Ep #18 Cindy Frost on firefighting, hiking the AT and how to make powerful choices

Handling discomfort in high pressure situations can be challenging, and in this episode of The Discomfort Zone Podcast, Cindy Frost, a lieutenant in the Austin Fire Department and avid adventurer, shares insights on how to respond powerfully.

 We talk about parallels between firefighting and whitewater kayaking, her experience solo thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, and the lessons she learned about self-sufficiency and the power of choice. 

Cindy also shares how comparing yourself to others can cause you to play small, and how celebrating your accomplishments allows you to contribute to and inspire others to do things they never thought possible. 

If you’re looking to change things up in your life and take on a new challenge, this episode is for you.

About Cindy Frost

Cindy Frost grew up in the Texas Panhandle, taught middle school in Houston for 10 years, and has served in the Austin Fire Department for 18 years, where she is currently a Lieutenant.  She’s always had a passion for adventure and the outdoors. She’s completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with her brown dog,  completed a NOLS Yukon course for canoeing and backpacking, worked as a raft guide on the Nantahala, and spends as much of her leave as possible in the outdoors and on rivers in the SE and around the world.  Cindy  also finds great joy in beekeeping, van life building and woodworking.  Her nicknames include Frosty, C-Fro and Quinchy.

How to connect with Cindy:

FB: Cindy Frost

Anna
Okay, here we go. My guest, Cindy Frost grew up in the Texas Panhandle, taught middle school in Houston for 10 years, and has served in the Austin Fire Department for 18 years, where she is currently a lieutenant. She’s always had a passion for adventure and the outdoors. She’s completed a through hike of the Appalachian Trail with her brown dog, completed a Knolls Yukon course for canoeing and backpacking, worked as a raft guide on the Nantahala, and spends as much of her leave as possible in the outdoors and on rivers in the Southeast and around the world. Cindy also finds great joy in beekeeping, van life building, and woodworking. Her nicknames include Frosty, Seafrow, and Quinchy. Welcome, Cindy. Thanks for being here. So I’m going to jump right in and ask you…

Cindy
Howdy. Hey, Anna.

Anna
When I say discomfort zone, what comes up for you? Like what’s right there for you?

Cindy
Right now, right now, this podcast. Just, you know, being a little uncomfortable in your own skin. Yeah.

Anna
Okay, so when you’re uncomfortable in your own skin, as you say, what does that feel like for you? Do you? Is there anywhere? I mean, you mentioned your skin. Is that something that you feel for yourself when you’re in your discomfort zone? Or are there other feelings that come up for you?

Cindy
Physically, I think discomfort can manifest in like my chest, tightness in the chest, little tingly sensations in the fingers, hands. If it’s true discomfort going to maybe like an upset, like it’s not going my way, it’d be going into my stomach like a roiling in my stomach.

Anna
And when you feel that starting to happen in your body, what is your response typically?

Cindy
Acknowledge it first of all, like I hear you, I see what you’re saying, I hear your body, take a deep breath and choose, make a choice. We’re gonna do this or we’re gonna do that, right? You can’t sit in it and you have to choose and move forward and then see what your body says again and then choose again. Does that make sense?

Anna
Yeah, absolutely. I like what you’re saying that there’s, well, two things, accepting the discomfort and then choosing how you want to move forward within that acceptance of the discomfort. And I imagine working as a firefighter on a truck for several years, as you have, I imagine that you have a lot of practice in that in high,

I guess high risk situations and high tension, high pressure situations.

Cindy
Sure.

Yeah, there’s a lot of that. And I think you become more practiced after 18 years, you are very practiced at feeling the discomfort and still moving forward and making a choice. Those choices are kind of in your fiber at some point, right? You don’t, it’s not so much stop, acknowledge, you don’t go through the steps, it just becomes rote.

Anna
And do you find that there’s a lot of parallels between your time, you know, on the fire truck and whitewater kayaking, for instance, other other situations that feel maybe challenging and that bring up some fear?

Cindy
Oh, absolutely. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to whitewater kayaking. I started that before I did the fire service, but that that type of adrenaline, that type of fast moving, choosing, there’s some discomfort challenging yourself. I think there are a lot of parallels to whitewater kayaking. Yeah, so yeah.

Anna
Mm -hmm.

