Guide Real Talk: Off-Season Health

Banner Photo: Kat Cannell

How, as a guide, do you take care of your mind and body during the off-season? Guiding is often a career of extremes. We work sun-up to sun-down shifts for weeks on end during our guiding season, then often have unemployment and rest seasons while we prepare for the next adventure. Often the popular advice about self-care doesn't really fit with the guiding community's lifestyle. So we asked a handful of leaders in the guiding community about what issues they face during their off-season - and how they manage.

Guide Real Talk On Challenges

The biggest challenge that I face in the off-season is when I fail to pull through on my snow dance! - Galen Jarvis

The biggest challenge I face is having to deal with everyday stresses and society in general. During river season, it's easy to escape these stresses as there is usually no way to immediately remedy them anyway. - Willis McAleese

[My off-season challenge is] figuring out what I want to be doing with my life, how I can contribute to making the world a better place and make enough money to survive. Also, there is a lack of friendship and community.

"Also, there is a lack of friendship and community."

[My off-season challenge is] feeling like my list of activities that I've accomplished each day is sufficient/efficient enough.

I don’t really get an “off-season” as I go to Cuba and guide cycling and kayaking trips. I guess it’s an off-river season. The hardest part for me is missing things. I miss the river and I miss all my friends in the river community. Oh, and all the bacon. - Landon Moores

I'm challenged by switching gears into a world that does not accommodate seasonal lifestyles. It's difficult to create and maintain interpersonal relationships - dating and otherwise - when you don't exist as a human and are unreachable 1/4 of the time. - Dagny Deutchman

[My off-season challenge is] seasonal affective disorder. Adjusting from the rigors and high-intensity lifestyle of the river and hunting guiding environment, to gearing down and moving forward in a positive manner is always tough. - Josh Edmunson

[My off-season challenge is] working at a job that does not include the Middle Fork or trout or hot springs or rapids or tips or friends or boats or fly rods or flies or Frank Church or Idaho or mountains of clear water or canyon wrens or beverage coordinators.

I struggle with finding my role. I think the hardest thing after river season, where you know your role and have a schedule, is finding that same sense of importance, especially if you are not working or volunteering! - Kristin Baunsgard

"I think the hardest thing after river season, where you know your role and have a schedule, is finding that same sense of importance, especially if you are not working or volunteering!"

[My off-season challenge is] the culture shock of reincorporating myself back into society. The river culture is dramatically different from that of civilization. I am similarly affected when I travel to third world countries and see how people can live so simply and be so happy while thriving in tight-knit communities, only to be greeted home by the consumer-driven, fast-paced, individualistic society of U.S. culture. Trying to explain the value of being a river guide to people who have no idea that guiding goes beyond heavy partying and white-water adrenaline is exhausting. Convincing another employer you will be a good employee if only for 7 months so you can bridge the financial gap between October and May is frustrating over time when all you have to show for it is five months on your resume that beg the question…why only five months? This is a loaded question as “reintegration” entails A LOT. - Kate Stoddard

"Trying to explain the value of being a river guide to people who have no idea that guiding goes beyond heavy partying and white-water adrenaline is exhausting."

Guide Real Talk on Caring for Mind & Body

I really like to create a routine. Honestly, it doesn't really matter what it entails, as long as you have the consistency you had during the season! - Kristin Baunsgard

I find productive projects to focus excess time and energy. I focus on things like learning a new instrument, building functional items and staying active with winter sports.

The way I take care of myself is (as basic as this sounds as a trail guide) I buy a new horse and train it for the trails. This year I invested in a two-year old that hadn't been trained. It’s really amazing to see the progress of trust we have now. I have put three rides on her -and thankfully she hasn't bucked me off (yet)! - Shelby McGarry

"The way I take care of myself is (as basic as this sounds as a trail guide) I buy a new horse and train it for the trails."

I come up with projects, get outside, take Vitamin D & B12, focus on self-love and belief, ski and travel!

This winter I started going to spin class and exercising on my days off, instead of just on the days I worked. It was nice. I also went to bed earlier. As for my mind, I started keeping a lot more lists. That is probably more to do with the fact that my mind is a jumbled mess of Spanglish and answers to weird guest questions than it is a testament to self-care. In hindsight, I should wear more sunscreen. - Landon Moores

I focus a large portion of my income to what I like to call preventative health-care: FOOD. I spend a lot of time creating meals and kitchen “projects”. I think many guides live a very physical life, and getting back into shape is hugely important to my mental wellbeing. I spend a lot of time biking, running, skiing, paragliding and anything else that keeps me tied to the outdoors and nature. Yoga and meditation have played large roles in keeping me healthy; mind, body, and soul aligned. Playing music, reading and writing all help to keep me on the positive track of healing and coping with off-season challenges. - Kate Stoddard

"I think many guides live a very physical life, and getting back into shape is hugely important to my mental wellbeing."

I practice meditation and get as much outside time as possible. - Willis McAleese

It's hard! I go to therapy. I run. I take yoga classes. I laugh. I stretch. I drink my weight's worth in kombucha. I watch whitewater film. I study for the GRE. I plan my future goals. I go back to therapy. I call old friends. I clean out my closet 5 times and donate everything I don't use. I turn off my osocial media. I watch the snowpack and dream of summer. I give myself permission to be human. - Dagny Deutchman

I try to learn a skill each winter, refine old ones and do something new. - Galen Jarvis

No matter how much you want to "hole-up" and just sleep and avoid having to put on that "happy face", I think for me it's staying active. Finding positive ways to spend your time. Continuing to work. Staying involved with the community. Trying to stay positive and not shutting everyone out. Fitness wise... the healthier you are, the better you feel - picking and choosing when to celebrate and when to dive into whatever passion or goal you've set. - Josh Edmunson

"Fitness wise... the healthier you are, the better you feel - picking and choosing when to celebrate and when to dive into whatever passion or goal you've set."

What are the challenges unique to a guide off-season and how do you take care of your body and mind during the off-season? Let us know in the comments!