It’s all in your head

I’ve always enjoyed adrenaline. I was that kid who would stand on tip-toe to get on the loop-the-loop roller coasters I was too short to go on, I spent most of my time growing up careering round on horseback (frequently role-playing various LOTR scenes with my sister on our fancy competition ponies) and I’ve always enjoyed the challenge posed by mountain biking, something I came to late as I kinda had to learn how to ride a bike when I was 18.

Fear is something which is a part of any adrenaline sport, but overcoming that fear and doing it anyway is part of the thrill that makes it so great. It is part of why I love riding bikes. You don’t think, you just react and ride whatever it is that is in front of you. It is beautiful in its simplicity. So when I started to find myself getting scared when riding bikes last year, I didn’t know what to do and, at the time, I didn’t know where this crippling fear was coming from.

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It started off as just “not feeling it” on the odd technical feature that was at the top of my comfort zone. Which is fine, it is totally fine to not feel like doing something on a given day – the trail and the feature you don’t fancy will always be here next week, year or whenever. You do you and shred what you feel like doing – it’s about having fun after all!

However, my “not feeling it” spiraled into not really feeling like I could ride anything. I’d be timidly riding down trails on my full-sus (my actual dream bike) that I’d shredded the previous summer without a care in the world on my hardtail, trails that I could recall being clearly within my comfort zone on said hardtail. I’d panic over features which were pretty much no different to those further up the trail, I’d bimble up and be paralyzed. I was starting to not enjoy riding. If the trail was “fun” I’d start worrying I’d freak out over an innocuous root and if the trail was chill, I’d get bored as I’d be too worried to push it. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I’m pretty certain there have been other people who have been in the same situation.

One thing which I know puts a lot of people back, is a crash. I’ve had various concussions over the past decade, the more serious being from horses, but the more recent few from mountain biking. I can quite clearly recall the odd nausea and disorientation that accompanies it, that feeling scares me but it isn’t something that would constantly be on my mind when out on the bike, it would be completely forgotten (Heheh… gettit? Forgotten > memory loss > brain injury….?). And I’d ridden a tonne of crazy stuff since I’d last bopped my head, so I was pretty certain that the unbidden fear was not from a crash. So if you were hoping for a heroic “back from a crash” tale, this isn’t it.

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My problem, I eventually discovered, was that I didn’t believe in myself. I’d lost whatever core certainty that kept me upright. I’d not been having a great year (or two). I’d had my fair share of life-drama. I was giving my boyfriend (now ex) the opportunity to make amends after a fundamental betrayal of trust. I lost two people who inspired me and that made me feel lost, like I didn’t know what I was doing or why. And on top of it all, I was (still am) doing a PhD in Water Engineering, which despite me having the dream-team on my side for, can still be pretty stressful at times!

I was resigned that I had lost whatever spark that let me love riding bikes, but I still relished being outside and I get super stoked when I see my mates nail a feature that had been eluding them (often more stoked than they who did it, but hey!), so I still carried on riding.

Somewhere along the way, I started regaining some of my confidence. I was still wobbly and maybe at times I was a bit kamikaze as I’d get angry at myself, but the barriers started getting pushed back. I started to regain my flow and find my mojo. I was stoked at ME riding my bike, because it felt awesome. I didn’t do it alone; some of the people that helped me with the head-game don’t even ride bikes, some do, and I am so grateful that they are so kind, patient and have that quiet belief that I would be able to do it. You’re the best!

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A lot of riding bikes is in your head, a lot of life and how you deal with it is all in your head. If you have lost someone who inspires you, respect their memory by being true to the values they embodied and live your best life. If you find yourself in a relationship that isn’t working, and hasn’t for a long time, just let it go; who cares if you have “put too much time into it”, if you aren’t happy, it isn’t for you – find someone who is for you, who fights your corner and picks you up when you’re feeling down. If you do find yourself in a rut, talk to your mates, let them drag you out on the bike, you may not be feeling it today, but you’ll be feeling it again tomorrow or the day after. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You got this.

I wouldn’t say I’m back to being 100%, but I’m getting there. I’m recapturing that feeling of exhilaration I missed so much and I am really looking forward to thoroughly enjoying riding my bike this year, and the next 🙂

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