The Importance of Expanding Your Body Awareness


Have you ever watched an athlete look at a target and then, during a window of opportunity that could last only a fraction of a second, execute a rapid series of movements to score a goal, climb through a crux or surf a giant wave? Such amazing athletic performances happen because those athletes have trained to develop their body awareness, which is one of the most powerful talents an athlete can possess.

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Fifteen years ago, I left the corporate world to become a stay-at-home mom. My friends who had made the same choice seemed content with the daily activities of raising a family, but I craved more. I felt like I’d lost a piece of myself somewhere, somehow. 

So I reinvented myself as a personal trainer with a focus on cross-training outdoors and fell in love with paddling and surfing during an adventure trip. My newfound passion became a big part of my business and I became a certified paddleboard instructor and guide. 

I was gung-ho. My children, less so. When they were young, there were plenty of times when Chase, now 16, Sky, 12 and Gray, nine, watched from the sidelines as I came and went, unhappy that I was off to get on the water again. I felt guilty as I made my way out the door, but it wasn’t just my kids’ disappointment that left me feeling that way. The “it-must-be-nice” comments from friends and other moms stung sometimes, but the mental clearing and physical high I got from paddling or surfing was intoxicating. It was exactly what I needed to revive my sense of self.

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Now 48, I’m still trying to answer the question of how to make it all work, being a mother and a businesswomen, all while pursuing my passion on the water. Over the years, I’ve drawn strength and advice from the amazing mothers I’ve met in the paddling community. I’ve assembled a few of their stories here with the hope that they’ll do the same for you. 

The Characters

Elite Canadian SUP racer Lina Augaitis, mom to four-month-old daughter Aiste and two year old son Tav, is in the throes of all things parental, including diaper changing and potty training. Coming from an adventure racing and kayaking background, pursuing a livelihood as a professional paddleboard racer was a natural progression, but becoming successful required to give up her full-time high school teaching career for the unknown. And that was before she had kids. 

Brazilian Andrea Moller, mother to Kaela, 14, pursues life at a speed not comprehended by most moms on the laid-back island of Maui, where their family lives. Her passion for downwind racing is balanced with a high-stress career as a paramedic. Her dedication to racing means a big commitment to training, while learning to balance life, work, motherhood and her passion in new ways.


Single mom and ER nurse Bronwyn Comer, mom to Marek, 13, and Esme, 10, began her paddling career after borrowing her mother’s sea kayak. She transitioned to whitewater SUP a few years later, and paddling became a way for Bronwyn to cope with depression brought on by an abusive relationship. Running rapids down the James River in Virginia on the weekends after a twelve-hour shift in the hospital was certainly not your typical mom’s hobby, but it was a welcome sanctuary that helped restore Bronwyn’s happiness.



The Sacrifice

“You have to marry a great guy to make it work,” Lina says. She often borrows time from her husband so she can train. Lina overcame the inevitable physical sacrifice of recovering after a pregnancy, while planning a comeback to racing. “Nothing prepares you for your post-pregnancy body, accepting what that looks like, and rebuilding what it can do. You have to redefine your beauty and strength in your head.”

Andrea, who is trying to be present during her daughter’s teenage years, recognizes that, “the sacrifice goes both ways.” Finding time to connect with Kaela often means missed training opportunities. “Not being consistent with training makes it hard to compete with the big dogs.” And mom duties and household responsibilities add layers of complexity to her already demanding paramedic work schedule. “Something has to give to make paddling happen,” she says. 

It’s all about time, and sleep deprivation is Bronwyn’s personal sacrifice in the pursuit of her passion. “I want to experience whitewater so badly, I’m willing to deny my body sleep to make it happen.” She reserves her weekdays solely for her kids, so weekends are over-filled with three 12-hour ER shifts, followed by hours of paddling. 


The Reward

It’s all about balance. Finding equilibrium between the family and paddling, figuring out ways to combine fitness and quality time, that’s what keeps us moms going. “There are not that many moms out there that get to spend time on the water with their kids,” says Lina, who shares paddling time with her kids whenever she can.