So it sounds like you’re drawn to that, that type of situation or maybe drawn to putting yourself into your discomfort zone over and over again. Why do you think that is? Why do you choose to challenge yourself in that way?

Cindy
I don’t know, it feels good. It feels good and it’s like this moment of, I don’t think I can do it. You work through it and then you’re on the other side of it and you’re like, holy shit, I just did that. And it’s kind of a chest puff moment and like a, wow, I did that. And you’re proud of yourself. And then I guess that could be a good thing or you might be looking for the next hit of adrenaline or proud moment, right? So…

Yeah, you know, the few times I’ve completed the Akoi River, I was like, yay, I did it. And there’s been many times I’ve crashed and burned out there. So it’s like, you know, we’re always seeking that moment of just like, well, I am seeking that moment of like, oh, yeah, I did that. It seems so insurmountable. Yeah.

Anna
Hmm. And how like, what’s coming up for me or a thought is that in order to or what I hear you saying is in order to build confidence, we’ve got to put ourselves in our discomfort zones in the face of something that seems insurmountable. And then when we accomplish that or get through it, that helps us to build our confidence. What about those first few times of when something seems insurmountable. What can you say? Do you have anything to say about that?

Cindy
Well, I’ll say, you know, when I chose to leave teaching and move into the fire service, it seemed insurmountable. I almost didn’t make it to the first day of the academy because it seemed too big, right? And I chose to go and they built us up, broke us down and built us up. And I think the steps to get to that insurmountable is it’s training, right? It’s building the small steps into the big steps to the giant leaps, right? Like so.

I feel like you talk a lot about your mental agility and it’s training the small things that add up to the big things. So that when you are faced with a big thing or you are faced with a big challenge, you want to do something big. Like the small things are already in place. Does that answer your question? And that’s…

Anna
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. What comes to mind is scouting a rapid in whitewater kayaking or rafting. And if you’re on the side of, if you’re scouting a rapid that is challenging and you look at it as the whole thing, that feels a lot, it might feel unsurmountable or it might feel like, whoa, I don’t know if I can do this.

And then in scouting, we always start from the bottom of the rapid, right? Cause you want to, where’s the outflow and where do you want to end up? And then we start moving up the rapid and it’s like a puzzle piece. Okay. To get, to get here at the bottom in the middle, I need to be here moving this direction. And so then at the top, this is where I want to enter because of how the water is flowing. And this is the move I need to make.

Cindy
Right.

Anna
And breaking it down like a puzzle, like, you know, different puzzle pieces that you piece together. Yeah, that’s what came to mind in terms of it. Don’t look at the goal. Like, yes, look at the goal. And then it’s like reverse engineer the goal from where do you want to end up and take it from there.

Cindy
Hmm.

Cindy
Yeah, I mean, it’s about the outcome, right? And firefighting outcome is life preservation, property preservation. And so we’d look at that outcome and you start from what the outcome you want and you have to work your way back and you work up contingencies along the way. Very similar to kayaking. Like you have safety set. You have, if I end up over here, this is what I’m going to do. Right? You’ve practiced these things in your mind. You’ve surrounded yourself with good people. Right? You’ve made good choices to that point.

Yeah, it’s the little things that are going to add up to the big things.

Anna
Yeah, and surrounding yourself with good people, as you say, is huge. What do you look for in a crew? Whether it’s like a fire crew or a paddling crew, a life crew. What are some things that you look for?

Cindy
Uh, well, first, the first couple of things that come to mind are kindness and humor. I think we have to have the ability to laugh at ourselves and laugh with others. Also the ability to focus and, and stay on task. I think the desire to, like in a fire crew, the desire to help people will override many things, right? Like,

It’s the desire, if you have that desire, you have a desire to be good at your job, you’re gonna work out, you’re gonna train, you’re gonna read, you’re gonna, right? Just like you have a desire to be good at kayaking, you do the yoga, you do the paddle boarding, you do the agility training, like you’ve done all the things to that, right? So I wanna surround myself with good people, right? Where…

Kayaking isn’t everything to me, right? Like, I wanna go out and do it, but there’s other things in life. I wanna go out and be good as a firefighter, but there’s also other things in life, right? I don’t want it to be my sole, sole mission. Does that make sense or sound right? I don’t know. Yeah.

Anna
Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.

Yeah.

