top of page

Podcast: Greg McDonnell shares Mental Performance Strategies for Mountain Bikers

In todays episode of the Grit With Wisdom Podcast, I chat with Greg McDonnell. Greg is a sports fanatic, an avid mountain biker, and is also a registered clinical counsellor. He grew up on the North Shore and has been riding bikes for as long as he can remember.

When he moved to Whistler 20 years ago, he started racing mountain bikes, and alpine ski mountaineering which enhanced his growing interest in the mental side of performance.

Fast forward to today, Greg has worked in the mental health and performance space for over 30 years and has owned his own private psychotherapy practice here in Whistler since 2007. He currently works with a variety of athletes from different sports including skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking.

None of this was handed to him, as you’ll hear, Greg is someone who has worked through some tough life circumstances himself, and he now holds real tools, and real wisdom learned through rising to the challenge of those experiences.

Join us as we break down the topics of:

- motivation

- mental performance strategies

- re-focusing

- regulating our nervous system

- developing self-compassion

As well as plenty of personal anecdotes, all relevant to riding and racing Mountain Bikes.

You can find out more about Greg and the amazing work he does in our community on his website

Listen here or by searching for ‘Grit with Wisdom’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Youtube, or anywhere else you get your podcasts and you can follow me on Instagram @the_mind_mountain

Happy trails - Jake Johnstone

Full Transcript Below:

Jake Johnstone: [00:00:00] Welcome to Grit With Wisdom. This is the podcast that delves deep into the inner psyche of mountain bikers from all aspects of our sport in order to discover the tools and the tactics that can help us have more fun out on the trails more often. Our aim here is to help you understand what it takes to push our own personal boundaries in the sport we love, from a mental and emotional perspective.

Today I'm sitting down here post ride with Greg McDonnell in Whistler. Greg is a sports fanatic, avid mountain biker, and also a registered clinical counsellor. He moved to Whistler from the North Shore around 20 years ago, um, and was inspired by the epic mountain sports going on all around him.

Around this [00:01:00] same time, he started racing mountain bikes and developing, uh, or enhancing his experience in the mental side of performance. Fast forward to today, Greg has worked in the mental health and performance space for over 30 years, and he's owned his own private, uh, counselling practice here in Whistler since 2007.

One of the many reasons I'm excited to have Greg here today is that he provides mental performance counseling to a variety of athletes from different sports, including skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking. None of this was handed to him. As you hear, Greg is someone who has worked through some tough life circumstances and he now holds the tools and the wisdom, uh, learned through rising to these challenges of those experiences.

With no further ado Greg welcome to the show. Thanks Jake. Thanks for having me. Man, I'm stoked to have you here We've had so much fun on our ride already. It's been great getting to know you a little bit more Um, I think for the listeners here, it'd be really cool just to start off Perhaps telling them a little bit about who you are and where you grew up.


Greg McDonnell: I [00:02:00] grew up in North Vancouver By and large only child single mom And so some early athletic experiences were really impressionable on me, especially some, some coaches. And so those kind of archetypes of people that I wanted to emulate, as I said, made a big impression on me. And so early sport influences really stuck with me and helped create a bit of motivation to, I think, suffer.

You know, on the one hand, I got really... I realized quite quickly I didn't have to be the best player on the court or the field, but if I worked harder than every other kid out there, I always made the team and usually started. And, um, and I figured that out pretty quick as a young kid. And, and that took me a long way in sport.


Jake Johnstone: yeah. Yeah, it's a, it's a fantastic way, I guess, of turning that adversity into a positive. And I was curious how that shaped your kind of outlook on life today.

Greg McDonnell: The sports side of it. Well, uh, yeah, [00:03:00] like. Someone cared about me, I guess, and, and cared about my human development. And there was a very impressionable experience in my young adult years where I volunteered at a camp for children with cancer.

And that changed my outlook big time. It really gave me... It was my first realization of, uh, sort of existential realization that life's pretty short. And, uh, we've got to have as much fun while we're doing it and as much joy despite the suffering. And so that camp, um, you know, I met many mentors at that camp, like doctors or, uh, social workers and things like that.

And I was like, a social worker. I was like, that's a cool job. I want to do something like that. And, and all those loose connections really ended up gently guiding me. to sitting in this chair with you today, probably, right?

Jake Johnstone: There we go, yeah, what a fantastic backstory. Um, and we were chatting on our ride there about when bikes first came into your life growing up on the North Shore, so one of the few real live [00:04:00] locals here in Whistler.

Um, tell me about bikes, when did bikes first come into your life?

Greg McDonnell: Well, my, well, yeah, since I was really little, um, you know, I had a BMX bike and You know, I had fun riding BMX and I got this wicked photo of like high safeway socks, I call them, no helmet, bit of a show low going on, and, you know, like fully in the air, uh, on a gap jump, you know, and I was probably, you know, it would have been like 1980, I don't know, four or something like that, and, and so that BMX bike really Kind of had a big impact on me.

And so when, when, uh, just for the freedom of it, I can ride my bike wherever I wanted in the, in the neighborhood or whatever. And yeah, it was great. And, um. Yeah, I guess I'm that old where, you know, when the first mountain bike started coming out, I got my hands on one and, of course, living in North Van, the Cove, uh, bike shop was the place to be and I'd just go find those trails those guys were building and go huck [00:05:00] myself off the stuff.

Um, and then of course moved to Whistler shortly thereafter, and there were definitely some early Whistler legends before me who were doing like epic mountain bike rides, big bike rides, uh, in the area, uh, like the Chilcotins and things like that, and I guess I had that baseline fitness, so when I, when I first moved here, I could just, I met these characters, and they were characters, and, and went on some, you know, big rides with them, and I was hooked.

Um, I was also hooked on skiing, really into ski mountaineering and exploring that way. I also had a personal life experience where I lost a friend in the mountains, um, and I was with him. And, uh, that was a hard day in the hills. And, um, but, uh, you know, we could derail this conversation on that for a while, but no need to do that.

But it just, again, it taught me about how brief life is and how important it is to get busy living. The life you want to live, right? Purposefully, deliberately, [00:06:00] um, and with gratitude,

Jake Johnstone: right? Yeah. Yeah. Dude, that's some great lessons you've taken out of both the good and the bad that comes with participating in mountain sports.

Tell me about this idea of like living deliberately and how you've used that throughout your life. Yeah,

Greg McDonnell: well, yeah, you know, it's pretty easy to get swept up in what's going on around us, I think. And... You know, and I guess maybe we tip into some mental performance concepts here, but society sort of suggests what we need to do, and social media can be really negative that way, it can be really positive that way too, and um, um, you know, if we're fulfilling external validation by fulfilling what society tells us we should be doing, and we can get motivation from that, but At some point, it might be, [00:07:00] um, not living as deliberately as you want to.

