Thursday, June 16, 2011

Choosing to Conquer Fear

I know I said I would discuss shifting, but I would really like to post a shifting video which I can't make until the perpetual beeping of the bulldozers and big trucks in front of my house stops. Probably Saturday.

So instead of our regularly scheduled program, today I'll reach into the mail bag.
Hey Laura,
I recently took a bad fall on my mountain bike and I believe I bruised my ribs. How do you bounce back from a fall where you hurt yourself? I know I need to go back and ride that section where I fell over and over and over again but now I'm scared of it. I know I can do it, but I dread it. How can I get over my fear and just ride it?
This is a great question. Here's my response.
Ouch!!! I am so sorry about your sore ribs. I've been bruised and sore from falls on the bike, and it's no fun.

The best way to come back from a fall is to go slowly, work back up to the place where you were, and then choose to proceed from there. You absolutely want to get back on the bike, but you don't want to push too fast without giving your psyche, if not your body, time to heal.

Keep this in mind: Things always become exaggerated in your mind. The beautiful chocolate cake in the window looks absolutely amazingly delicious, but really, it’s never as delicious when you taste it as it was when you imagined it. Similarly, with few exceptions, crashing is most often not as bad when it actually happens as it is in your mind. After you crash, your mind starts to build up the crash into something even more painful and traumatic than it probably was as a means of self-defense and self-preservation. Natural fear builds to keep you from attempting that daring thing again. Your brain does not want you to get hurt again!

Women, more than men, are hard-wired for self-preservation and are more prone to fear of getting hurt. After all, women must keep themselves safe in order to ensure the survival of the species. Men on the other hand, are hard-wired to face danger, fling themselves over the edge, and slay the saber-toothed tiger. Understand that it is completely unnatural as a female to push through the fear and try the thing again.

Recognize that your brain is doing you no favors, and that it will try to blow the crash and even the pain out of proportion, just like it exaggerates the amazing taste of that mediocre cake. Cut yourself a break, and don’t beat yourself up for being afraid.
Kudos to you for wanting to keep going and gritting through the fear. Keep practicing the fundamentals, and work on your balance. Practice riding really slowly, like crawling, so that you will learn to track-stand. It will help you more than you know.

I took a bad fall in 2004 and suffered a class 2 A/C separation (shoulder). I couldn't ride for about 6 weeks. Drove me nuts. But what I COULD do was practice riding slowly, practice stops and starts, practice riding slow tight turns, and practice riding with no hands. I was really surprised when I got on the bike for real 6 weeks later and found that my technical skill had significantly improved in the time I had "not" been on my bike. There is simply no substitute for spending time practicing the fundamentals.

When you're ready to face the demons again, have someone with you who can help you with body position, speed, and technique. Wear body armor if you have any. Start with something smaller and work up to the degree of difficulty that gave you trouble. And when you're riding, never revel in your victories at the moment you experience them, because guaranteed there is another challenge rising to meet you. Stay two seconds ahead of yourself, and don't look back. When you come to a stop, then you can celebrate the victory.
Hope this helps any of you who have suffered setbacks in your riding. Never be afraid to ask for help or take a break. But be sure to get back on the bike!

Laura Drexler, Plattekill Mountain, 05 JUN 2004

Before I made it to the bottom of the hill and finished the race that day, I crash landed on my head, lost my front brake, flipped the bike and landed on my back, dropped my chain, and did a "Superman," landing on my chest. Not such a good day. While it took some time to mentally recover from that one, I did, and went on to race well two weeks later at the NORBA Nationals at Snowshoe, WV.

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