Cindy
Yeah, well -rounded people, I guess.

Anna
Yeah, what I hear you say is you want to surround yourself with thoughtful people who have maybe a big picture view and understand that.

Like you said, kayaking isn’t everything, firefighting isn’t everything. And it points also to, which I’ve experienced for myself of when I’ve collapsed my self worth with my kayaking performance. And there’s a lot of suffering in that and it’s very tunnel vision, right? It’s very narrow. So what I hear you saying is you want to surround yourself with folks. And I think this is a really great point. Surround yourself with folks who have a wide perspective of.

Like you say, kindness and appreciating kayaking or firefighting for what it is. And also knowing that that does not equal performance in those things does not equal self -worth. Right. So, and also having room for folks to make mistakes and, uh, clean them up. So, you know, if, if, if there’s a crew who is really focused on kayaking performance only, I feel like those are the crews who make a big deal about their friends swimming or you know, get on. I sometimes see people in groups and I hear like someone yelling on the river and it’s just like a lot of drama and right and just like let’s take it down a notch and have a big picture view of the situation because I feel like when tensions get high, drama gets high, it’s because we’re in a tunnel vision.

Cindy
Cause that’s fun. Yeah. Cause that’s so fun.

Anna
But there’s the tunnel vision of like, okay, focus on next step, next step, as you said, but then there’s also the tunnel vision of focusing on what’s wrong and the panic and the drama of it.

Cindy
If you focus on your mistakes, I think, and if you start dwelling on that and you start operating on that, another mistake happens, another mistake, and then you end up someplace you don’t even recognize, right? So one of my things when I would train young firefighters is like, okay, so you made a mistake, but how are you gonna respond to that? Like, I don’t care that you made a mistake. Hopefully it’s not a big one, but are you gonna recover and respond? Like, we’re all gonna make mistakes. You’re gonna swim, right? Everybody’s gonna swim.

So just recover and respond when I’m, some of my worst times on the rivers, because I’ve been mad at myself for swimming, like, oh, it’s like saying I’m mad at myself for being human, right? We’re all human. Just taking it with a little grain of salt. It’s life. Life is what you make it. You can be hard on yourself and, I don’t know, be miserable and.

Anna
Right.

Anna
Mm. Mm -hmm.

Cindy
Like you said, equate your self -worth to whatever you’re doing, or you can have a good time and be gentle with yourself, be gentle with your colleagues, be gentle with your paddling friends and realize, you know, like, oh, my turn will be there. Like, I’ll swim one day. You know, today’s their turn. Let me help them. How can I help them make this a better day?

Anna
Yeah.

Yeah, powerful.

It sounds like you’ve always had, or maybe it, yeah. It does sound like you’ve had a draw to the discomfort zone, as we’ve talked about. So do you have an early memory of stepping into your discomfort zone and like being stoked about it? Like it being challenging, but then being stoked about it?

Cindy
I don’t know about an early memory. I think Probably the one that pops to mind and start an appellation trail the it was very uncomfortable leaving your job getting dropped off with your dog and 25 pounds of stuff and like bye It’s very uncomfortable It’s kind of like put your money where your mouth is right and it’s all up to you teaching in middle school in Houston was uncomfortable and you learn how to manage yourself and your expectations, right? I think if we expect too much from ourselves, I expect I’m going to hike 10 miles on the first day. If I expect all my students are going to sit in their chair and be glorious humans, there’s going to be a lot of upset, right? So if I expect that I’m going to go over to the Ocoee and nail every rapid, which never happens for me, there’s going to be a lot of upset, right? So.

If I expect that all the people on my fire truck are going to be empathetic and, you know, never make a mistake. I, it’s my choice. I’m going to be upset. Right. It’s not them that’s doing it to me. I have a choice. I’d have a choice in the matter. So I think, I don’t know if I answered your question, but there we are.

Anna
Hmm. Mm -hmm.
Yeah, no, it’s great. I think through hiking on the Appalachian Trail is to me a huge discomfort zone. Not only because you’re going and hiking like the physical, the physicality of it, having to carry everything, being self -sufficient, also being with yourself for that long. You know, I think people underestimate the…

the discomfort of that, of really being with yourself. And that can be a huge growth and learning opportunity.