And how do we know what living deliberately means? Well, I guess we gotta go out and try some stuff, right? And I always tell young adults that I work with to follow their heart. Because the, the sort of the destination will show up. You don't have to know what the destination is. So outcome goals that way can be really, uh, negative.

And just letting go of those outcome goals, just, uh, Um, you know, getting on the bus and seeing where it takes you and following your heart. And, uh, that tends to inform us what living deliberately means, right? And so for me, at, in my young adult years, it was skiing and riding bikes and, and having fun. And, and we developed this sort of fun hog philosophy.

Not hog as in keep it to ourselves, but actually the opposite. To have as much fun as we can and to share it with others. And I think that's a philosophy I still hope to live by, even as an old guy.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah, I love that process and it kind of leads into something we were talking [00:08:00] about on our ride. Kind of, you know, you moved here to Whistler, you're living the ski bum life, mountain biking, having as much fun as

possible. And then you did next. Yeah,

Greg McDonnell: well, um, I guess maybe the backstory to that was I never perceived myself as a very like, Smart person, if you will. And so the idea of like having a master's degree was way outside my comfort zone. And also I always felt big barriers financially and, and I would allow those barriers to stop me I guess you'd say.

But um, I ended up getting a scholarship through a non-profit called the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, and they paid for my master's degree, which was incredible. They're again, these other. Trusted adults in my life, these archetypes of people that trusted me, uh, with their money, their nonprofit money to go and get some education and bring the knowledge back to this community to work with youth and young adults on, you know, in areas like depression, [00:09:00] anxiety, addiction, anger management, things like that.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah, that's fantastic. And like getting a scholarship, it's amazing. You make it sound really easy, but I'm sure there was some, some hard work there and even just like some courage to take that leap.

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, you know, I think courage is really important and I think life's pretty hard. And so it's pretty easy to be avoidant of hard things.

Um, but as it turns out, based on research, the more avoidant we are of hard things, the more anxiety about those hard things we have. Uh, so the wisdom is found around turning towards those vulnerabilities. And of course we have, we, that doesn't mean you huck a 20 foot cliff, right? Um, you have to, you know, progress into the skills and progress into the mindset.

And to progress into the technical feature before you're able to do that. But at some point we have to turn toward our vulnerabilities. And I guess I did that that day and they said, yes. And I got a scholarship and, you know, pinched me, uh, have a ton of gratitude for that and for, um, the Kelty Patrick [00:10:00] Dennehy foundation.

Jake Johnstone: So good on you. It was super inspiring to hear. So from that, I got a scholarship, went to university

Greg McDonnell: back in Vancouver. Yeah. Victoria actually, uh, university of Victoria. So did a master's in counseling education. And, um, and, uh, you know, I've had a private practice for 18 years, uh, here in Whistler. And, um, you know, about, maybe it was about 12 years ago, or in and around the Olympics, 2010, um, I got a professional designation with the, um, Canadian Coun uh, sorry, the Canadian Sport Psychology Association.

So, uh, that was when I started doing some mental performance work with the Canadian Sport Institute and individual athletes.

Jake Johnstone: That's awesome. Yeah, and I was kind of asking you on our ride. about your workload and kind of the typical people you're working with. You said you're doing kind of 50 50 mental performance coaching with athletes and then counseling with individuals from the community as well.


Greg McDonnell: Yeah, precisely. I love doing, uh, working with both parts [00:11:00] of, uh, you know, both, uh, types of clients, I guess you'd say. Um, but the, the sports psychology work's pretty fun, or the mental performance work, rather, is pretty fun because It gets me outta the office sometimes and into nature and environments and, um, and it's pretty inspiring working with young athletes that have that sort of hunger.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah. Such a, such a great job and such a, um, such great work you are doing. Thanks man. What are, what are some of the typical, uh, problems or things you're helping these athletes with? Mm-hmm. ?

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, great question. You know, With young athletes, what I might call talent development athletes, some of them haven't had much exposure to like the clinical research that we utilize to improve mental performance.

So there's a dose of psychoeducation that might happen with those young athletes, like teaching them a little bit about what are the strategies that help settle our nervous system, what are the strategies that help activate our nervous system. [00:12:00] Um, and so there's a bit of psychoeducation involved. Um... And, um, you know, and then I'm also really interested, I'm a very person centered psychotherapist, so I'm very interested in who the person is, what are their default modes, what motivates them, what makes them tick, what's their why.

Mm-hmm. . Right? And so, so with like off season training for instance, what's the why that gets you up at five 30 to the gym? To do strength and conditioning, and that's always really fascinating to me. And so what motivates athletes? Um, So we're often talking about motivation, uh, we're often talking about strategies that help with mental performance, but we're also talking about the whole person.

Again, where someone comes from, there might be, as part of their default mode, some barriers or blockages that comes from who they are as a whole person. And I think that's the nice interconnection maybe I have as a practitioner with the... Psychotherapeutic skill sets and the mental performance skill sets [00:13:00] because if there are past traumas Someone wants to address and work through that's probably going to aid their physical performance, right?

So So I'm keeping an eye on that, but it's very client centered. So if that's not their goal of counseling, we're just sort of dipping into that maybe and the

Athletes come see, see me because they have a specific athletic goal in mind and they want to prepare for it or other athletes come see me because they've had a setback and they want to return to play somehow.

Jake Johnstone: Right. And how does like the, the start, say like the first move differ, uh, for someone that say, look, Greg, things are going really great.

I've had a great season. I just want to be better versus someone that's like, Hey, I used to be great. And now I'm feeling horrible. X happened.

Greg McDonnell: Right. Well, um, yeah, I mean, I guess, uh, you know, the athlete who [00:14:00] has had successes and wanting to improve things, those are great people to work with, too, because they've learned a lot about the sort of research based mental performance strategies.

They already have their strategies. Sometimes those people, they're... Outcome goals get away from them, or the outcomes don't happen the way they want them to. So it's about refocusing the process. Of course, outcome goals, those are goals compared to others. Process goals, those are goals compared to self.

And process goals are very much about the technical aspect of something. So sometimes it's refocusing back to those, uh, process goals for people. And sometimes that's, I mean, it's quite... Uh, simple sometimes, but we get away from that and maybe it's our ego that helps us get away from that because we have these outcome desires and we want to go get them.

Um, and so sometimes there's a refocusing on that. Um, and, and, you know, there's this concept in chemistry known as titration, which is basically exposure bit by bit. [00:15:00] Because if you were to overexpose too much, too fast, too soon, big explosion. But if you just, uh, titrate gently. Uh, gentle exposure, the nervous system has an opportunity to gain a sense of like empowerment.

So those people that are, let's say returning to sport, um, you know, a big process with them is helping them sort of titrate their exposure or have gradual return to, to their sport so that they can feel empowered along the way. As opposed to

Jake Johnstone: disempowered. I love that explanation. So small kind of steps or building blocks along the way to get to this big goal.

