Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Shut up brain!

My brain is my biggest obstacle on the trail. I think I could be a much better rider if it would just shut up every once in a while and let me ride without constantly reminding me how scary and dangerous everything seems. Because usually it's not really that scary or dangerous, and I have the ability to do it. My brain is like an overprotective parent, but, come on, can't it just let me ride free and without worry??

Controlling your brain is almost as important as controlling your bike if you want to get better and ride more technical trails. I can't expect to get better if I constantly get off my bike and walk the sections that scare me. This isn't so much about learning to conquer your fears, but to silence your doubts. It's good to have a little bit of fear. That keeps us safe, but it's inhibiting to have so much self doubt floating around in your noggin. And it can be paralyzing. I can't tell you how many times I look at some trail feature and I'm like "Oh, that looks doable" and then I ride up to it with the full intention of doing it, but at the last second I find my hands grabbing my brakes and bringing me to a stop. I really want to do the harder stuff but my brain just locks up my body, and then I start to lose my motivation as the doubts pile up.

Getting up this little step and over the bridge took such a mental effort! It may look small in the picture, but it looked huge in my head. Look at the bottom for me actually making it over!

But just like practicing your mountain biking skills, it's good to also practice your mental skills of shutting up your overprotective brain. Here's some ways that have helped me find some quiet and confidence:

Find a cheerleader

Alex is a great balance for my overactive brain because he believes in me more than I believe in myself. The things I struggle with are a breeze for him (a note from Alex: This is only because I've spent countless hours struggling with them already), so he can show me the best way to ride something. He encourages me to ride the scary stuff and shows me how to best get through it.

Visualize yourself succeeding

This one really helps me take back control and go for it. One of my biggest challenges is that I don't feel like I have the right movements and balance for whatever obstacle I'm trying to tackle. But in reality I can do it. So if I just take a second to visualize myself succeeding (so cliche I know), then I'll feel more confident. It's not just about picturing yourself doing it, but feeling yourself doing it. And then go do it!

Repeat a little saying

Mine is "Pedal, pedal, pedal! No brakes!". It reminds me to come in with speed and don't stop. You're more than welcome to use that one or come up with your own. It helps me when Alex yells this at me while I'm attempting something for an extra reminder.

Breathe and don't think so much

This is probably one of the most helpful tips, and the one I need to remember to do more often. If I can calm myself down, take a few deep breaths, and just go for it without thinking so much about every little thing that could go wrong... Then bam! it's done and I'm past the obstacle. If you can get your brain out of the way and let your body and bike take over, then they'll know what to do out of habit and it'll be fine. Trust yourself (because you're awesome and you can do it!).

Hope these little tips help! They did for me making it over that little bridge:

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