Not all progression is equal.
Whether you’ve been ripping for years or you’ve just started out, chances are that you are looking to progress on the bike. Why? Because learning new things is fun! As Mountain Bikers, nothing compares to the thrill of ‘cleaning’ a particular trail or feature for the first time.
So let's talk about two very different mental approaches we can take to achieve progression in our riding, starting at the mental level.
The first and most common type of progression we see in riders of all backgrounds is ‘Destructive Progression’. Destructive Progression happens when we employ a fast, aggressive approach to our riding improvement and training. Following this model, we’re likely to impress ourselves just as regularly as we let ourselves down.
By choosing to adopt the ‘Go Hard or Go Home’ path of Destructive Progression, we constantly seek harder and harder trails, at faster and faster speeds – all the while neglecting to ever take a step back and deliberately work on our skills, or to choose to ride anything we deem to be easy. While this will usually lead to some great short-term leaps forward in terms of confidence and technical skill, it almost always stops in the form of a crash leading to a lasting Mental Block and/or a physical injury.
If this sounds like you, I suggest you read on and adopt a new mental model of Progression.
Whereas, 'Incremental Progression' is just like its degenerate older brother, 'Destructive Progression', without the huge likely hood of a serious crash at any time.
When riders make the conscious choice to employ a model of 'Incremental Progression', we are choosing to allow ourselves the time to actively work on our Mtb skills, on and off the trail.
In order to achieve this flow of learning, we need to first learn new skills (Mental or Technical) in a comfortable area, often off the trails altogether.
Then it is time to practice and experiment with the new skills on trails you FEEL are easy to somewhat-Challenging. This is the time to build up consistency and confidence in your newfound skills. Only after this happens and we feel comfortable should we move on and apply them on the terrain we FEEL is Challenging to Very-Challenging.
This is the slow-burner approach that is most likely to keep you biking year-round with minimal setbacks. As our confidence and skill level grow in sync, we can achieve flow and enjoy continuous progression leading to little or no Metal Blocks or Physical Injuries. It's a win-win!