Exactly. And sometimes I guess when we've had a big crash or a big setback mm-hmm. , just getting back to where we work and be a really big goal Totally. Can be really hard. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. That's fantastic. There's, there's so much we could dive into further there. Um, I'd love to ask first though. Is there anything, uh, you've ever learned from a client that you've worked with during this process of performance coaching or counseling that you're like, Hey, that's gold.

I'm going to use that [00:16:00] myself.

Greg McDonnell: Wow. That's a great question. I mean, as a general rule, I learned so much from my clients. Um, and, um, they've had a huge impact on my life, I would say. Um, but, uh, you know. Yeah. Wow. I'd have to think about that. Feel

Jake Johnstone: free to think on it. Yeah, I'd have to think about that. We can

Greg McDonnell: circle back later.

Circle back to that one. But, um, you know, one thing that comes to mind is, uh, through the, um, strategy of visualization, you know, it's really easy in your mind's eye, let's say you're a downhill racer, to visualize the course. And, you know, you've done a track walk and you've got some GoPro footage and you may be taking some notes if you're really studious.

Um, but now you're taking the information to visualization and I worked with an athlete once who, and of course, maintaining confidentiality of these athletes is important for me. Uh, but I worked with an athlete once who, um, I, I didn't think of this or I didn't hear about it prior, but the idea of actually creating the visualization exercise to be around about the same time as your race run, because it's really easy to just whip through berm, jump, straight [00:17:00] line, air.

Tabletop, pedal section, finish line. Like it's, if you're, you know, the brain has a tendency to really kind of do that. Maybe it's like a presentation. If you're going to do the presentation, you like speed read, um, the presentation as opposed to needing to slow down. And so this athlete kind of shared with me the goal of trying to visualize as long as you would, the race run would be.

Right. That was a neat nugget. That is really good. And it's something I share with, with clients all the time to really take the time on the visualization exercise. Yeah, you

Jake Johnstone: know, I'm so grateful that you brought that up. This is something that I heard on, I can't remember which mountain biking podcast, but I heard an athlete talking about, and it blew my mind as well because I've, like, prior to that never done like an eight minute visualization or something like this, but just hearing you speak about it, it makes me think a little bit like...

Breaking it down into like a task focused visualization where we're visualizing every root, every rock, every section of track rather than say just the three main

Greg McDonnell: features. Even things like grip strength and where [00:18:00] you are on the bike. Um, yeah, and then the other thing you can incorporate into that is movement, right?

Because if you're, if you have an imaginary set of bars in front of you and you're imagining the turn on the berm at speed, you're firing the same neural pathways in the brain as if you're actually doing that, right? And so if you're getting more reps through your visualization, that can do nothing but help your

Jake Johnstone: race run.

Totally. So you're getting them to visualize. Yeah, not only the roots of the rocks and kind of the terrain, but also what they're physically doing. Do you have them kind of visualize or think about what they're feeling as well in the emotional realm?

Greg McDonnell: Uh, you know, um, probably not so much because... What we're trying to achieve is like a flow state.

What some people might refer to as the spiritual side of sport. Where, and we've all had that. Some people call it the runner's high or cyclists tend to call it, like road cyclists would tend to call it like pedaling [00:19:00] chainless. Right? Where you don't feel anything. Um, and you know, and you know, there's no bills.

There's no problems in your relationship. There's no grief and loss. It's just you, the texture of the dirt. And, and that's about it. Right. And so, but, but certainly, um, making contact with that emotional feeling after. Right. Right. And trying to connect the athlete to a sense of empowerment. Right? Because especially if recovery, if you're recovering from a setback, like an injury or a crash on a specific feature, um, you're trying to get people around distance away from disempowerment.

Right? And again, we need to titrate that. We need to do that bit by bit. We can't just slam them back into the technical skill, um, because it can overwhelm the nervous system and it can kill motivation and empowerment.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah, it's a fantastic explanation. Thank you. Learning lots here. Let's talk about strategies for regulating the nervous system.

I know we were just chatting before where we were setting up about the fact that there's, [00:20:00] you know, so much information out there these days, so many different tools and strategies. What are some specific ones that you think are most important?

Greg McDonnell: Well, the first one is sort of a sense of body awareness. Um, what are the clues our body is telling us about our nervous system state?

And, and you know, there's an inverse correlation between physiological activation. So think on a graph. If we're way up here, it's rage. The more this goes up, the more it pushes another measurement down, which is brain power, right? So, um, so, but there's warning signs telling us we're heading up to that rage point, which we tend to ignore, right?

Sweaty armpits. Uh, heart, increased heart rate. My perfect partner, my wife, has helped me, uh, realize that when I get physiologically activated, I become a hand talker, which you probably see on the video, right? And when she first told me that, I was like, no I don't! And she's right, like, when I get jazzed or jacked up, I become this hand talker, and [00:21:00] that's okay.

Um, but now, you know, think relationship wise or whatever, now if we're slamming cupboards, or if we're road rage wise, if we're missing that, You know, steam's coming out of our ears and we want to like chase that guy down who just cut us off. Then we're ignoring the wisdom of our body, right? And so we have to listen to our bodies.

So for athletes, um, these are things like tracking stress. Tracking, uh, not only physical stress, but emotional stress too. Uh, so, so that's why I'm also again, really curious about the person centered part of the athlete, what's going on in their life outside of sport, right? Because maybe sometimes we have to talk about that.

Um, and, um, so once we can start to, to pay attention to what's going on in our body, then we can start to regulate it. Right. And so. Um, to bring it back to the athlete example, like I'm always interested in athletes and start gates because if they're, if their [00:22:00] nervous systems are peaked and they're just jacked, the nervous system can't tolerate that stress for long periods of time.

Our nervous systems were built for long periods of rest and relaxation and short periods of stress. But I think the typical like gung ho athlete, and you look at our society today, we're kind of living in a society where we. Uh, I think we have to live with long periods of stress and we have short periods of rest and relaxation.

Think like two weeks holidays a year. It's not enough.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah, right. I was staring at the screen.

Greg McDonnell: Exactly. And so for athletes on race day, I'm really interested in nervous system activation and what's the wise time, uh, you know, in the, in the starting area to reg to, to kind of activate your nervous system and what's the time to settle that nervous system down.

So it's a bit of psychoeducation around raising athletes. Level of awareness around what's their nervous system telling them, right? And really listening to that, really using your body as a guide to what you need. [00:23:00] And then, of course, building frameworks around what are you doing three hours before a race start?

What are you doing 20 minutes before a race start? What are you doing five minutes before a race start, right? And, uh, and I, I, you know, I work a lot with athletes developing a routine around that. So there's no scratching your head wondering what am I doing now, right? Cause that's the

Jake Johnstone: worst. Right. So it's like about building that process and then just ticking off each task.

Exactly. I love that. Man, that's, that's fantastic.

Greg McDonnell: And of course within that process are the, you know, the research based strategies that we might use with athletes, mental performance strategies,

Jake Johnstone: right? We'll get more into those in a second, but I wanted to kind of summarize just so I can make sure I'm understanding correctly what you're saying there.

