Ever look over at your super cute sidekick and think to yourself, “There is SOOO much untapped badassery inside this beautiful female. How can I help her to realize this potential?” Unless your girlfriend grew up with four brothers…..on a farm….practicing mixed martial arts, hockey and ski racing from a young age…..these same thoughts might cross your mind from time to time.
Let me rewind 12 months. Lisa and I have all the important things in common. We practice minimalism, are health conscious, love to travel the outdoors and have insatiable appetites for adventure. Like any active couple we hike, bike, climb and ski together. It’s all good in the hood, but gradually I began to recognize a subtle difference in the ways she and I approach these objectives we both enjoy so much. I suggest a 9 mile hike with and an epic summit. She counters with a 5 mile hike insisting “I’ve always wanted to see that waterfall.” I belay her halfway up a strenuous rock climb and reluctantly lower her after she tires out, knowing she could have finished the route with a short rest and some more confidence. We ski the greens all day without falling. “I’ll try a blue next time”, Lisa says. “What’s wrong with falling?”, I think to myself as we head to the lodge for some drinks.
So why was Lisa constantly marginalizing her abilities? Where is the badass babe lying within? Truth is, Lisa is not alone in her hesitation. Most girls were not raised with four brothers and the world of outdoor adventure is an intimidating arena no matter who you are. With vanlife on the horizon, we were soon bound to transition from weekend warriors to full time………badasses? I had a deadline! Here is how I did it.
Step 1: Moderation
Dudes, this is the MOST IMPORTANT step. And, this step is for YOU. At this stage in the game it is important to remember that although you know your girlfriend and Lara Croft have a lot in common, she doesn’t know it yet. If you push her too hard, too fast, you are BOTH going to have a bad time. So keep it fun and keep it light. The key here is incremental progress. After all, we have 12 months. Regardless of the activity, make a realistic assessment of her comfort level. Don’t get confused between comfort and ability. As you push her GENTLY beyond her COMFORT level, she will begin to surprise herself. As she surprises herself, she will push herself, and in turn, she will surprise you too 🙂 Remember this throughout all subsequent steps!
Step 2: Get Her Up Early
Bed is warm and comfortable. It also breeds complacency and excuses. I know because it’s true for me too. Get up! Your coffee will taste better. The gym will be empty. Trailhead parking is plentiful. You can always take a nap later. 10 times out of 10, Lisa is NOT happy to be deprived of her beauty sleep. Fast forward to the summit of our hike where 9 times out of 10, Lisa’s beams, then she kisses me and exclaims, “Can you believe we have this beautiful view all to ourselves?!?!” All this coming from Miss Cranky Pants only 3 hours ago? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Push her (and yourself) to carpe the f^*cking diem and you will reap the rewards.
Step 3: Lift Weights
Lisa and I started getting up at 5:30am every weekday morning and going to the gym. Our workout always includes some resistance training. The beauty of lifting consistently is two fold. One, dedication and commitment to the routine yields measurable progress. This concept, when applied to other activities, squashes her notions of self imposed limits in ability. Work at it and you will improve. Two, her strength training will make the activities she loves less strenuous, thus increasing the fun level and allowing you to gradually push the limits of her comfort. What’s in it for you? The look on her face when you take your shirt off.
Step 4: It’s All Relative
Remember when you were always getting your ass kicked by your older brothers and that feeling of constantly holding them back? Me neither. I was the oldest and therefore dished the beatings. Your girlfriend, however, deserves a little more compassion. Nothing is more deflating to the ego than to always feel like you’re barely keeping up. From her perspective, the world of outdoor recreation can be filled with testosterone fueled, Red Bull drinking, back flipping, avalanche escaping daredevils with a death wish. “That will never be me”, she thinks. Step 4 requires you to demonstrate the difference between Alex Honnold and your average enthusiast. How? Recreate with average enthusiasts! Lisa and I hike and climb casually with our everyday friends too. It’s fun to introduce others to your favorite crag or hidden lake. Activities will be more fun for her if you keep things in perspective. Chances are, she might even get an opportunity to show off a bit too! “Lisa is such a badass!”, they say. It’s allllllll relative, my friend 😉
Step 5: Farts Are Funny
That’s all there is to it. If she doesn’t think farts are funny, there’s no hope. Resume step 1 with a new girlfriend that has an adequate sense of humor. I frequently cut the tension by cutting the cheese. Grueling sufferfests are less miserable if you can have some laughs together along the way. Oh yeah, Lisa farts too and it’s f@#cking hilarious.
