*Please welcome Lynne Petre as a guest blogger on the Sierra Social Hub*
Ah, the end of summer. Our days get shorter and cooler and the kiddos start making their pilgrimage back to school. As summer eases into fall, I can't help but feel nostalgic for those exciting first few days of school and the years of mandatory learning.
As a non-student adult, my days of school lessons and pop quizzes have been over for a few years now but, as a lover of learning, I've found not all learning needs to be done in a classroom. And picking the topic or activity to learn about makes it so much more fun to study!
When I moved back to Colorado a few years ago, I had a basic love of the outdoors and an active lifestyle but not much else. Growing up, my family lived in Denver for a handful of years and we spent vacations in mountain cabins and hiking on nearby mountain trails — that was the extent of my knowledge. My husband has considerably more knowledge of how to play safely in the outdoors but we both knew that in order to enjoy our activities safely, we needed to get learning.
After finding a local outdoors group, we signed up as members and registered for classes. The group has proved invaluable to our safety and happiness when playing in the mountains — and in September when we'll be spending a week canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. We've learned classroom and field skills that have improved our trip planning in the back country and increased our enjoyment while out adventuring — something I didn't think was possible!
From taking classes about hiking or camping to backcountry skiing and avalanche danger to participating in a running group or clinic, learning about the activities you love or are interested in should not be something we only consider as school bells start to ring again in September. Learning should be a year-round activity and, in my experience, is best done in a group.
· Learn something new. First and foremost, learning new skills or activities is proven to sharpen memory and improve happiness. (Source) When learning something new about an activity you already love, our happiness must fly off the charts — and who couldn't use a bit more happiness in their lives?
· Hone existing skills. One of the biggest takeaways from our classes was refining the knowledge that we already had. For many of us outdoor enthusiasts, we learn by personal or second hand experience — trial and error on our own, recommendations and suggestions from friends, reading blog posts or magazine articles. My husband and I fall into that category — knowing mostly what we needed to backpack safely but through our classes, we perfected skills like building an emergency shelter and navigating with a map and compass while hiking.
· Challenge yourself. There's nothing like a safe environment with knowledgeable instructors or peers to help you push your limits. Maybe you're gunning for a certain race finish time or want to rock climb to bag big peaks — it can be intimidating to begin that endeavor solo for fear of not knowing the right way to proceed, for fear of making a mistake. To challenge myself, I signed up for winter camping classes. I learned how to build snow shelters, stay warm and have fun while camping in the snow — something I would have been too scared to try on my own! The lessons I learned in that winter camping class have transcended the winter months and have been invaluable in many other aspects of my life — non-adventure included!
· Build a network of like-minded people. Learning in a group brings together like-minded individuals with similar ambitions. In each class, climbing gym or run group, you will meet people who want to do the same things you do — and who can help you learn new things, refine existing skills and challenge yourself. Building your network of friends who support and encourage your adventures brings your learning to the next level — building off each other's knowledge together.
Whether your goal is to learn to run your first marathon, downhill ski or backpack through the wilderness, the benefits are the same. Learning about your activities not only increase your enjoyment and happiness but also keep you safe. When you know the risks you can face and learn how to overcome them, you are better prepared for adversity — which keeps you safe to learn and find adventure another day!
Have you ever taken any outdoor classes to improve your skills? Join the discussion at Twitter #STPLive Thursday 8/22/13 at 4 pm MDT.
**This guest post was provided by Lynne Petre. You can find more about Lynne's outdoor adventures — and latest lessons learned! — on her blog at www.lgsmash.com or find her on Twitter.
If you are near one of the Sierra Trading Post Stores, check out our in-store classes available in Cheyenne, Cody, Reno and Boise.
Never Stop Learning
By Lynne Petre
August 20, 2013
Join the Conversation