So kind of. I guess first building awareness around what are some physical indicators that my nervous system is rising beyond a point of optimal performance, whether it's moving hands or whatever we do. And then noticing that and deciding to implement X strategy to try [00:24:00] and bring that nervous system back down.

Is that right? Yeah, exactly. So apart from like, just being like, hey. Or having one of our friends or a partner or whatever, kind of tell us these are your physical indicators. Is there anything else you use? I know I've heard of like the idea of like a trigger diary or, or perhaps like naming. Naming like, Oh, I'm doing, you know, I'm tapping my feet in the car while I'm getting road rage.

Is there anything, anything else you would use there?

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, naming it. I'm a big fan of naming it because naming what's going on for us helps us normalize it. So if you're naming that I'm distracted and I'm at the restart and I'm flitting around and I'm busy, Um, like paying attention to what everyone else is doing and holy cow, look at so and so, he has a tight kit, he's gonna like kick my ass today, like, and, and so, um, that kind of, like, one of the things that happens to our brain when we're physiologically activated is we have racing thoughts, right, and sometimes those racing thoughts can lead to distortions or irrational thought, like holy cow, holy cow.

That athlete looks so tight in their kit, they're going [00:25:00] to kick my ass today, right? Now I just got, I'm a privateer and I got reused center clothes on and I don't stand a chance, right? And so, so I love the idea of journaling because then, then we can capture, um, how did we feel emotionally up there? Uh, what was our behavior like?

And if we got good feedback from a coach or a friend or a parent or something like that, that said, Hey, you were like buzzing around that, that, um, start area. Um, you had lots of irrational thought. You, uh, were physiologically jacked. Um, uh, or the opposite. You might have been like... Uh, listening to your tunes, but too mellow, and maybe we want to activate the nervous system.

I'm always also, again, person centered, so I'm always really interested in what works for the client. Some athletes want that really settled nervous system, and they can really turn it on. And then some athletes really need to kind of get jacked [00:26:00] to be able to kind of turn it on. So, and that's really person to person, and I invite athletes to kind of try to discover that for themselves.


Jake Johnstone: so interesting, isn't it? I'm glad you mentioned the other side of the scale because so often, you know, in extreme sports, uh, mountain sports, we're talking about being anxious, being fearful, being scared, this jacked nervous system, but for sure the opposite can happen too. I know for me, it's often at the end of a long day out in the mountains.

I'll be like, okay, there's still some really technical terrain to get down, but I'm just not feeling focused. Right.

Greg McDonnell: So time to refocus. So refocusing techniques are... Mental performance strategies that are super important. I've got a question for you. Sure. If you were to guess the research out there, what are the two most researched sports on refocusing techniques?

What do you think they are? Golf and

Jake Johnstone: tennis. Nailed

Greg McDonnell: it. No way. Nailed it. Golf and tennis. Very good. And if you think of tennis for a minute, like, I don't know how many games there are in tennis, but if you can think, there's, you know, there's probably, you know, you know, [00:27:00] Tens if not hundreds of games to complete a set or a match, right?

Yeah. And so if you're like Djokovic and Medvedev or whatever, I guess they just played in the U. S. Open, and they have some like 20 stroke rally, and you pull a dumbass move and put the ball right in the net, you better put that behind you pretty quickly because Medvedev's about to serve you. Something at 220k an hour, right?

So that refocusing technique, the ability to put setbacks behind you and focus forward is super, super important. In tennis, uh, that really happens. Mountain biking, that really happens. And so we have to be able to put, um, our good and bad performances and others good and bad performances behind us,

Jake Johnstone: quickly.

I love that idea of taking some of the wealth of research from other sports. Bringing it to mountain biking. I've read a lot of those studies myself, which is what led to my guess there. But it really [00:28:00] fascinates me because mountain biking is very, very different from tennis, as you know. So this is why I love speaking to people like you in this space.

All of a sudden, the consequence of messing up something in mountain biking is not just losing a game and perhaps ego and some bad parts. Yeah, you've

Greg McDonnell: just traveled across the world and you've got this three minute race. If you have one

Jake Johnstone: bauble. It's like I mess up that corner, but there's a double black rock roll around that corner.

How do I refocus to not only win the race, but keep myself safe? Yeah. So let's talk about some specific, uh, strategies for regulating the nervous system and refocusing when stuff isn't going to plan. Yeah.

Greg McDonnell: Great question. Well, and of course, there's a couple different athletes that might even be listening to this.

One is going to be that competition athlete that's really getting ready for. An event. And then another is, is, you know, uh, sort of a citizen rider who's, who's just riding for the love of the game or maybe going to the Tuesday night world championships in SORCA. Yeah. Right. [00:29:00] And, but both, both, uh, you know, the, the question applies to both.

And, um, you know, I like this concept of focusing forward. I like this concept, uh, of, uh, being able to, um, And this, this comes down to confidence, that there's a certain certainty that you can make up speed after a mistake, right? So maybe certainty is a step beyond confidence. Because what we don't want is the opposite, where we feel disempowered that after a mistake that, Oh, that's it, we might as well hit the brakes and give it up, we're done.

Right? And that happens to a lot of athletes. Versus, um, and I think the key is to avoid the shame, right? Because if we create a shame narrative after a bobble or a mistake, then we're going to be disempowered. And that's us doing that to ourselves. [00:30:00] Versus having self compassion and hopefully having an empowered narrative and feeling certain that we can make up that time.

Yeah. Right? So I think certainty perhaps is a step beyond, um, uh, confidence.

Jake Johnstone: I love that. Right? So would it go kind of like self belief, self confidence, and then certainty? Sure. Love it. Yeah. Fantastic. So where, where does someone start if they're perhaps lacking self belief? A lot of riders are like, I'm bad at drops, so I'm not fast enough to race, for example.


Greg McDonnell: again, getting to know the whole person a little bit. Often young riders are, and it's not because there's something wrong with them, they're a product of our society and they're a product of their own development where they're coming out of an age where you're really dependent on maybe external validation of worthiness.

External validation of worthiness. And so if you're not getting the likes, if you're not getting the [00:31:00] followers, if you're not getting the sponsorships, if you're not getting all those kind of things, it can, it can really mess with someone's sense of worthiness, right? And so one of the angles I like to take with young athletes early on is to start talking about internal worthiness.

Deep love and acceptance of self, right? And, and, and that's a journey for a lot of people. I work with a lot of 40, 50 year olds that are still working on that. And perhaps I am too some days, right? Um, and, and so not all people are born like uber confident, right? The ones that are, they probably have a high need for center or a high inner validation already.

And if they can use that to their advantage, great. Right. Other people who may have lower self-esteem maybe need to work on that inner validation of worthiness, deep love and acceptance of self. Knowing that you've done everything you can to get at that race start, um, or that [00:32:00] workout at 5:00 AM and you're doing the best you can with what you got.