“Kaela knows how to listen to her heart and pursue her dreams,” explains Andrea, who feels her daughter has learned much of this from following Andrea as she travels, trains, competes and works. 

For Bronwyn, the paddling community has provided a reward beyond any expectation. “When my kids go down to the river, everyone knows their names, jokes with them and looks out for them. They treat us like we’re family. The paddling community has helped create my extended family.”

For me, the rewards are becoming more and more visible. When my kids were young, I worried about my passion damaging them, or our family, in some way. Instead, I now see my children growing into independent, confident adventure-seekers who I believe are starting to realize that happiness is not something that is bought, sold or acquired by happenstance, but something that we each create for ourselves.



The Advice

1. Be creative and flexible.Cross-training is an all-inclusive event for Lina. Cross-country skiing, biking or running while pulling a “land chariot” filled with kids is her new normal. In warmer months, she strolls to the beach while pulling the chariot with one hand and carrying an inflatable SUP in the other.

2. Communicate.Andrea says, “Nothing is worse than blindsiding a spouse or kids with unexpected paddling, especially when they might have their own plans. Communication helps prevent frustration.” Considering everybody’s schedules, priorities or commitments may not be easy, but it can help avoid bigger problems.

3. Be ready. Because opportunities to paddle often come spontaneously, I keep a box of gear in my car at all times. When I find an unexpected gap in my schedule, I hit the water. It also helps to have a bag packed with workout or water clothes, a warm layer, and something you can pull on after a paddle to run into the grocery store without looking like a complete wild woman. 

4. Take time, give time.Invite your kids along on paddling adventures with you. Weekdays are kid’s days for Bronwyn. If she is able to make it onto the water, she makes sure they are out there too.

5. Block out the negative chatter.Not everyone will view your paddling passion in a positive light. There will always be those who make quick judgments without seeing the positive benefits. 

Last but not east, remember: there are only so many hours in a day, and grasping a few of them to paddle or train may be the goal right now, but days and years fly by. Suddenly, our children will be grown and striking out on their own paths, so make the most of every moment with them now. Find your personal balance, guide them well, give them the tools they need to learn how to paddle their own boards and enjoy the glide together!

Your Inner Spidey ...

Ascending a 100 ft crag or 40-foot indoor rock wall involves more than adrenaline rush.  Many are not aware of the excellent cross-training benefits that rock climbing has to offer.   Most think rock climbing is all about upper body strength but your lower body should be handling the primary workload. Cardio is the added surprise benefit. The average 155-pound person can burn up to 700 calories in one hour of climbing.  Muscle endurance, agility, and flexibility come into play when pulling off tricky maneuvers or hanging in position for your next move.  And hello “grip strength," something required for many sports yet rarely trained.  You can’t make it up a wall using tiny holds without a powerful grip. 

Brain benefits often take a back seat when considering a new cross-training activity.  We use our brains and willpower to push through the pain, fear, and endurance of many sports training activities.  It can be the thing that separates a successful athlete from the rest of the pack.  Rock climbers can go into the hyper-focus mode. They can block pain and push beyond artificial limits, especially while climbing difficult routes that involve intense problem-solving.  Body awareness is a mental benefit as well.  A climber has to understand how a certain position will feel and the outcome of the next movement. 

Oh yes, I’m going there…. “Deep thoughts by Casi."    There is nothing better than learning a good life lesson doing a workout that kicks your ass. Rock climbing teaches focus and how to conquer your fears and your sheer determination can be the thing that propels you to the top.


Ragged Mountain Guides

A Fitness Journey at 40: Kerin Buma

Fitness Goal: Weight loss and to become healthier and stronger.
Total Weight Loss: 53 pounds in 14 months, NOW a size 6!
Average Weight Loss Per Week: 1.2 pounds per week
The Plan: Exercise and calorie counting (Weight Watchers). Started exercising only 1x a week.  Quickly changed to 3x a week when weight loss slowed. Now I work out almost every day, and I don't hate it!


