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How to Overcome Doubt Caused by Aging or Crashing as a Mountain Biker

Nothing is more satisfying than ripping down trails that challenge you and push your limits.

However, as you age, experience crashes, or god-forbid take on more adult responsibilities in life - doubt can creep into the conscious mind and affect your experience on the trail. Deep down you know that your riding skills are still in your subconscious mind from years of practice, but you start to doubt whether those same skills are going to apply to you now. In this post, we will explore some of the many ways you can overcome doubt caused by aging, added responsibilities in life, or setbacks as a mountain biker.

Confidence is the result of doing something well, while self-belief is the prerequisite for doing something in the first place. As a mountain biker, you may have confidence in your abilities based on your past experiences, but self-belief is what will enable you to overcome fear and doubt when faced with new challenges. Self-belief is the inner conviction that you have the skills, experience, and mindset to ride the trail or feature. It's what drives you to take risks and push beyond your comfort zone.

To build self-belief, you need to focus on your strengths, learn from your failures but not dwell on them, and cultivate a positive attitude.

Self-belief is the foundation that paves the path for increases in confidence and enables us to push beyond our comfort zone. One way to cultivate self-belief is by acknowledging and celebrating our achievements, no matter how small they may be (a mental skills journal is a great tool for implementing this). Another way is by using positive affirmations and visualizing success. For instance, you can tell yourself, "I can do hard things," "I am a strong rider," "I am capable," etc. It is also VERY important to surround yourself with supportive riding buddies who encourage you to grow but do not pressure you to try anything you're not feeling.

Adopt a can-do mindset

A can-do mindset is the belief that you can learn and get better over time. It's about focusing on solutions instead of problems and looking at challenges as fun opportunities instead of obstacles to avoid. When you adopt a can-do mindset, you build resilience, optimism, and determination. You also become more open to learning, growing, and improving.

To develop a can-do mindset, you need to practice positive self-talk, visualize what you want to happen in vivid detail, set skill-based goals, celebrate your wins however small, and learn from mistakes. Some examples of can-do statements that you can adopt as a mountain biker are:

  • I am putting in the rep’s and slowly improving

  • I can get better at X if I put the work in

  • I have fantastic brake control

  • I will dedicate more time to practicing X skill or on Y terrain

  • Even if I don’t ride very well today, I can still enjoy this time out in nature

With a can-do mindset, you can approach each ride with optimism and excitement, and leave no space for doubt and fear.

Practice your foundation skills regularly

To maintain and improve your performance on the trail, you need to set aside time to purposefully practice your foundation skills regularly. It’s a fact many seasoned riders choose to ignore. Purposeful practice means setting a clear intention, like ‘I am going to try to manual 4 parking spaces’ or ‘Let’s see if I can bunnyhop this 1 ft log 10 times’, and choosing a location where the terrain is comfortable enough to allow you to put all of your energy into practicing the skill, rather than having your focus tied up in just surviving getting down the difficult terrain.

Skills such as braking, positioning, terrain awareness, and pressure control are crucial for having fun and feeling in control. By practicing these skills, you build muscle memory, not just in a physical sense, but in the mental sphere as well. Just like when in the gym every deadlift repetition makes us a little bit stronger, every corner we rail on the bike repeatedly helps strengthen that neural program in our subconscious mind. In time, we can build our confidence, improve our technique, and greatly reduce the risk of crashing which helps reinforce our self-belief and override any doubt.

To summarize, doubt caused by aging or crashing can be a significant barrier to enjoying mountain biking. However, by understanding the difference between confidence and self-belief, adopting a can-do mindset, and practicing the foundation skills regularly, we can overcome doubt and fear, keeping the good times rolling!

See you on the trails! - Jake



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