And now you're gonna leave it all out there on the pitch. You know? And if, if you have that kind of, um, you know, Self compassion, kind of absence of shaming narrative. I think it's going to help build that confidence over time, right? I'm always interested in an athlete's why as well. What's their why? And, you know, again, this gets into motivation a little bit, but there's that in that concept of intrinsic motivation.

You have this inner drive, this inner love of the game. Then all that external stuff doesn't matter. Whereas that the athletes that's very extrinsically motivated or really motivated by those externals, then, you know, that's okay. But we have to be, you know, be able to work with that in a place where hopefully we're not shaming ourselves if the, if we don't get the external validation that we were looking for.

Right. Right? Shame is a big component here, I think, in [00:33:00] beating oneself up, and I think it really comes in when those outcomes don't happen the way we want them to, and that's why we need good coaches like you, continuing to refocus athletes on the process.

Jake Johnstone: Right? Yeah. That's, yeah, that's a great answer there, and I love where you're going with that.

And if you don't mind diving into this, I know you've got a bit of a, a personal story around the idea of identity and perhaps other people projecting an identity onto you early in life. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And then I'd love to talk about mm-hmm. . Yeah. Like how that affected kind of your, your path moving through life.


Greg McDonnell: Yeah. Our identity structure's a really interesting thing. And in the sea to sky corridor here, where a lot of us live in, in, in BC and Canada, there's a lot of social capital. Or like street cred, if you have a Tacoma, flat brim hat, you know what I mean, and uh, you know, and some shit hot bike, or you've, you've hit crabby, crabby jumps, or...


Jake Johnstone: pause for just a second here, we've got some nice tunes. That'll pick up, eh? Yeah, definitely. I might Yeah,

Greg McDonnell: um, quick doobie walk. Yeah, exactly.

Jake Johnstone: Um...

Yeah, that's that's great where you're going with that. I'll ask the question quickly, you know again Yes, I'd love to talk about the concept of identity Mm hmm, and we've got a personal narrative here You might be able to share about perhaps identities that were projected onto you early in life Mm hmm, and how they may be affected your path moving forward some challenges you had to

Greg McDonnell: work through.

Yeah, you know A person's identity structure, the very foundation which they build up their persona, is really important and I'm really interested in that with the athletes. That I work with. Um, and, uh, you know, I guess personally, you know, I had, um, you know, I don't want to take too much time away from the podcast on my personal story.

But, uh, you know, uh, you know, this example came from my learning [00:34:00] experience where people projected onto me, Greg's the dumb guy. He's good at sports, um, and, and that's all he's good at. And I kind of became that identity. I kind of embodied it. And so I was the class clown, and I would, um, you know, not try.

And, um, you know, and, and, and maybe I got, in like elementary school or high school or something like that, I maybe got like, uh, some street cred that way. Because people laughed at my jokes or whatever. You know, and, and where we live here in Whistler is, uh, uh, You know, there's a lot of the identity structure is based on athletic things.

So There's a lot of social capital if you can hit the Krabby Hits, if you can hit Air Jordan on skis, if you have a, you know, drive a Tacoma and have a flat brim hat, you know, you're kind of arrived in the sea to sky if you got that, right? And, uh, but people can project, uh, identities onto us that are both good and bad.

And we can also really over focus maybe [00:35:00] on what is, what we think is important and like that. You know, hitting the Krabby Hits and having the Tacoma and the flat brim hat when maybe it doesn't really matter so much, right? And so this idea of other people projecting An identity onto us can kind of get in the way of who our authentic self is back to my story a little bit It wasn't a little bit until a little bit later in life where I had these very trusted mentors in my life that sort of Took me aside and said no Greg you are smart You just gotta believe or you just got to like care about what you're studying And you gotta be brave and turn toward the vulnerability of that.

And once I did that, my grades in school just went up, and as did my confidence. So, um, perhaps there's a little bit of a tie in there with, uh, ourselves taking responsibility with, um, building our own identity structure, based on our own values, based on our own hopes and dreams, um, and not allowing people to project that onto us, right?

Um, [00:36:00] and, um, And so this maybe gets into an athlete's why a little bit and, um, you know, if they, if, if they can develop, you know, a nice healthy mix between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, then I think they're, they're going to have a real solid, um, uh, why as to why they're getting up to suffer. I also really firmly believe people with a really broad identity structure tend to be psychologically well.

People with an identity structure that maybe only defines them by one thing tend to be a little bit more wobbly in life a little bit. And I'll give you an example, and that's the sort of the, uh, maybe cliché around here mountain biker who comes in to see me after they've had a big crash. And what's going on for them?

Well, it's depression because they can't ride anymore. And two things jump out to me about those athletes. One is denial. Right? They can't believe this accident happened to them. And I'm like, what are you talking [00:37:00] about? You hurl yourself down the mountainside at a million miles an hour. Of course, this can happen to you, right?

And again, there's that sort of connection with the existential stuff, the relationship with risk and reward and actual risk and perceived risk. And some people are quite in denial about that around here. I find, and so that strikes me. The other thing that strikes me about this type of athlete is, um, that that depression that they're experiencing is probably a result of the, um, their identity structure really built on one thing, and that's the identity as a mountain biker.

And so, with young talent development athletes, I always invite them to really develop their... Uh, a broad identity structure, including things like hobbies, like picking up a ukulele, or knitting, or, um, or, um, you know, having an interest that has nothing to do with bikes, because if you had to put bike, hang bikes up for a little while, you got lots of other [00:38:00] things that give you purpose and meaning.

Jake Johnstone: I love that, yeah. I know, I was in, uh, self denial for a little while there. Like, yeah, sure, I also like, you know, snowboarding, and climbing, and running, and all these things. Whenever I have a physical injury, I'm physically burned out. All of a sudden I experience a little bit of that sense of loss as well.

I'm sitting around home like, what do I do?

Greg McDonnell: And that loss is real because, you know, doing all those sports is part of who you are. But I would also say, uh, there's many parts to Jake beyond Jake the runner or the climber or the biker or the snowboarder, right? And I want to know that part of who you are.

Jake Johnstone: Totally. Yeah. For me, it's been helpful to think back to my childhood and be like, okay, what else did I enjoy before I entered the workforce? And it's like, ah, you know, I used to draw a little bit. Maybe I can try that again. Cool. Yeah. Well,

Greg McDonnell: even using something like drawing as a mindfulness activity. To help settle the nervous system.

So there,

Jake Johnstone: yeah. That helps when I go out on the bike if I've settled my nervous system beforehand. Bingo. Exactly. It's amazing the [00:39:00] interconnectedness and who would have thought like drawing could help with riding a mountain bike.

Greg McDonnell: Exactly. And, yeah, because it mimics that flow state. Because when you're drawing, you're concentrating on whatever it is you're drawing.

You're not thinking about your bills or your relationship issues or that stress in your life. You're completely in the here and now, so you enter that flow state a little bit. And, and when that happens, you know, heart rate lowers. Uh, brain activity changes. And, and that sort of, we get, we make a connection with our authentic selves.

