In 2017, Samsung and Under Armour teamed up to help athletes better understand the importance of tracking their activity, nutrition and sleep. This partnership culminated in Under Armour health and fitness apps being integrated with the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, allowing users to log exercise, meals and sleep directly on the wearable. As part of the partnership, we invited 12 athletes to Portland, Oregon, to challenge their physical and mental capacity and encourage them push past their comfort zones. One of these athletes was Erica Schuckies, a runner, gym rat and writer based in Austin, Texas.
Hi, my name is Erica, and I am a control freak.
Some might call me Type A; others might call it obsessive. I just call it being me.
I plan like you wouldn’t believe — and I stick to that plan as if my life depended on it. I know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing nearly every minute of every day. I overpack. I overplan. I over-everything. Let’s just say I don’t do well with spur-of-the-moment activities.
So when I was invited to attend the Samsung and Under Armour Firsts Never Stop event in Portland, Oregon — and told very little about the details — I was
a little extremely anxious.
But for the UA and Samsung hosts of the event, this sentiment was to be expected and, to be honest, probably what they had hoped for. All 12 invitees were told we would travel to Portland to take on a number of activities for the first time, including athletic and personal challenges, for three days in early November.
And that’s about the extent of details shared.
Our travel was booked for us (air and ground), and we were even given an Under Armour outfit to wear on the plane to Portland. I quickly realized I was going to have to get over my need for control — and fast.
The main reason I over-prepare is to be ready for anything and avoid uncomfortable situations, both physically and mentally. This trip would test my patience, trust and anxiety.
Luckily for me, the trip wasn’t the nightmare I had expected in my head, wearing the wrong kind of shoes or not having enough clean underwear. In fact, my three days in Portland were the exact opposite. The Firsts Never Stop event was probably just what I needed just before going into the craziest, most stressful time of year (the holidays), allowing me a chance to slow down and step away from my own anxious self.
Over three days of activities that included paddling a dragon boat 14 miles down the Willamette River, running 5 miles through downtown Portland, biking 12 miles through the fall colors in Forest Park and eating an exotic, gourmet meal (including venison tartare and sea urchin), I believe I came out a better person. I learned about my body’s capabilities, plus how to improve my weaknesses. I challenged my mental and physical limitations. I tried fancy, exotic foods I would have never had the chance to eat (because, let’s be honest: I’m definitely not fancy). And, most important, I met 11 amazing people from around the country I can now call friends.
I also learned a few life lessons about letting go that I will carry with me well into the future.
LETTING GO IS A LOT EASIER
My life is stressful, especially the way I live it. I am completely aware that my structured schedule and desire for everything to be pre-planned and perfect is intense. Too intense for most people, actually.
The fact that I didn’t know what I would face during my three days in Portland (much less what to pack) was far from ideal, as far as I was concerned. What I didn’t know was how easy life is when you’re not constantly stressed about or planning for the next event, day or what-if.
I didn’t have to think about the details of each day or where I had to be at what time, and it was glorious. I can’t remember feeling so carefree — maybe when I was child?
I often tell myself I love controlling everything. I prefer to be too prepared over completely unprepared. But when I remember how much I loved the feeling of being free from responsibility and not tied to a schedule, I immediately want to feel it again. Whether this means doing more things that weren’t planned or taking a step back from the same schedule every single day, I’ve learned that letting go can be a lot easier — and a lot more fun.
LETTING GO DOES NOT MEAN NOT CARING
I used to think people who just floated through life doing whatever they wanted on a whim were wholly unmotivated. In my opinion, starting each day without a thought-out plan was sloppy and setting yourself up to fail.
What I learned coming out of this event was that these people aren’t apathetic to their own life goals — they just went about them differently and probably had a different timeline for meeting those goals.
I had the same view of my own goals. If I commit to going to the gym every day before work, I also have to commit to getting to bed on time the night before. Straying from that commitment meant I was straying from my goal. But sometimes, life happens and you’re up past your bedtime or move your workout. But that doesn’t mean you’re lazy or have lost your commitment to your goals. It means you’re human and are able to roll with the punches.
