that allowed me to observe and absorb. It’s also a great opportunity to allow the mind to filter its thoughts, to truly think.

Since that trip, I have not been on many multi-day bicycle trips (my beautiful wife, born in East Africa, never learned how to ride a bicycle), but that one trip still stirs my soul. Long walks, long runs, and long bike rides force me to unplug, to listen to the sounds around me, to see things that are not on screens, and to think.

Many years ago, in a lecture given by Dr. Gordon Christensen, he talked about how he takes time out every year to be on his own, to think, to unplug, and to plan the coming year. Over dinner once, Dr. Christensen told me that you have to spend 10 percent of your time outside your envelope of comfort. If you spend more than that, you will get into trouble and possibly fail. If you spend less than that, you will get stale and bored. So I take time out to plan for me as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a member of my community, and as a dentist. I then write these out and keep them on the desktop of my computer, to remind me every day what those goals are and help me focus on what is truly important. This way I don’t get bogged down in the less important things that won’t really make my life better, or more memorable.

Adventures also are great ways for teams to bond. For many years, my team and I have had Team Spirit Challenges, where we take a day away from the office to do something adventurous. One of our adventures had us all board a private bus from our office and we were driven to a sheep farm not too far from Calgary. It was the season where the lambs were being born, so we were able to see them. But the real adventure that day was when we also brought in a world-renowned African drummer, who arrived with a variety of drums and taught us all how to do African-style drumming. There is something innate within us that has us respond to rhythms, and the opportunity for my team and me to create music together, to move to this music, to bond together as a unit, was an amazing adventure. We did that six years ago, and we still talk about it today.

What adventures are you planning?

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD

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