I was recently riding with a group of boys ages 10-12 on a trail they had never ridden before. The three boys are all excellent riders and very comfortable on their home trails. As we were riding, the boys peppered me with questions:
- How many hills are there?
- What are the rocks like?
- Is it all up hill?
- Are we half way yet?
I was struck by how uncomfortable they were with the uncertainty of the trail, and how learning to be uncomfortable with that uncertainty is a coachable skill. Recently, as families have started to prepare for Fall and back to school amidst a pandemic, we have all felt a lot of uncertainty and asked similar questions such as “How long is this dang hill?”
Below are my top 5 tips for riding a new trail. I hope you find them helpful not only in your trail riding, but as you prepare for the uncertainty of Fall 2020 as well.
1. Expect uncertainty and embrace it
We only get to ride a new trail for the first time once. It should be a thrilling and refreshing experience. It’s actually good for the brain to quickly process new obstacles as we go flying down a trail!
2. Look as far ahead as you can
Try to anticipate what is around the next corner and adjust accordingly. Do you need to slow down, shift into an easier gear, position your body lower or to one side? Actively think to yourself, “what do I need to do next?” and you will be more ready than you think as you proceed forward.
3. Exaggerate Ready Position
When in doubt, engage your natural suspension by bending the knees and elbows! Click here for more on the Ready Position.
4. Slow down, look, and walk if necessary
Remember you can always slow down, and get off your bike if needed.
All too often we forget this crucial life force. Slowing our breath can help us shift our nervous system from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest). When we slow our breathe we think more clearly, make smarter decisions, and proceed with a sense of calm rather than panic.
6. Control the controllables
Nutrition, news consumption, and your bedtime routine are factors over which you have a large degree of control.
As fall creeps closer it is easy to feel uncertain, anxious, and nervous. I encourage you to think of it as a new trail. Perhaps the hardest trail you’ve ever ridden, but remember the skills you’ve developed in the past and lean into those skills to get you through.
Expect there to be uncertainty, but try to look ahead and prepare. Don’t be afraid to take things slowly, maybe you feel like others are rushing full steam ahead and making plans left and right, but move forwards at a pace that is comfortable for you. When everything else seems crazy and impossible, remember to breathe.