Surprises About My Journey:  So many times I thought to myself, there is NO WAY I can do this exercise and lift that much weight. I’ve learned that to reach my goals, I need to push myself, and have confidence that I can do it.

Hardest Part of About My Journey:  Besides getting started, the hardest part for me was when the scale would not budge. I was busting my butt each week for nothing to happen, but there were other changes like my clothes were fitting better, I was getting stronger and started to have muscle definition.  I merely placed to much value on the scale.

The Diet:  I have a sweet tooth, and I had to learn to eat treats in moderation. I also swapped out white starches for things like sweet potatoes and other vegetable options like cauliflower rice and zucchini pasta.

Keeping On Track:  Seeing all the positive changes have definitely helped me stay on target. Clothes are fitting better, and even though the scale isn’t moving as fast as it used to, I have noticed other changes that keep me going. Seeing my strength grow and my cardiovascular fitness increase was a significant motivator for me. When I first started exercising it was really hard for me. I would get exhausted quickly, and I always had that feeling that I wanted to just flop on the ground and stop. Now I'm over the hump, and I'm back running which is something that I haven’t been able to do in years.  I can push myself further and challenge myself more.

Kerin on the left with her friend Deanna at the Tylor Swift Concert a few weeks ago.  154 pounds

Kerin on the left with her friend Deanna at the Tylor Swift Concert a few weeks ago.  154 pounds

After The Goal:  I’ve got 12 more pounds to hit my goal, and I plan to keep going! My focus is to maintain my weight loss for good. I’d like to get back into long distance running and maybe run another marathon. We’ll see I’m sure I’ll think of something.

A Note From The Trainer:  There was no magic pill or top secret plan that got Kerin to her goal. It was all determination and hardwork. She quickly learned that diet and exercise had to go together, period.  On the first day of training, I had Kerin swinging kettlebells 25 and progressed to 35, doing plyometrics and modified HITT style workouts. We also worked on body awareness, key for injury prevention and her future sports performance.  I am happy to say, Kerin is now committed to being fit for life.


Surfing with the Boys


As I straddle my board in the warm Caribbean waters about 100 yards from the Bathsheba shoreline on the east coast of Barbados, my attention is divided between the surf rolling in and the area’s lush, green coastline dotted with brightly painted, colorful homes. Prior to taking this 8-day surfing and paddling trip with  Matt Hite, Connor Bonham, and Jimmy Blakeney, I knew I would likely fall in love with Barbados and the different types of surf opportunities it would provide. Now that I’m here, I want to rip up my plane ticket home.


I return my gaze to the waves coming in and spot an opportunity. In only a few seconds, I’m up on my board, surfing down the line with my paddle skimming the surface. Experiences like these are what bring me peace. Soon, my moments of zen are interrupted with whitewater chasing me down. Outrunning whitewater is a skill that I have yet mastered, and it seems I am about to recieve some more schooling.

Once my body stops twisting and tumbling underneath the wave’s powerful downward forces, I fight my way to the top through the froth. As the underwater chaos subsides, I make my way to the surface, but the familiar tug on my left leg is missing. The power of the last wave snapped off the leash that tethered my board to my ankle, and that board is now floating in the boiling impact zone over a precariously sharp coral reef. Swallowing my pride, I ask one of the guys in the group if he can retrieve it for me. As the only woman on the trip and someone with far less experience and surfing prowess I’m not surprised that such a scenario has presented itself. In fact, it’s a moral victory that I almost made it to the trip’s halfway point before playing the girl card.


