Mountain Biking: 3 Tips to Conquer Your Fears (from a Soldier with Stage 4 Cancer)
Whether you’ve been riding for a while now and you're cornering like you’re on rails, or you feel like you still have to drastically improve on all of your bike skills... there's one thing we all have in common.
Facing your fears is hard.
No matter what your fears are, facing them is a tough gig. That is what makes it so damn satisfying when you finally crack them.
I found a lump on my left breast on Tuesday the 22nd of January 2019. I had just jumped into bed to watch an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race and was itching my chest when I found it. It felt big and really hard. I immediately felt the other side to see if it was the same.
Nowhere on either boob could I find anything that felt the same. Cue the Googling. (Pro tip – don’t do that it doesn’t help). Scary stuff. Since then, I had a double mastectomy and had my ovaries removed once I found out the cancer was caused by a BRCA1 mutation and had spread to my liver.
Outside of the breast cancer, I have also spent more than 15 years in the NZ Army, during which time I had to do so many things which scared me. Sometimes scared wasn't even a strong enough word.
The first time I dropped a hand grenade into an 18 inch deep hole and then crawled back 1 foot just in time for it to go off was pretty terrifying. (Don't worry - that is how it's supposed to happen, but it doesn't stop you almost sh*tting your pants the first time you do it).
As a new mountain biker, I realised that braving these things in my personal and work life has helped me immensely.
Having to do scary things gives you a new perspective on fear. It teaches you that you are braver than you know, but also that it is ok to be scared. As long as being scared isn't stopping you from doing the things you want!
Here are my top 3 tips to get your mind right so that the body will follow.
1) Give your Fear a Name
Naming your fear will help separate it from you. Whatever you choose to call it make sure you use the new name when thinking of or referring to what frightens you.
Instead of saying to yourself “I’m scared of falling and hurting myself” say something like “Hello Florence, we meet again”. (Sorry any Florence’s out there – CWRB loves you!).
Talking to your fear like a nemesis out of a James Bond film will stop you from getting wrapped up in it and letting it take over. Separating it from you makes it harder for the fear to overpower you.
I call the stage 4 breast cancer tumours in my liver "Liver Homies". I also like to tell them they're not welcome and can go ahead and f*ck off at any time.
2) Imagine Yourself Succeeding
Ever heard the age-old mountain bike advice “Look where you want to go”?
I’m sure you can also remember a time where you looked exactly where you didn’t want to go and ended up there!
This works equally well for anything you want to do. Professional athletes across all sports have been using this technique for a while. It is now widely touted in many professional sectors that visualisation is a key step in success.
Imagine yourself flying over that drop off, in perfect position and sticking the landing seamlessly like the sick lady-pro that you are in your mind. You need to imagine every aspect of this feeling.
What can you smell, hear, feel, taste, see? Are you excited? Or calm and confident? There is no wrong answer here, however you imagine your success is how it will be.
Set aside specific times in the day to spend a solid 1-minute imagining in detail how you will feel when you crack it. When you do, make sure that you really transport yourself there for the full minute (or as long as you can).
Don't confuse this with day dreaming. Imagining with all of your senses will increase your chance of success.
3) Get Some Coaching or Inspiration
Being guided by someone who has been there before is a GREAT way to improve your confidence and make sure your technique in on point.
Be specific when approaching a coach, or looking for some inspiration. If you know EXACTLY what you want to get out of your session then TELL THEM! It’s ok to want something that is out of your skill and experience level.
If you aren’t quite ready to tackle what you want that day, then a good coach will be able to build your skills up to it. This will make sure you achieve your goals in the safest (and potentially fastest) way.
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