From the time ultrarunner Katie Arnold’s daughters were babies, she and her husband began taking them wilderness rafting with other families. During the safety talk, before putting the rafts in the water, she always took a moment to make it clear that it was about the wilderness, not a gym in the jungle where an accident was that simple than a quick trip to emergency care. She would tell her daughters and other children, “We need you to take care of your body and others.
Arnold, who is also a writer, carefully chose the wording of his directive. “It teaches them autonomy and personal responsibility to take care of themselves, while having that collective mindset that you always need on expeditions – and also in real life – that is, say that we also have to be careful of each other, because if something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.
Now that his daughters have entered their teens and are getting serious about skiing (both are on their local resort’s ski team), Arnold has enforced the “Ski in Your Body” directive. In other words, “Don’t be in your brain thinking, ‘Who’s going to love it when I try to do this 360? Who’s going to see this tail grab? Ski into your body. If that’s your body saying, ‘Yeah, I want to do this,’ then do it,” says Arnold.
Something the directive does do not say is “be careful”. Which is also intentional on Arnold’s part. “There’s this gender bias where we tell girls to be safe and boys to go,” Arnold says, “and I didn’t want to perpetuate that.” Arnold adopted the directive from her own mantra as a professional runner, “Run in your body.” “It’s a more evolved version of ‘Take care of your body and others,'” she says. “But it’s the same message to stay in your body, to be aware of it. And act accordingly. And I think you can apply that to anything.
Katie Arnold is a professional ultrarunner who has won many of America’s most prestigious races, including the Leadville Trail 100, TransRockies and the Angel Fire 100. She is also an award-winning freelance writer and editor of Outside magazine, where her chronicle “Raising Rippers,” about raising adventurous children, ran from 2011 to 2019. Arnold’s memoir Run home (Random House, 2019) recounts the healing powers of long-distance running in the wake of her father’s death.