Truth be told, when the prospect of such a trip came up, I struggled with the idea. The chance to surf and paddle the world-renowned waters of Barbados was enticing, but I didn’t want to misrepresent my skill level, and I certainly didn’t want the guys to feel like they needed to babysit me. This was a trip for serious surfers, and I had only three years of experience. Surfing is a perfect-storm kind of sport, one that requires many factors to fall into place. Tides, swells, winds, and general locations must all come together, and a surfer’s schedule must be flexible enough to take advantage of those perfect-storm moments when they come along. The guys on this trip, each of whom enjoys a surfing and/or paddling profession, practically live on the beach and can easily access the ocean’s surf almost anytime that they want or anytime the conditions are right. I, on the other hand, am a mother of three, a personal trainer, a paddleboard instructor, and someone who lives an hour and half from the coast. I can recall treks made to the ocean when wave forecasts were strong only to be skunked, and I’ve missed “sessions of a lifetime” due to parental responsibilities or training sessions with clients. And then there’s the challenge of making progress when infrequent practice sessions are strewn so far apart. Eight straight days of surfing in Barbados was an opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, I decided that I wasn’t going to miss it.

Losing my board and requesting help to retrieve it is humbling, but it’s not the first time on this trip that I’ve been reminded of the skill-level gap between me and my fellow surfers. On the very first day, I watched as the guys nonchalantly paddled out either prone or on their knees through a bubbling cauldron of white water on the Northwest coast of the island. Such a feat is no easy task for me, and it was at that moment that I realized just what I had gotten myself into.

Moments before, we had stood among tall grasses on a bluff that looked out over the sea and, listening to the monkeys scampering in the nearby Bearded Fig tree, we evaluated the surf conditions. They looked perfect mostly rights, and if you were in the right spot you could grab a few lefts. A perfectly placed rip current also helped you easily get back out. The guys suggested that I stay right to avoid getting caught on the inside.

“What about the reef?” I asked, trying to conceal my concern. I’d heard stories of bodies and faces slashed by sharp pieces of coral and the painful stings of sea urchins.

“You can always wear shoes or booties if you’re worried,” Jimmy replied.
Surf shoes aren’t sexy, but I wasn’t going to take any chances, at least not on the first day.


Though I wanted to absorb as much knowledge from the guys as possible, I knew that I needed to give them their time on the water, and so I stuck to the edge of the main break by myself and learned from my own mistakes on the 3- to 5-foot sets that rolled in toward the shore. I took more chances and surfed more aggressively as the day passed, with my fear of the reef slowly diminishing largely due to a few major wipeouts. But wiping out in warm turquoise water was a pleasure; winter spills in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic in New England don’t encourage greater risk-taking. On the hike up the cliff at the end of the session I considered ditching the shoes on the following day, until I saw Matt limp to the car a casu- alty of a sea urchin encounter. The shoes, I decided, would stay.


As it turned out, I never made it into the water on the trip’s second day. Appropriately named, North Point is the northernmost tip of Barbados, and it was there that we found head-high, choppy swell that back washed off a dark coral cliff and pounded the shore below, with giant mushroom-shaped rocks scattered throughout the turquoise waters. The cliff created a tomb around the surf spot, and at its edge perched the abandoned and crumbling ruins of a surf hotel from the 1960s. Somehow, Barbados has a way of trans- forming the derelict into the beautiful. Yet something at this location was telling me not to go out. The guys went anyway. They caught a few waves, but struggled on many. In the end, they got to say that they surfed North Point, and I got to say that I watched.


Day four returns to Bathsheba, the scene of the crime where I sheepishly played my girl card. The village, on the east coast of the island, lives up to its reputation as a tropical surf paradise. No frill bars and restau- rants, some of which feature only four concrete walls with bar stools scattered about, line the road near the coast.

Our surf spot this morning requires that I first battle my way through the white water while avoiding the reef that looms just below the surface. Once out into the deeper water, my anxiety dissipates and my confidence grows. Soon, I’m riding waves aggressively, which prompts Connor to cheer me on from the beach. At the end of one such wave, I get tripped up by some white water, tumble into the sea and then, all of a sudden, my world is consumed by a giant “crack!” that echoes in my head. I pop up to the surface, a bit disoriented, and touch my face to assess the damage as blood drips down my cheek. My board smacked my nose when I tumbled over the falls, so I paddle into shore to have the guys evaluate the wound.