And that's the sort of nervous system state we want to be in, I think, pre race.

Jake Johnstone: Totally. I think that's what most mountain bikers are aiming for, whether they're riding for fun, they're doing the Tuesday night championships at the EWS. And would you say it's a little bit like performing those mental reps, like practicing opening the door, entering the flow state more often?


Greg McDonnell: Yeah. The more reps we can have doing that, the better.

Jake Johnstone: So whether we're doing it on the bike, on a race run, or whether we, you know, found some other tool or some other activity to help us, it doesn't matter? I wouldn't say so.

Greg McDonnell: I say [00:40:00] it's, it would be helping. Enter that flow state and activate the same neural pathways in the brain as that you might be using when you're actually doing it, right?

So interesting. It helps you get the reps.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah, yeah, fantastic. And it's positive news too, like for the winter months when we're perhaps not able to get on the bike as much. It's like we can still do these things that will help us next season or next race. Absolutely. I love it. Kind of circling back here a little bit, uh, onto the subject of language, I'd love to hear you speak on the idea of mental toughness versus mental

Greg McDonnell: resilience.

Oh, that's something I actually learned from an athlete. So back to your question earlier, what's something that you learned from an athlete. For a long time, maybe I'm now in the old school category, and for a long time I was using the language mental toughness, uh, because that's the, maybe the era that I came from a little bit.

And I responded to that as a young athlete myself. The coach said jump. I said how high and, and, um, and yeah, and, and, you know, reflecting my age and whatever, it's maybe an old [00:41:00] school term, but I really think language matters. And, um, and actually had an athlete, uh, with Canada Rugby who said, Whoa, wait a minute, Greg, what if the word toughness is sort of a trigger?

Because what if I'm not feeling tough? Right. And this athlete brought up a really, really good point because I think a lot of, I think the idea of needing to be tough, maybe created more stress and mental health issues for athletes. Um, because sometimes we're not tough, right. And we need to be able to acknowledge that.

And so maybe a better word, um, um, you know, uh, is resiliency. Like the ability to be pliable and to acknowledge and name. Um, you know, pain, emotional pain, physical pain, um, with the hope of, uh, normalizing it, with the hope of treating it, [00:42:00] um, and with the hope of bouncing back to, uh, a state of stasis where we can engage in the sport again.

So yeah, so I've since worked, it hasn't been hard to change my language because I really believe in this idea that it's a better term. Um, because I worry about athletes who feel like they have to be tough all the time at all costs. Yeah. That can really harm the nervous system over time and can create a perpetual, uh, level of stress over time that's going to take away from our performance capacity.

Jake Johnstone: Yeah, I love this idea and it's something I've been guilty of using myself. Like mental toughness is kind of a buzzword in the mindset, uh, industry, if you will. Um, and it really resonated with me because I know a lot of, say, new mountain bikers or mountain bikers that are getting into this are like, Oh, like, maybe I'm not a mountain biker because mountain bikers are meant to be kind of these brave heroes hucking off cliffs.

And I'm sure we've seen a lot of that, or you've seen a lot of that growing up on the North Shore in the early days. With all of the crazy stuff that was going on, this kind of idea of, [00:43:00] you know, extreme sports. And it's like, well, what if I don't fit that category? Yeah.

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, exactly. And of course, there's legacy of that that's somewhat negative, right?

There is. You know, there's people hucking themselves when they shouldn't be and then there's resulting injury. Yeah. And then those injuries can be profound,

Jake Johnstone: right? Let's talk about the idea then of good stress versus bad stress. How would we define that?

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, good stress, commonly known as, uh, eustress, is, think of a stress that maybe helps you perform on a exam.

Right, you crammed for an exam and, um, and the stress of the fact that you crammed and stayed all night actually helped with performance. The same thing can happen on a bike. Um, um, and then, and then there's bad stress. Um, now this would be one of those moments you've got to edit because I'm trying to remember the eustress and...

De stress?

Jake Johnstone: Hmm? Is it like eustress and de stress?

Greg McDonnell: It's not de stress. Okay. It's, uh, eustress and, uh, stress and... Eustress is the good stress and then the bad, the bad stress is, I should know this,

Jake Johnstone: I'm just having a brain fart. I've read it and I've voiced it as E stress and D stress, it's just a Spanish denotion isn't it?

Yeah, exactly. Eustress. Look it up? Yeah, look it up man, take your time. Um, Eustress. It's cool that I think the good stress has a word and then all of a sudden stress isn't bad.

Distress. Distress. Yeah. Yep.

Greg McDonnell: Yeah. So eustress is a good stress. Think of the stress that you would encounter on a, uh, cramming for an exam is you stayed up all night. You cram for the exam. Lo and behold, you got an A because that stress actually forced you into a higher level performance and that can be utilized in mountain biking to sometimes.

But then there's distress, right? When the nervous system is beyond capacity, perhaps, perhaps there's cumulative stress. Perhaps there's stressors outside of mountain biking that, um, are contributing to your cup being runneth over. And that's going to have a [00:44:00] nervous system impact. Um, and, and we have to be able to learn to recognize the difference between the two, right?

And if, if eustress is happening and we're rising to the occasion, great. If our nervous system is experiencing distress, then we have to learn to recognize that, and then we have to focus more on recovery

Jake Johnstone: as an example. Totally. I love this idea, because talking about stigma and language, like stress is often coined as like a bad thing.

Like, oh, I'm so stressed. I'm so anxious, whatever, but like, all of a sudden, like, it's a good thing. We're taking on a good level of challenge. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. We're feeling a little bit stretched. Mm hmm. That we're maybe not potentially entering that stage of distrust.

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, but I think with most mountain bikers, um, they probably take on more than they think they, you know, can.

Yeah, it's

Jake Johnstone: an interesting one, and I'm sure that the line or the threshold is different. Yeah. For each athlete or each rider and the, Potential personal risk tolerance, but how do we, [00:45:00] how do we find out where our own personal line is? Yeah,

Greg McDonnell: well, you know, of course, there's some technical technology that's helping us now, right?

Some of these apps or like sleep apps that might show where was our deep sleep? How much deep sleep do we have? And I don't know if this is a direct or correct quote, but I think it's LeBron James focuses on 14 hours a night. 14 hours. Of course he has the luxury of being able to do that. Mm. And probably a massage before he goes to bed and a massage after.

Um, but, and not all of us have that luxury. 'cause maybe you're getting up with kids and you gotta make lunches, or you gotta, you know, you're a privateer and you gotta go to three jobs to, to, to do it all. And, um, but again, it's back to that nervous system. It's learning to recognize when your nervous system is, um, you, you've beyond, you're beyond that threshold.