Cindy
Yeah, there’s a lot of discomfort from once you get over the initial hype and then you realize where you’re at. And I mean, people think it’s all like milk and honey. There’s a lot of, you know, depression and upset for me out there. And I’m a slow hiker and there’s a lot of great stuff. You meet the, you get to the great views and you hike and you meet people and stuff, but you know, it’s hard. You deal with a lot of your demons and you get to know yourself.

I mean, so much so towards the end, I was looking at my dog and I was like, I hate it when you do that, because I’ve been alone so long, just my dog, right? And so, you know, but that, I think really, I feel like that’s kind of what all this input we get from the media to the electronics to our instant culture, like it’s too much for us as humans, right? Like for me, it is, I think being out in nature and having shapes that aren’t square and linear is better for us. And the quietness in the society we live in is loud and busy and instantaneous and it does something to us. And I’m not sure what it is. So I digress, but yeah.

Anna
Yeah, what’s something that you learned about yourself from hiking the Appalachian Trail and being with yourself for that long?

Cindy
That I can be a miserable human being sometimes. No, no, no, I know that I can follow through, right? And I can, I can do hard things. And I can be on my own and be in the middle of nowhere and take care of myself. Like, there’s, there’s nothing that could come this way that I’m not going to be able to handle, right? Like,

Anna
Awesome. It took you like four months.

Cindy
Here in Austin, we have snowpocalypse, or we don’t have food, power, whatever. And I’m like, eh, it’s no big deal, right? It’s nice to have that self -sufficiency to just know that this too shall pass. That six months, if I could do it again, there’s a lot of things I would do differently, right? I’d choose happiness more. I was 20 years younger. I think if I did it today, there would be a lot more choice of like, you chose this you get to choose happiness or you can choose to be, you know, cranky about putting dirty socks on for the fifth day.

Anna
Right. Well, I love that you brought that up because I think that is, well, it’s something on my mind too, as I get older, I’ve been paddling for 30 years now. I started in my twenties, I’m starting, turning 50 this year. So for you, how are you approaching discomfort zone or putting yourself in your discomfort zone differently between, you know, like 20 years ago when you hiked the Appalachian Trail and, and maybe right now when you’re, you know, challenging yourself?

Cindy
Well, I think my comfort zone is being solo. I’ve done a lot of things solo, right? Right now I’m choosing…

Choosing to be in relation with someone and that’s uncomfortable for me at times. And it stretches me and it’s good. I find myself wanting to run back to the comfort zone, to the solo, to the right. But every day I wake up and I choose. I choose my day, I choose my person, I choose that. So yeah, I mean, it’s a very different space to be in. I find it…

When it’s all in my control, it’s all in my hands, I can make things happen. I can dictate the outcome. When you give a little bit over to a relationship or somebody else, you have a faith in something you can’t see. So those are muscles that are weak and I’m training them. So every day you wake up and you train those muscles, get a little bit stronger, a little bit stronger, more well rounded.

Anna
What I hear is you’re letting go of control a little bit, maybe in your life by being in relationship with someone else. I mean, I think this is great. It’s not something that I’ve had a conversation about, I think, so far on the podcast. And I think it’s really interesting because for me, for instance, the thought of going,

I mean, I’ll just be honest. So thought of like through hiking first, I like being with myself. I also crave, you know, I am fine biking, doing all the stuff by myself. And, uh, and at the same time I’ve been in, you know, relationship with Andrew for 20 plus years. And, and so, you know, my comfort zone is being in relationship, and the thought of like going somewhere, like doing something solo for six months, especially hiking by myself, all self -sufficient, that is more of a discomfort zone for me. So can you say more about what you’ve learned? You’ve already said some, but can you say more about what you’re learning about kind of letting go of that control and stepping into that relationship piece? What’s important about being in relationship that you’re learning?

Cindy
Well, I’ve got the discomfort zone here and then the tingles in the fingers talking about it. I think, you know, just taking a deep breath and it’s trust. And I’ve chosen a good person. And every day I wake up and I choose the day and I choose the person. And I realize I can be very resistant to things that are uncomfortable.

Right? Like I’m like, oh no. And then I find myself doing my thing, like doing my chores, doing my thing. And I, and I’m comfortable and I start, and then the path diverges from your person. And then we, we talk and we, we have to have a conversation. We come back to what we want. Right. I, it’s hard not to just wake up and, and say, this is what I’m going to do today. I’m going to get in my van and I’m going to drive off for two weeks. Right. Have a conversation to let go of some of that control.