It’s an unnerving endeavor watching Jimmy, Matt, and Connor assess an injury that I can’t see. I find myself trying to read into any “Ohhhh” that is uttered or scrunched up look that appears on their faces. For a guy, the correct course of action would be to rub some dirt in it and head back out to surf. But I don’t want to look like Frankenstein for the rest of my life. In the end, the prescribed method of treatment is two Steri-Strips, some Neosporin, a bag of ice, and four Advil washed down with a beer. This is surf triage.

I take the fifth day off in hopes that a little rest, combined with that surf triage, gets me back to 100 percent. I’m back in the water the next day, and the conditions are just what I need knee-high waves and double-over-toe. They’re not the extreme waves that we saw earlier in the trip, but they’re perfect for building up my confidence again.


On the second-to-last day of the trip, I stray from the guys and meet up with Sarah Cole, co-owner of Paddle Barbados, a surf shop located in Bridgetown. Together we venture to the southern portion of the island, where the prime surfing location is just offshore from a residential neighborhood. This is very different from the wild, ostracized spots that we had surfed earlier in the trip. From the bluff overlooking the ocean, the surf spot, with its sandy bottom sprinkled with occasional clumps of coral, looks friendly and inviting. Even better, the surf rolls in offering long lefts my favorite. Joining a pod of locals, Sarah and I spend the evening laughing, surfing, and mingling among the group of laidback surfers. There is nothing intimidating about this spot; it’s the type of surf location that I want to see out my back window, the type of location that could hook any newbie surfer. When I see the guys later that night, I brag about the slice of heaven I found on the water. They listen intently, then rifle off a series of questions.

“How many people were out?” ”Did any big sets roll in?” “Were the waves hallow?”


After a week spent on the water with these guys, I know their favorite surf break characteristics; and the location where Sarah and I just surfed has the ingredients to please each of them. I think I know where we’ll be surfing on our final day in Barbados.


Squeeze in one last session before your flight. As I learn, it’s what any serious surfer does, no matter what time they need to be at the airport. Back at my favorite surf spot on the island, I’m squeezing in as many runs as I can. With the tide getting low, I catch one last wave to end this surfing adventure. But as I stand up to walk my board in, I slip on a rock and slam my foot down on a section of the reef, gouging out a startlingly deep heart-shaped chunk of flesh from the arch of my foot. It hurts a heck of a lot more than the crack to the nose from day four, but I can’t help but smile. I survived eight days of surfing with the guys, and also gained their respect for stepping outside my comfort zone. Now if only I avoided stepping on that reef.



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Our bodies are intricate machines and every part is connected. Compensation in your feet and ankles affects you right up to your knees, neck and shoulders. I have my own alignment problems caused by a variety of issues but after switching to barefoot-workouts, zero-drop trail running shoes and a good rehab program, I am now pain-free and back on track...

Click on the source link below to read more of my latest fit tip featured in SUPthemag

Camp Crystal Kai - The Experience

Camp Crystal Kai - The Experience

Fishing from a paddleboard. The idea has everyone in the group wondering what to expect. Floppy fishing hats pockmarked with lures and brown outdoorsman vests are the fashion accessories that immediately come to mind, but on this fishing trip, we take to the inlet of a green, grassy estuary that weaves through the center of Carrot Island. And we do so in bare feet wearing only our bathing suits.

Camp Crystal Kai - The Place

Camp Crystal Kai - The Place

A Camp Crystal Kai paddleboarding adventure is replete with activities in, on and away from the water. In addition to extensive time spent on a paddleboard, participants enjoy daily yoga sessions, shopping excursions, dinners out, sunbathing by the pool and cocktail hours on the porch. Yet, the Crystal Coast is as much of a draw for many participants as is the slate of activities.