And, and, um, you know, things like, Other numbing agents that you might take on alcohol, um, um, as an example, [00:46:00] or, um, you know, and I, again, I think the risk with a lot of young athletes is they think they can put the world on their shoulders and just do it all. And that's not always the case, right? And, and so, um, I think having a really good structure in your training routine, routine to know, Uh, so your training is periodized so that you're not, uh, like training junk miles all the time and over training because that can really stress the nervous system.

Obviously really good nutrition, uh, sleep habits, minimizing or avoiding alcohol altogether. Um, um, those are kind of things that can kind of help us, um, you know, regulate our nervous system. There's this relationship in our nervous system between charge. Charge, think of like electrical charge charges is sort of accumulates with all the different stressors in our life and think about the stressors these days, the household economy stressors are, you know, parenting stressors if you're a parent, relationship [00:47:00] stressors, intimacy stressors, aging, ill, dying parent stressors, um, um, you know, Throw a pandemic in there.

Yeah, climate change. Climate change. Yeah, and I've really had to pay attention to that because I've had a big uptake in climate Clients and I've had to really pay attention to it. Like it's a real thing, right? Interest rates going up, cost of living, so there's a profound amount of stressors going on out there.

And we really need to honour and acknowledge the charge that all that creates. Now, our nervous system is not very good at tolerating too much charge. Meanwhile, we're raised in a society... You know the stoic maybe society where we think we have to be the man and take it all on or the woman and And be able or the pro athlete and just take it all on uh uh doesn't work like that We have to find healthy ways of discharging And and and and that's really interesting to talk to athletes about is finding healthy ways [00:48:00] of discharging You know our feelings, and I think that's why those things like Drawing might be

Jake Johnstone: a way to do that Definitely.

Yeah, I love that analogy there with the charge and I'm thinking my electrician mind is turning back on here and thinking, yeah, like an electrical system drawing too much current with too much resistance will carry on. It will keep powering, but only for so long. Really makes sense there.

Greg McDonnell: So healthy ways to discharge, right?

And if we don't find healthy ways to discharge, what happens is the nervous system is going to find unhealthy ones. And here's your list. Depression, anxiety, addiction. Anger management, stuff like that, where it becomes, it's leaking out now, now we are slamming cupboards or behaving in a way that's outside of our identity,

Jake Johnstone: right?

Yeah, so it sounds like self awareness is really kind of step one key there of like realizing where we are and where that line is for us.

Greg McDonnell: Self awareness and self compassion, because we are not robots. Yes. Shit affects us. Definitely. And we [00:49:00] have to acknowledge that, uh, name it, normalize it. Um, and, and process it, and, and do our work, and, and, and sort of focus on

Jake Johnstone: new beginnings.

Definitely. And kind of outside stress as a side, I found for me like a big one on the bike as being my heart rate. Mmm. Really simple. Just like, today we did some, some steep hills. I was struggling to keep up with you. My heart rate was probably way up there, but that was okay because I was climbing up a steep hill.

Stress was when eustress. Yeah, but there's been plenty of other times when I'm like I've been chilling looking at this feature for 10 minutes and my heart rate's jacked. That's a sign.

Greg McDonnell: To flip the question back to you. What do you think your nervous system is telling you?

Jake Johnstone: It's it's saying, hey, there's a potential threat here.


Greg McDonnell: so that kick starts you into like a self protective mode. And you can think fight, flight, freeze, fight, flight, freeze, and You know, and you know, you know, if you freeze too long [00:50:00] If you think of a deer in the forest if it freezes while it's staring at the cougar what happens? Yeah, it gets attacked right and so if you if you find yourself frozen too long on a feature Caution because as your nervous system is probably telling you something there you might get attacked by hucking into it and you're not ready Yes, right.

And so you might just as well flee And live to ride another day.

Jake Johnstone: Definitely, yeah. For me, it's like, okay, like, try some breathing techniques. See if I can regulate this. Settle the nervous system. Perhaps move, hike back up the trail, ride the easier section beforehand. Try and get back down into a state where I feel comfortable riding this feature.

But otherwise, for sure, live to ride another day, ride around

Greg McDonnell: it. And, and we, we talked about this on our ride today, that we are seeing some really progressive things with riders like Remy or Yoann who are actually... Um, releasing parts of their video that includes their process of settling the nervous system down, includes the process of their visualization, includes the process of checking with their breath.[00:51:00]

And I might, I might say tip of the hat to those lads for including the process of sometimes walking away from features and sharing that with the, the YouTube, uh, legion of viewers to normalize walking away as opposed to just seeing. The huck at all cost mentality, um, because, you know, that can contribute to kind of, um, you know, people taking risks beyond their readiness, right?

Definitely, yeah. So

Jake Johnstone: that's nice to see. Really cool to see, yeah. Some of the stigma breaking down and just like normalizing, like you're saying now, the idea of talking about how we're feeling, our emotions, the idea that we do all get scared and we do all say no. Um, yeah, I love that. I'd love to kind of switch gears a little bit here.

I know you've got lots of personal experiences, lots of good times, bad times, challenges in the racing world, you know, doing the, the WORCA races, the PORCA races, uh, and perhaps some of the, the early enduro races as well. I'd love to. Yeah, [00:52:00] just start by asking, like, how does your mindset differ when you're perhaps racing versus, I don't know, fun after, after work ride

Greg McDonnell: with me.

You know, as a young adult racer, I was really extrinsically motivated or externally motivated and caught up and worried about what the regional, uh, you know, social group thought about Greg the racer. So my outcomes were really important to me and that probably got in the way of. Uh, performance quite a bit as I've aged and I think aging does come with wisdom.

Thankfully, um, I'm way more intrinsically motivated or internally motivated, um, for what I would call the love of the game. You know, I'm just interested in moving my body with gratitude. I don't have to win the race, uh, connecting with nature, doing it with my family and my chosen family. And if I can plug into all those things like Greg's happy, there's tons of gratitude.

Um, I have a couple memories. One, there was a while I got into road [00:53:00] cycling, um, firstly to kind of train for cross country racing and some enduro too. And road cycling's badass. Those are some tough MFs, if you know what I mean. And, um, there was a race, a Gran Fondo race that I was doing, Whistler to Vancouver.

And, you know, early racer Greg probably overestimated confidence. So I would, um, hear that race gun start and I would, um, you know, charge out of the, out of the gates, uh, you know, with the pros. Um, and probably under report my training level, you know, uh, or over report my training level. I think I'm more prepared than I actually was.

And I have one race where I was, you know, lead, lead group, um, all the way to Callaghan. So, you know, probably like the bulk of the race, you know, a hundred of the 120 K. And it was awesome. You know, I'm racing with [00:54:00] true pros. But little did I know, they were sending me out, uh, like fodder to basically break, break wind for them and they're hiding behind me.

And so maybe my technical racing that day wasn't so great. But I remember truly learning what a bonk was and completely bonking it. Bottom of the Hydro Hill there at the Callaghan and bonking so bad that the next clusters of riders are coming by and I've got nothing. I can't hook on to them and draft them at all.