And really, is it letting go of control or is it just being able to go with the flow? I don’t know. I’m learning. I mean, I’m in the baby stages here. Miss 20 plus years. You know? Yeah. Yeah.

Anna
Yeah, well, thanks for sharing. Yeah, thanks for sharing your experience and how you’re approaching it. I think that’s really helpful.

Cindy
Yeah, it’s not always very graceful. I’m not always very graceful, but I keep showing up to the table. I show up. You got to keep showing up. Right? So.

Anna
Yeah, I think that is, and when, when you’re scared, keep showing up. I mean, not, that’s kind of a, when you’re uncomfortable, keep showing up, you know, and like you said, make choice, the choice to show up. You can make the choice to not show up and that, that might be okay. And what is needed in that moment. And then you can reassess. And, and I think that if there is a goal and you know that it’s going to be uncomfortable and you know that the discomfort is part of getting to where you want to be, that’s when I say, you know, keep showing up, not keep showing up if someone’s causing you harm or keep showing up if, you know, it’s an unhealthy situation. That’s not what I’m saying.

Cindy
Yeah. Yeah.

But it’s like, you know, you ask about the discomfort zone, where is it at in your body? And I think it kind of starts with what’s in your guts. You know what’s in your guts and what you want to do. Like I knew I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail. I knew once I showed up at the Academy, I was going to do that, right? I know that this is the relationship I want to do. I know in my guts, this is what’s good. I know this is what I want. This is what I choose. And coming back.

to that spot and reminding myself that in your guts, this is what I don’t, I mean, I maybe it’s because I’m a Texan, but I’m just like in your guts, you know, it feels good. Like, you know, it’s the right thing and, and choosing that again. And I use the word choice so many times, but we, we have choice in every breath and every day and every, and even if you’re backed into a corner and you have choice, you can change your life in a moment, you can take a left turn by a choice you make, right? Good or bad. So, and the choice I made to leave teaching 18 years ago, you know, my life is so different. You can, and it was hard. It was not an easy, it’s not an easy route. And it’s, I’m all the better for it.

Anna
Yeah, what did it take for you to do a career switch like that?

Cindy
A lot of hopes and dreams. And, you know, I stood there at the Nantahala River and they said I could stay there year round and guide. And we all know that that’s a hefty pay rate being a guide on a river year round. So, and I had my fire department letter and I didn’t know what I had in my hand. Like, you know, it’s a burden to hand and I chose that and I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no clue.

And then six and a half months later, I’m on a fire truck after they trained me, right? So it took a lot of guts and it took a lot of humbleness, you know, and the ego, gotta let go of your ego. Recently I’ve gotten off the truck and then moved into a staff job and really struggled with my ego for six weeks, right? I didn’t realize how much that was driving me. And once I let that down and my self -worth is not attached to riding on a red truck, yeah, life shifted into a different gear that I didn’t know was possible.

It’s, you know, gotta, it’s like let go and listen. We hold tight to something so hard that we don’t even realize it that they may not be healthy for us.

Anna
Yeah, again, I feel like that’s that big picture view that we talked about earlier, right? Like expanding our view of what’s possible versus holding on tight to a narrow view of how we think things need to be or should be. Yeah, should be based on society, family, our egos, like you said, just the way we’re looking at something.

Cindy
The stories we make up about ourselves, right? Yeah. There’s a lot of should be’s out there. And I encourage everyone to think outside of the should be. If you’re saying should, you’re making somebody wrong, making yourself wrong. I should be this or I should be that. Be you in that moment. And it’s, you introduced me to the Four Agreements by Don Luis, what is it? Miguel Don Luis?

Anna
Right? Yep.

Yeah, Miguel Ruiz, I think.

Cindy
I can’t remember the author’s name. Yeah, your best is different every day. Do your best and different every day. All right.

Anna
Yeah, exactly.

Cindy
Sorry, we’re not talking about discomfort. I’m just like, go people, go be good. Yeah.

Anna
No, we are. No, that was great. I just had a thought, sorry. I just had a thought of like so many people. I don’t realize how many people I’ve recommended that book to. It’s actually come up in the podcast. Like my dad has mentioned it like, oh, you recommended this book. And I just think that’s interesting how you can like, sometimes we don’t even remember when we recommend something to someone and that it can make how it can make an impact.