Step 6: Give Her Penis Envy
Whip it out behind a tree. Urinate off the edge of a cliff. Write your name in the snow. No squatting, no tissue, no problem! Demonstrate these astonishing anatomical attributes often enough and she will be a little jealous. Who wouldn’t be?! A little help from our friend Kristina and sure enough, Lisa pees standing up. Although it’s a little weird to see Lisa with her back to me aiming her prosthetic penis, I think this makes her tough and I’m proud of her! (In other news, I now pee sitting down into our van’s chemical toilet because I know my aim does not exceed the diameter of the hole. Ohhhh how the tables have turned.)
Step 7: Hike With Bears
Ok, so you have already increased hike mileage and elevation. Then you encouraged some training weight and introduced her to some one or two night backpacking trips. She is even getting cocky because she (feeling like a million bucks) had an easier time than you (extremely hungover) up the 4000ft of elevation the day before. Time to put her in her place. Lisa and I have done quite a few backpacking trips in areas requiring bear canisters. In many places, this does NOT mean it is likely you will encounter a bear. The land managers simply want to keep it that way. Bears will go to areas where they can smell and obtain food, so canisters simply ensure bears continue to naturally forage for their own food….. in their own areas. In other areas, it is VERY likely you will encounter bears and so all the more reason for canisters, bells, mace and assault rifles. Kidding. But on our last backpacking trip in the North Cascades up to the Sahale Glacier, we did see a black bear on our way back down to the van. I quickly started whistling the first thing that came to mind (Yankee Doodle or some shit) and we watched in awe as the bear’s big black butt scampered off the trail and into the woods. I’m not sure what Lisa’s spirit animal is, but it’s most certainly very cute and resembles bear food. Despite all this, Lisa emerged from this encounter a little braver and a little more confident as an outdoorswoman.
Step 8: Eating Shit is OK
Show her it’s normal to try, fall and try again. I routinely make countless bodily sacrifices to demonstrate this point. As Lisa learned to ski, I switched from the comfort of my board and attempted on two sticks right beside her. If not inspiring, at least it proved comical. At the climbing gym, I try hard routes, and I take whippers on the rope until I send it. When we hike, I carry more weight than I need to so she knows the struggle is real for both of us. Practice what you preach, my friend, because women can smell your fear. Lisa doesn’t always follow suit when I bite it hard, but I like to think she digs a little deeper after witnessing my own trials and failures.
Step 9: Bathe Her in Glacial Runoff
If your up and coming badass babe is anything like Lisa, she is always cold and you are always warm. You question whether you are in a healthy relationship or if she is just using you to reduce the monthly heating bill. If warm water can’t be found, she makes due with baby wipes until a hot shower presents itself. Whelp, by step 9, if you have been doing your job, there will come a time when she is dirty, really dirty. She can’t stand the feeling of her greasy hair any longer and the two of you are miles from indoor plumbing. She is presented with two options: A) go Mad Max Fury Road and shave it all off, or B) bathe in a refreshing stream composed of glacial runoff and snowmelt. Fortunately, Lisa chose option B, and although she was a tremendous baby about it and claimed “It’s so cold it hurts!”, she still did it and is thus tougher for it.
Step 10: Introduce Her to Power Tools
This van isn’t going to build itself and Tim the Tool Man Taylor would not have been successful without his lovely assistant, played by Pamela Anderson. And so we have the final all important final step and right of passage required in our 12 month program. Nothing says “tough” like a woman forging weapons from molten steel……. or building a little bookshelf from raw timber…… ok she didn’t fell the tree, we just went to the lumber yard, but doesn’t she look like the cutest, most competent carpenter you ever did see?
I’m proud of Lisa. Not because she kicks my ass some days, not because she climbs 5.10b or even because her prosthetic penis is bigger than mine. I’m proud of her because with a little help, she pushes herself to go farther, climb higher and be braver than she has before. She sets goals and tries new things. Sometimes she does it to appease me, but mostly she does it for herself. Girls, if you’re still reading, THAT is sexy. And guys, if you’ve learned anything, take it slow and keep her laughing. Within 12 months she will show you just how tough she is.
The man with the plan. Rock climber, hiker, map-lover, main driver. Official planner of our time with Vaniel. Favorite Podcast: The Sharp End.