Are you afraid, or are you ready?

This has happened several times in skills classes, and I think it has something to teach us:

The situation. You and I are out riding a trail or working skills at a bike park. Maybe I want you to increase the pace, or maybe we’re dealing with a challenging section of trail. You say you’re afraid, and you just can’t do the thing. This vexes me because you’re riding well, and I know the challenge is well within your limits. Otherwise I wouldn’t be pushing it. 

This is a major issue for analytical people. They tend to live in their heads rather than their bodies, and they have a hard time, once they know a skill, making it happen. So they’re constantly in their heads, which 1) limits their ability to execute complex physical skills and 2) is no fun and 3) often leads to self judgement, which makes 1 and 2 way worse.  

But not just today. You feel like this whenever you’re challenged with higher speeds, technical trails or pretty much anything that pushes that button.

In moments like this your body is ready to act. Adrenaline and other go-chemicals pump through your body. Your heart rate increases. You sweat more. You’re ready to kick ass (or run away). 

But you’re not kicking ass. Maybe you’re just standing there, or you’re riding super slow and cautious, neither of which uses or diffuses the chemicals. So they’re swirling around, making a maelstrom of your body. 

And you, or course, have thoughts. You decide this is fear. And you judge it. “I suck at this” or, even worse, “I just plain suck.” And the more you don’t act, the more these chemicals jack you up, and the more you feel, and the more you judge, and the worse it gets. 

I coach you through the physical skills. Look here, do this with your body, let your bike do this. But we both know you have the skill nailed. This is mental. So I ask you:

What, specifically, are you feeling? If you’re a normal person, you’re terrible at describing what’s going on in your body. So you probably stammer and fall quiet. Then I ask you:

Are you feeling anything in your belly? A twinge? An ache? A sick feeling? In my opinion, those are sure signs of fear. You say no. 

Or are you feeling it up higher? Is there an excitement in your chest? A warmth in your neck? Is your head buzzing? You say yes. 

This is great news. I tell you: 

You’re not afraid! You’re ready! Yes: That feeling is not fear. It’s readiness. It’s your body preparing itself to do something awesome. Once you know this distinction, and you embrace the feeling as something positive and helpful, you can usually do the thing — and do it perfectly.

I hope this is helpful,


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