The Risk of ‘Taking it Easy’

Words by: Cam Smith | April 7, 2020

It’s an uncertain time we’re living in, and all we hear in the news is “COVID19” and the negativity surrounding it. It’s stressful and unnerving, and for good reason—healthcare workers are at risk of being overrun by the novel coronavirus. The good news is we can all do our part to keep up physical distancing and avoid unnecessary hospital visits—our medical professionals are strained enough as it is.

So, here’s what we can do to help…

Mountain Biker in Squamish, BC, photo: Cam Smith

I live in Squamish, BC, an outdoor playground. It’s nestled between the mountains and ocean, about 1hr from Vancouver and Whistler. It’s home to mountain bikers, skiers, boarders, climbers, kayakers, kite surfers, and snowmobilers—you name it, this town does it. 

We are lucky while everyone is encouraged to #stayhome, self-isolate, and avoid public facilities, because mild temperatures and a vast ‘backyard’ make it so that we can keep active and distant. However, a concerning issue is the large number of people hitting the trails. The number of mountain bikers has substantially increased and snowmobile access to the backcountry is still wide open. 

Why “Taking it easy” isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I hear it over and over, “We are just riding easy trails” or “I’m just going out for a mellow day snowmobiling,” etc. You’d think this is a good thing because the last thing healthcare workers need is more emergency cases from recreational activities. 

However, we are still seeing lots of injuries requiring emergency medical assistance. So, my critical advice for this type of activity is to understand where and when complacency thrives, then work on habits to compensate for the times your mind wanders off or you’re just “taking it easy.”

The Awareness/Complacency Continuum

Awareness/Complacency Continuum

The Awareness/Complacency Continuum illustrates when we learn something new our awareness is high, so we pay attention to every little detail—the same applies when we do something with lots of risk. 

As time goes on and we get comfortable with the activity, we enter the first stage of complacency—our minds begin to wander and we are no longer preoccupied with the risk of the activity. 

The second stage of complacency occurs when we are no longer thinking about the risk at all—we go on auto-pilot and let our well-rooted habits guide our actions. 

When choosing to do something “mellow,” although counterintuitive, we are exposing ourselves to more complacency and therefore more risk. All it takes is one small lapse of judgment or one bad habit on a mountain bike or a snowmobile and boom, serious injuries can happen.

What do doctors say?

As Doctor Clark Lewis an avid mountain biker and front line worker in the Squamish area recently said in an interview about mountain biking during physical distancing: “the vast majority of the injuries we see are from flow trails.” These ‘flow trails’ are the trails most often perceived as being the easiest or most ‘mellow’ ones on the trail map because they aren’t as steep or technical.  

You may be getting the point here, that just because you are doing what you perceive as “easy” doesn’t mean the risk of what you are doing has decreased. So, if you escape from home to do some ‘light activity,’ start paying attention to complacency. 

What can we do?

One of the CERTs to help with complacency is working on performance-related habits. Good habits with eyes on task is essential for anything you do because, after all, we are all human and our minds wander naturally. Good habits like “get your eyes back on task quickly if you’ve been distracted” or “move your eyes first before you move” can help us avoid many costly mistakes. 

From the list below, what two habits could you start working on before your next outdoor activity? 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope it’s given you new insight into complacency. Please share with anyone in your network that could benefit from this too. 

If you want to learn more, our online courses are 50% off until May 31st. Need homeschooling resources? Coach education? Looking for something to learn in your free time? We’ve got you covered!

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Stay safe friends!

~ The HeadStartPro Team

For more info on HeadStartPro, the Critical Error Reduction Techniques, a full list of performance-related habits, and other strategies for achieving peak performance check out our online courses for coaches and athletes:

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