Coaches Blog

  • Mark Sortino

Are Routines Bad For Us?

I’ve always felt like the word “routine” implied that one was “boring,” “predictable,” or even “old”. I think the word just isn’t wasn’t one of my favorites. But this winter learning a new sport has taught me that “routine” can actually be replaced with “habits” - and GOOD habits at that!


I’ve waited almost 4 years to make my entry into back-country (BC) Skiing. For those who may not know, BC Skiing is downhill skiing, but instead of getting there via a lift chair or helicopter ride, you “walk” on your skis to the top of hills and mountains. The skis and bindings are lighter than your normal resort skis and the ski boot is much lighter but just as stiff. The difference is that you can “unclip” the heel of your boot from the ski, allowing you to “walk."


And since you want to walk uphill on snow, you put “skins” on the bottom of your skis when doing this. These are "synthetic mole skins” that “grip” the snow when standing on them and pushing backward, but “slide” on the snow when bringing them forward.


Additionally, you need a backpack (preferably designed for BC Skiing), a snow shovel, probe and avalanche beacon among many other items to safely enjoy this sport.


Although you can BC Ski on many resorts before the mountain opens and after it closes, normally this sport takes place from a trailhead deep into wilderness without any cell coverage and with lots of terrain that can be potentially dangerous.


I did take an avalanche training class through AIARE for three days in the mountains where we practiced rescuing fellow skiers from avalanches, dug “snow pits” to better understand the science of snow and potential risk of avalanches and learned to to plan, coordinate, check and safely execute a Backcountry Trip. It was fantastic.


OK, so this brings me to “routines”. BC Skiing is a sport with a lot of equipment, a lot of planning and coordinating and with inherent risk that you’re constantly trying to mitigate. And this occurs every time you go. So we create processes, or “habits”, that ensure we prepare, pack, bing, affix, turn on and coordinate/communicate each and every time we go out.


These habits become essential to our safety and to the safety of those who are also with us out in the wilderness. If I forget my probe, forget to check the charge on my radio, or forget to fill my hydration bladder, I can potentially be a liability and endanger both myself and the crew I’m with. Through professional training, we learn these habits and methodically repeat them every time. Sometimes we have checklists, but for the most part, we create, develop and commit to good habit patterns.


As you can understand, in Backcountry Skiing, good habit patterns really mitigate risk and can prevent everything from inconvenience to tragedy. These “routines” are often mental checklists that we rely on.


When I was flying for the Navy, EVERYTHING was habit, pattern, and checklists. Everything. Obviously, this was because if we made a mistake, people could die. I think there are many professions where this is applicable: medical, police, fireman, electrician, etc.


I can easily think how “routines” or “good habit patterns” become essential for sport as well. Can you think of good habit patterns as they apply to nutrition, hydration, packing, warm up, cool down, mental visualization and recovery? For multisport athletes, think about the habit patters you have that involve just packing for each event.


So, I am now thinking of the word “routine” in a different way. Routine to me = habits. And like all routines and habits, there are good one and others. Think about the routines you have in place and how you can improve them to create a number of things: efficiency of your time, safety, better health and better performance to name a few?

Routine = Habit , and that’s a GOOD THING. :)

Mark Sortino is a Boise, ID based Coach wi is a USA Triathlon Level III and Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, FIST Certified Bike Fitter, USAT Certified Race Director and Paralympic Coach for Team USA. From brand new Triathletes and MTB-ers to World Championship qualifiers, Mark enjoys working for and with all types of athletes as they pursue their dreams. Mark is also a US Veteran having served 20 years in the US Navy as a Naval Flight Officer and is a graduate of the US Naval Academy. He can be reached at mark@teamMPI.com.

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