Cindy
Yeah, we don’t realize the impacts we have on people, the influence. And, you know, I didn’t realize the impact I would have by, you know, walking in the woods by myself for six months. But, you know, it was inspiring to a lot of people and it inspired people to go do their big things. And when you go do your thing, where you’re in your discomfort zone, you go build a van and drive around, you go kayak down that river, you…

that’s huge or you go walk in the woods, like you’re inspiring people to go beyond their comfort zone. You’re inspiring people to take on that thing that they thought, oh, I didn’t think I could do that, right? I became a lieutenant in the fire department, worked two years in the downtown station as a female. And that opens doors for other people to walk in behind me. Was it comfortable? No, it was very uncomfortable.

But it also helps tampen down that for the next person, right? We’re creating paths for people, trails, and we stand on top of the people that came before us, the women that came before us. I stood, you know, they’ve helped me. So the kayakers that kayaked in the 90s, like, and did all the rivers, I mean, we’re doing what we do because of what they did what Benton McKay did for the Appalachian Trail. I mean, it wouldn’t exist. So.

Anna
That’s right. Yeah. Love that. It’s a good thing to remember.

Cindy
Yeah.

Mm -hmm, agreed.

Anna
We’ve talked a lot about choice and about, you know, choosing to step into our discomfort zones, to reach goals, to listen to our guts and, you know, follow our passions. What about strategies for when we’re kind of thrust into our discomfort zone? It’s not unknowingly, like whether it’s on a fire truck so you can kind of expect to be thrust.

I imagine you expect to be in the middle of an emergency. That’s your job. So what’s your strategy for when something kind of blindsides you and you’re like, okay, here we are. Life -threatening situation. How do you focus, calm yourself down, move forward?

Cindy
Well, I mean, you know, we always say the day you say you’ve seen everything, like you’re going to see something you never thought was going to be possible. I think a lot of times you pull from previous experiences and you piece them together and you move forward. And I had a chief when I was first learning how to be in charge of a truck, he said, you need to make a choice within the first three seconds of seeing the scene. Like, like you need to make a choice and then you choose again and you choose again. Right. You can’t stand there and be paralysis by analysis. Even if it’s a small choice, like choose, choose again, choose again, and then the options become clear. A lot of things that we do are not so clear, right? And we do a lot of training that can become redundant and just boring, but then those physical actions that you do, the physicality of the job, the movements of the job, all that stuff, they’re not part of your thought process, right? You can become, what do they call it? Like decision fatigue, right? So doing the small things, doing the training, right? Helps you for the big stuff. If you exercise and work out and you train with all your equipment, you’re not worried about that. You know, you have the space to make a choice. You have a space to think about that. You train your crew, right? To do the things that they can do to make the choices they can make. And then you have, if you’re the lieutenant, you have space to make a big choice and help direct them. And they also have eyes to help you, right? Because they are more knowledgeable. Just like you paddle with some of the world’s best kayakers, you are one of the world’s best kayakers. You have people that can see a rapid, very similar to you, right? And they can help you choose. If you had to do a rescue, you have other people that have their experiences and they can choose, right? So.

I believe it all starts with the training. It’s got to start there. The little things have got to be taken care of in your mind. And when I say like the look, it’s the clutter in your mind. You’ve got to practice in easier situations. You’ve got to learn how to take a stop and take a deep breath, stop and analyze the situation before you get hit with the big situation because you’re not going to be able to think. So…it’s it’s about training and in paddling it’s about doing the easy hard moves on easy water.

Anna
Yeah, hard moves on easy water. And I keep coming back to the role because the role is so important for people. Like that, you know, anytime I write a blog post about the role or do a webinar about role technique, you know, so many people show up because it’s on people’s minds. And at the same time, so many people, when I ask them how many times they’ve practiced, I mean, some people do practice.

Cindy
I don’t like to practice. Yeah. Yeah.

Anna
A lot of people don’t practice because it’s, they don’t like going underwater. They fear of failure. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a pain in the butt if you do have to swim, you know, and if you, when you can’t roll, that’s like you said, that clutter, or if you’re always afraid of flipping over because you can’t roll, that’s the clutter in the brain. And that gets in the way. It takes up space. And instead of focusing on,

Cindy
That’s uncomfortable. Yeah.

