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Overcoming Fear on the Trail

Photo credit:  John Shafer

Photo credit: John Shafer

June 10, 2009

Mountain biking can be anything from a really fun experience to outright terrifying depending on the rider's skills, experiences and perspective. Here are some ways to overcome fear:

1.  Learn the correct riding techniques so you are riding in balance and in control.

2.  Go at your own pace and take "baby steps" when progressing. Taking a big leap over your comfort zone is not a good way to learn. If you do something that feel is way above your skill level you don't feel like you have gotten better, you feel lucky. If you don't make it it will often set you back, decreasing your confidence and raising your level of fear. So be gentle and progress at a comfortable pace.

3.    Focus on what you want to do, not what you don't want to do. This sounds simple but pays off big. Our brains don't understand "not" and "don't" very well. If you are focusing on not falling your brain has to totally focus on the idea of falling and then quickly try and refocus on "not" doing what it is thinking about. It is much easier to focus on "getting to that tree" than telling yourself "don't fall".

4.   Live to ride another day! If you are more focused on "not falling than you are on getting to where you are going, get off your bike and walk that section. Who knows you might go right through it the next time when you are more warmed up and/or focused.

5.   Breathe, relax, breathe and smile...it is just a bike ride. Breathing and smiling releases tension which improves our balance, coordination and confidence.

6.   As you improve make sure you update your self concept to match.  Remember that the past doesn't equal the future. You may have wrecked or not made a section last week/month but if you've been practicing, and your skills have improved then make sure you adjust your self-concept according, making it that much easier to conquer THAT section.

7.   Wear knee pads and elbow pads when practicing a tough section are learning a new skill. I have found that wearing padding really increases your confidence when learning or trying to push your limits.

8.   Debunk your fear/s. Is your fear realistic? Often fear is not based in reality and when we realize this the fear goes away.

9.   Learn from your mistakes. If you mess up or wreck, do your best to figure out why it happened and correct that mistake or improve your technique so it will not happen again.

10.  Learn additional tips featured in great books like:
"The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional, and Physical Conditioning" by James E. Leohr
"The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind/Body Connection" by Ken Baum and Richard Trubo "Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life" by Dan Millman