|Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Studios|
When do we decide after trying something new, different, and potentially scary- that we are not cut out for it even tho we never fully gave it a chance?
Is it because we live in a world filled with instant gratification? Because if something takes us out of our comfort zone and/or requires actual effort, it's not "worth it?" or perhaps, "dangerous?"
Many folks already do something physically active that requires effort. Maybe it's a spin class at a local fitness studio, perhaps it's running, or maybe it's skiing in the winter months. Either way you look at it, all of those activities would have required some sort of learning curve and effort. For whatever reason, in that particular setting or activity- folks decide it's safe and okay to exude effort, break a sweat, fall, fumble, or otherwise push themselves out of their comfort zone. They deem the learning curve wasn't as steep as they thought or the outcome/reward was greater than the potential discomfort or fear of possible failure. Something in them chose to put forth whatever it took to become better at the challenge the activity brought- so why is it some challenges bring forth determination when others bring about quitting?
Mountain biking or off-road riding seems to be one of those activities where people find it an easy "make or break" because if it's "too hard" they are obviously not cut out for the challenge. There are several factors as to why mountain biking is challenging including but not limited to: equipment, local trails, confidence, and lack of support. If resources are not easily found or accessible, folks often say "Nope, not for me!" If the first experience riding off-road kept one flitting back and forth between fear and anxiety because they weren't comfortable with the terrain, bike, pace, etc. - "Nope, not for me!"
Remember, one experience does not a master make and I say this from the bottom of my heart-
I almost gave up on mountain biking.
I was the one death-gripping my handlebar and braking heavily down every hill, big or small. Going between trees petrified me and I hated being jostled when riding over roots or rocks. I had a hard time standing while climbing, having my butt back over the seat was terrifying, and I was physically not in my prime. Climbs were hard, riding was hard, and I felt I would never improve.
I wouldn't have, especially if I didn't come to the conclusion that I had to go out and just keep trying. I had to work at it, I had to fail...multiple times...in order to get better and have more of an understanding as to how mountain biking worked. Travis originally didn't have much faith that I would enjoy mountain biking and he wasn't going to hold hope.
I had to make the choice on my own to keep trying.
I had the tool I needed, I had the support system, but at the same time I also had to be unafraid to ride on my own.
Unfortunately, I feel my rapid progression with off-road riding has made it seem like you need to have some sort of extraordinary superpower in order to mountain bike. I assure you, you don't.
I also feel there is a false impression of how talented one supposedly "needs to be" in order to ride on dirt trails.
I did not gain confidence with riding off road during my first 3-4 rides....I really didn't gain confidence with riding off-road until many rides later. If you wanted a poster child for the most anxiety-filled rider as well as the rider who cried out of frustration the most, I would be it for both.
I was afraid of just about everything but also extremely bull-headed! The only reason I didn't throw my bike after trying a half-hour to make a climb was because the bike was too damn expensive. Truth.
Learning to mountain bike is a step-by-step progression that I'm still working on. Believe me when I say there are still times when I'm riding somewhere new and I'm shy or timid; there are features I'm leery of and I ride assessing every tree and corner. Getting to the point where I can ride new trails as confidently as my local ones has not happened yet, but I appreciate every opportunity to do so. It's a great way to grow!
In the beginning I spent a multitude of hours working on my basic skills and I was fortunate enough to go riding for a couple hours almost daily. It was a lot of work, a lot of catching myself, tipping over, walking, but also...succeeding! I discovered when I fell, I didn't break my bike nor did I break my body. Every bruise had a story of what I was attempting to ride, and many times a success behind it. There were times I scared myself, too and I could've walked away, never to ride off-road again. Why didn't I? I don't have the answer for that other than (I suppose) the reward was far greater than going back to the confines of my comfort zone. The more I rode, the less I fell and my legs and lungs became stronger! I have gone through a couple seasons where my bruises are far less, but they still happen sometimes and probably always will.
I feel that some of us (women) put a lot of weight on what we tell ourselves we "can't" do. That very mentality was what kept me off a bicycle for years.
It pains me that we are so quick to judge ourselves based on one or two experiences, rather than a series of attempts to really determine whether or not we have the capacity to improve and do whatever we want to do successfully. If we are to grow in anything we need to get out of our boxes and push past the road blocks.
If you've tried mountain biking before and felt your first experience was so completely nerve-wracking that it is impossible to believe it could get better, I encourage you to prove yourself wrong.
This is coming from someone who almost a quit. This is coming from someone who knows the extremes one can feel when pushing themselves out of their "safe zone." From a woman who cried on the trails multiple times.
This is coming from someone who is still learning.
This is why I created FWD-Fearless Women of Dirt and this is why I want to go riding with you!
Support and encouragement are two of the key ingredients for making FWD a success and they are open to anyone, everywhere, all the time.
Stop "liking" the photos that your friend posts of their off-road adventure, commenting how inspired you are by them and how you "can't possibly do that." Instead, ask your friend if you can have them take you out on an off-road ride! Go to your local bike shop and rent a bike or borrow a proper-fitting and appropriate for the ride, bike from someone. If your friend is newer to riding, it's a great way to get your feet wet with someone that's on the same page as you. If I get inspired by riding with new riders, so will you!
Also, don't shy away from experienced riders! Especially those who are highly encouraging of getting new folks out on the trails. They would not offer if they weren't interested or willing to ride with new/inexperienced riders.
Aren't you tired of telling yourself that you "can't?"
What steps will you take to make yourself go FWD and say YOU CAN?
Be this inspirational little girl! Keep trying and don't give up!
Be this inspirational little girl! Keep trying and don't give up!