Yes.

Anna
What you need to do in the rapid, if you’re focused on what if I flip over, I can’t roll, you know, that it’s harder to perform, right?

Cindy
And what you focus on happens. Yeah. I mean, and if your focus is on the rock, you’re going to hit the rock. If your focus is on, I don’t want to flip over. The chances are you’ll flip over and it is very uncomfortable. It’s very uncomfortable to 70 to 80 pounds of gear on, on an Austin summer day and train. Right. And get really hot and sweat through all your clothes. It’s very uncomfortable, but it’s so very necessary. Right. It’s very necessary to roll. Do I like practicing rolling? No, I hate it. I hate it. Right. But.

Anna
Right? Yeah.

Cindy
If I did more of it, I would be proficient at it and I would be able to roll up and not be like, I don’t want to take the hard line. I don’t want to take the fun line because I might flip over. Right. I think you also lose a lot of options when you’re in that. I can say that I’ve been that kind of paddler and we’ll probably still be like, I don’t want to go there because I might come out of my boat. And then you miss doing fun things. Right. You miss being, you miss being all you can be. I mean cheesy as it sounds, but you miss that next step, right? Where you get out of the river and you’re like, oh, I did that booth and it was so awesome. Instead of like, oh, I didn’t do the booth and y ‘all are so cool. I don’t know. Yeah, like, oh.

Anna
Yeah, for sure. And it depends on your goals because it could be, you know, like I’ve stepped away from paddling class five and I love class four and I’m good with that choice. You know, like I don’t feel less than for that. So I think that there’s two, there’s, again, it all comes down to what do you want? What, what is your goal? And, and understanding that whatever that goal is, there’s going to be discomfort to get to it.

Cindy (37:15.63)
Mm -hmm.

Oh yeah.

Uh huh. Uh huh.

Anna
And if you’re not getting the results you want, looking at, well, where am I shying away from discomfort and challenging myself with those small, hard moves in easy water?

Cindy
Like when I shy away from stuff, it’s because I’m being lazy, right? Like, cause I know I can do it and push myself, but you know, sometimes I feel like I’m being lazy and you know, you say being, getting off class five, you feel good with that, right? You’ve done that. And I feel like that’s very similar to getting off the truck for me. I’m like, I’m good. I’ve done that. I’ve seen that. I’ve been there. Like you’ve done the class five. You’ve done the scary rivers, what I would term as scary, right?

The high risk rivers and you’re good. Like your bucket is full, like class five bucket full, right? So my fire truck bucket is full and that’s okay. Everybody’s buckets are different sizes. Andrew’s bucket is probably gigantic for class five and it may never be full, right? So my bucket for class five doesn’t exist. So, you know, yeah, it’s everybody’s different and not comparing yourself to other people and what works for them. You know, that was one of my big ego challenges. It’s just comparison is a pitfall and I start comparing people comparing myself to well, they stayed on the truck for 20 years. Why can’t I do it? Or well, Anna runs class four easily. Why can’t I do it? Like, well, cause I’m not Anna and I’m not them. I’m me. And it’s okay to be me. It’s okay.

Anna
Yeah, and you have different goals and dreams and you’re doing extraordinary things that are important to you. And I think we all need to remember that for ourselves.

Cindy
Yeah.

And you know, you talked about how do I choose people? Like those are the people I want to choose that aren’t trying to do what everybody else is doing. I want somebody that’s following their path. That’s, you know, oh yeah, that’s not for me today. Okay, great. You know, or, oh yeah, you want to try this? And if I say, no, they’re fine with that. Like they value me as a person. I want to value them for their choices. I think it’s very important, especially in a paddling crew. If somebody’s like, I’m not feeling this rapid to not.

I don’t know, be mean to them about it. Just be like, okay, we’ll see you at the bottom. Do you need anything? You know? Yeah, doesn’t mean anything. It just means you’re walking.

Anna
Right? Totally.

Do you have any questions for me?

Cindy
Mmm. Looking back on your 30 years of kayaking, is there anything you would do differently?

Anna
That’s a good question.