I’m still working on that last part, by the way.
LETTING GO TAUGHT ME TO BE MORE IN THE MOMENT
During our three days in Portland, we were completely blind to what the next hour held, much less the activities of the next day.
Because I didn’t have to worry about whether or not everything was in place for the next hour/day/week, my brain was free to focus on the current moment and how much I was enjoying myself.
And enjoy myself I did.
Had I been watching the clock for bedtime or preparing my clothing and gear for the next day, I wouldn’t have heard the amazing stories of my fellow attendees as we sat around a campfire in the middle of a lush Portland forest.
Had I been worried about checking in for my flight, I would never have appreciated the most amazing fall colors on the 12-mile bike ride through Forest Park in northwest Portland. ( Living in Texas, I only see fall colors in the social media pictures of friends and family who live in states that actually experience autumn.)
Had I been checking email or social media during dinner, I would have never gotten to partake in wonderful conversation with a new friend (a runner — like me! — and yoga teacher — very unlike me) from across the country, which encouraged me to attend my first yoga class in a very long time. Spoiler alert: I will be returning to yoga class.
I hear so often the power of being present in our daily lives, and it seems like a simple thing. When you’re constantly looking at the future, however, each day passes as if it were only a dress rehearsal for the real thing. But in that approach, the “real thing” never actually gets here, and you’re left wondering where life went.
While a little planning and preparation certainly isn’t a bad thing, I fully intend to dedicate more of my time and energy to appreciating the current day with the people surrounding me and the events that take place.
LETTING GO TAUGHT ME TO TRUST
When I say I learned trust, I’m not talking about what it means to trust someone or something. I learned how to trust. I learned how to trust people. I learned how to trust the situation. But most important, I learned how to trust myself.
Leading up to the event, I had expressed my anxiety to a few people around me. They all said the same thing, “You’ll be fine. You know you can do this.” One co-worker’s feedback was (verbatim), “Don’t you run, like, a ton? If any one of us can do this, it’s you.”
She was right, I do run. Not, like, a ton. But I run enough. And it was enough to totally prepare me for this challenge. My endurance was there. My strength was there (physically and mentally). What I was lacking was the ability to trust myself and my ability to deal with the situation at hand.
The hosts would not have put me (or any of the 11 other athletes) in a dangerous, life-threatening situation, and I lost sight of that when I was worrying about my own comfort. In fact, the attendees were chosen specifically because of their athletic background and ability to cope with challenges, so I should have fully trusted the process and the professionals taking all precautions to ensure safety and success.
Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.
LETTING GO TAUGHT ME TO BE LESS SELFISH
A plan is created to make the best of every situation. It’s also very likely that plan also greatly benefits the party or parties who created it.
My plans certainly fit that description. As previously stated, I prepare to avoid uncomfortable or downright terrible situations. My plans are to ensure my life will be as easy as possible. The fact I couldn’t plan for my trip to Portland was not making my life easy.
As I pried my co-workers for as much information as possible, I could tell I was rubbing a few people a little raw with so many ridiculous questions that couldn’t be answered. Then I had a moment a few days before the event when I realized, “This event is not about me.”
As hard as it was for me to grasp, the hosts of the event had 11 other people and about a million event details to worry about — and I was quickly becoming a thorn in their side. I wondered if the other athletes were asking as many questions, trying to gather details to make their trips more comfortable … or was it just me?
I shamefully pushed my own worried thoughts to the back of my head and focused on doing what I could to be embrace whatever was coming my way.
The thing about making a plan is you can create the steps, but not the outcome. Life is unpredictable and even the best laid plans can go awry, leaving you wearing the wrong shoes and without clean underwear. It’s at that time you start again and set a new plans to conquer your goals, no matter how many new plans it takes.
Luckily, this time, I had plenty of clean underwear.
Written by Erica Schuckies, a runner, gym rat and outdoor buff based in Austin, Texas. She is a lifelong athlete, having participated in a number of sports from her youth years well into her adult life. You can follow Erica on Twitter or Instagram.