And my first inclination was shame and You know, uh, just depression and anger, like, how can this be? And I, I quite quickly, thankfully, changed my narrative. I think the narratives that we create have a huge impact on how we feel psychologically. If we tell ourselves a negative narrative, that's how we're going to show up psychologically.

If we tell ourselves a positive narrative, that's how we're going to show up psychologically. So I started with that negative and shame based narrative. But [00:55:00] quite quickly, um... You know, first world problem, I kind of changed the channel and turned the narrative to positive and to gratitude and how grateful I feel to have this body that can actually ride 120 kilometers in a really cool place, uh, that we should feel really grateful to live.

And they closed the highway for us. And how fun is this? Right. And soon as I changed that kind of mindset and just, um, started to kind of have fun with other riders. Um, you know, I limped my way back to the, uh, to the race finish and of course having a burger and a beer helped quite a bit too. Um, but, uh, but gratitude, right?

It's one of the quickest ways to joy and it's one of the best ways to get us away from that shame place.

Jake Johnstone: Totally. Right? Dude, what a, what a fantastic experience all in all. And I'm so glad you shared this because there was another Gran Fondo just this, this last weekend and there's perhaps a couple of athletes that...

Didn't go as planned. So [00:56:00] some fantastic tools there that I'm sure have helped you since kind of Run that program again and be like, hey, I'm bulking here today or I've had a crash. It hasn't gone to plan Let's let's switch the narrative. Yeah,

Greg McDonnell: exactly. And my narrative is really about moving my body In nature with gratitude with my family and my chosen family, right and if I can do those things for a good long while

Jake Johnstone: Happy camper.

Right. So, really going back to your why there. So, I think it's important for athletes and everyday enthusiasts alike if you haven't sat down and haven't thought about why am I doing these things. It might be worthwhile. Exactly.

Greg McDonnell: Yeah. Having a why is super important.

Jake Johnstone: I love that, dude. We're going to wind this down really shortly.

I'm going to respect your time, but there's a couple questions I wanted to ask amongst, you know, surrounding crashes, injuries, and setbacks. I know a lot of riders struggle with this stuff. And you've got a lot of experiences from the early days, harking down things on the North Shore, running [00:57:00] BMXs, moving to Whistler.

I'd love to know, these days, if you have a crash or a setback, like, what's your process? What are the steps that you're immediately doing there on the trail? And then how does that continue afterwards? Well,

Greg McDonnell: um, you know, after a crash, you know, hopefully the body's okay. Uh, if it's not, then that's step number one is to treat the body.

I mean, it's really important for me and perspective again, again, aging comes with some wisdom. So I have quite a bit of perspective now. It's really important for me touch wood, um, to not bonk my head. If I broke my arm, I can still work, but I, it's really important for me not to take myself out of work where I can't.

provide for my family and things like this, right? Different stage of life, different, different why's. Um, but if there is an injury, step number one is treating that, right? And, and, you know, utilizing the physios and the doctors and the surgeons, um, and you know, and all those trained individuals to kind of [00:58:00] get us back to, to kind of play.

Um, that's probably step one. Uh, step two is probably, uh, really important is, is Managing that shame narrative, right? And again, this is often enmeshed or entangled in our identity. And so if someone feels like their identity is really wobbly because they can't get back on the bike, depression, anxiety, addictions, all those things are risk factors, right?

And so for me, um, it's, it's just about managing the shame. Knowing my worth isn't connected to my productivity on the bike. Right? And, and that's, you know, again, because there's a lot of social capital in the Sea to Sky Corridor with the sports we do, and the Tacoma we drive, and the flat brim hat, I think we have to get away from that.

Right? And we, we have to remember that our worth, our value, our identity is connected to far better or more important things, or diverse [00:59:00] things, than just bikes. So, careful of the shame right after a crash, because if we get busy shaming ourselves and beating ourselves up and feeling all of a sudden not worthy, Um, in the Sea to Sky Corridor, really, that's a bunch of bullshit, because it's not true.

Right, you're worthy of love and belonging, you're safe in your community, Um, and so... Um, heal up and let's put the fun between our legs and let's get back on the

Jake Johnstone: bikes. I love it. Right? Words of wisdom there. And I love speaking to people like you that have been doing this for so long and thinking about it in intricate details because it really shows.

Um, and just, yeah, like summarizing that, like I think there's nothing wrong with that. If you love Tacomas and you love flatbeds, that's like, yeah, yeah, yeah, cool. Yeah, exactly. That's not who we are. And hey,

Greg McDonnell: I've had a Tacoma too, uh, uh, so I'm not. Taking the piss out of Tacomas and Flatberm hats as I wear one.

Um, but it's, and thanks for that because I, uh, you know, because I'm not poking fun. Uh, I'm just, uh, using as an [01:00:00] example, as a caution that careful of what, um, identity structure gets projected onto us or what we think we need in order to feel worthy. And so bringing it back to your question, getting back on the bike and, um, you know, if you're a competitive athlete and you've had a crash, it might be also about, um, getting, you know, titrating or going bit by bit to get back up to speed or back up to that feature.

Um, because that's how we're going to gradually, um, feel empowered about, about it. Right. And so that we can let go and ride in the flow state. Yeah,

Jake Johnstone: great answer. This has been a fantastic conversation. I feel like I've learned so much just in a couple of hours we've spent together. So thank you. You're welcome.

What a pleasure to

Greg McDonnell: meet you, Jake, and happy to do it.

Jake Johnstone: Man, it's been awesome. For the people listening, if they'd like to learn more about you and the amazing work you do here in Whistler, Um, I know not only your counseling clinic you run here, you've also been a part of a bunch of other cool projects you've worked with, with sort of community services, [01:01:00] some great videos on YouTube, some other podcasts, other films you've been part of.

Where can people find that stuff online?

Greg McDonnell: Yeah, well, uh, I'm a pretty accessible person. So through my website, just mcdonnellcounseling. ca. Um, maybe a YouTube search, uh, Greg Counselor Whistler, who knows. Um, I'm not, uh, prolific on the socials and, uh, but I'm accessible. So, please feel free to reach out through my website, um, by phone or email.

I'd be happy to connect. That's great.

Jake Johnstone: I'll put a link to your website in the show notes there. And good on you, you're out there riding instead of, uh, posting about it on Instagram. Good for you, bud. Thanks so much. We'll see you on the trails. Awesome. Thanks, Jake. Look Yeah. All right, thank you.

What's up guys, just one more thing before you hit the trails. If you enjoyed this podcast, please be sure to subscribe and don't be a stranger. I'd love to hear from you about any topics or any particular episodes that you enjoyed, and even about any guests that you'd like to hear me have on the show in the future.

You can find me on Instagram at The underscore Mind [01:02:00] underscore Mountain. This podcast, mountain biking, and mindset are all things that are very close to my heart, so I feel super grateful to be able to share these conversations with you. So much love to you all for taking the time to listen, and I'll see you next time.



bottom of page