Anna
Hindsight is 2020, of course. I would definitely be less hard on myself and celebrate my accomplishments more. I was always comparing myself to other people and I think that diminished my accomplishments. And it also hindered my performance in competition, especially freestyle competition where, you know, in the early 2000s, I was one of the best female freestyle paddlers in the world. And I… because I compared myself to others too much and was hard on myself, I didn’t recognize my own greatness, so to speak. And I think that kept my results. I was second and third a lot and I only won competitions every so often. And I think that my performance results would have been better had I…

uh, not compared myself and not been so hard on myself. That’s what one thing that I would change. And the other in terms of teaching and running my business is that when I first started girls at play, which was back in 2004, and I did my first video, I really wanted to empower women in paddling. And because the women ended up at the time, these were class five pioneering women, you know, my people I was hanging out with because they all had stories of how they felt like they couldn’t show up as themselves on the river and that they did lack confidence even though they were amazing. I kind of made the blanket assumption that this is a gender thing because I never heard at the time, I never heard men of the same caliber who I was also paddling with never heard them ever express vulnerability or fear at the time. This was in the 90s. And so I think that that was way too simplification. I do think that all of the space that I’ve created over the years, over the last 20 years now for women in paddling has been beneficial, I think overall for women in paddling.

And it wasn’t a complete view. And so I think that, yeah, I think that there’s, that’s a growth process, you know, and an awareness that I’ve gone through and yeah, getting wiser and you know, now I have a lot of, not a lot, but I have male clients and now, you know, and I think it’s a people thing. I think I cater very well to people who do struggle with the things of being hard on yourself and self doubt and wanting to be more confident. At the time it was mostly women who were expressing that. At least that’s what I heard. So again, it’s a lesson in not making assumptions and taking that big picture view and being curious, you know, and also it’s okay, you know.

Cindy
Oh, I like that word curious.

Yeah, yeah. I mean, we all evolve, right? I was a very different person 30 years ago.

Cindy
Yeah, so it’s different seasons of life for sure.

Anna
Yeah, for sure. Okay, we’re at rapid fire questions. You ready? Okay.

Cindy
Oh, okay. Maybe. Let me loosen up a little bit.

Can I duck out? Yeah.

Anna
What’s… You’ll do great. Okay, first rapid fire question. What’s a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Cindy
Coffee.

Anna
Awesome. What’s a non -negotiable self -care practice for you?

Cindy
Sleep, good, good solid sleep.

Anna
What’s a favorite motivational book or talk?

Cindy
a lot.

I like Brene Brown stuff. And the first book that came to mind was the Emerald Mile. That’s one of my favorite books. Just getting out there and doing something crazy and adventurous that nobody thinks you can do.

Anna
Awesome. What do people get wrong about you?

Cindy (45:28.942)
That I’m tough and then I don’t cry. Because I cry and I’m not tough.

Yeah.

Anna
Okay. Throughout the course of your life, have you felt like the underdog or the favored to win?

Cindy
The underdog.

Anna
We’ve kind of already talked about this one quite a bit during our conversation, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Hard moves in easy water or flooding?

Cindy
Hard moves and easy water. I mean, on my best day, right?

Anna
Right.

What’s one word that describes your comfort zone?

Cindy
Hmm, my dog. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Like everything’s good, right? You sitting on the couch, you got your dog next to you, right? Yeah, you’re doing something with your, yeah, yeah.

Anna
Mm. Yeah.

Anna
Freedom through discipline or I do what I want.

Cindy
Right now it’s freedom through discipline I would say more than 50 % of the time it’s I do what I want but I get better results when I have discipline.

Anna
Okay, got it. In one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Cindy
Kindness.

Anna
Is there anything else you want to tell our listeners?

Cindy
Go do the thing you think you can’t do. That thing that’s been in your mind and in your guts. In your guts, go do the thing you think you can’t do.

Anna
Love it. So where can folks connect with you?

Cindy
Well, I have a Facebook account. I don’t check it very regularly. I don’t do Instagram anymore. I find that it’s too much input. But you can you can message me on Facebook and I’ll see it eventually. Cindy Frost with a goofy looking rowing picture on the profile. So yeah, I’d love to connect with people. I love the paddling community. I love people that are out there doing things they think they can’t do. It’s inspiring to me.

Anna
Yeah, awesome. Well, thanks for being here, Cindy. I really appreciate your time.

Cindy
Thanks, Anna, for having me. You’re awesome.