Three Issues Keeping You From Mountain Biking at Your Best, Part 1
Whether you are self-taught and relatively new to riding or a veteran with skills coaching experience and years on your mountain bike you might be letting this issue hold you back. All the skills coaching, personal training and fitness coaching in the world will not allow us to reach our goals until we overcome this issue.
The number one issue holding you back from reaching your potential is your mind! Specifically self-limiting beliefs. We all have self-limiting beliefs, just some of us in areas that greatly affect achieving our most important goals and some of us are fortunate enough to have them in areas that only effect minor goals. I hear some of our students say these self-limiting beliefs out loud: “I stink at climbing!”, “I suck at descending but I’m good at …”, “I’m just not a natural” but often we are not even aware of these beliefs, they are in our subconscious. The interesting thing is that many times these self-limiting beliefs are completely unfounded! That’s right, quite often the thing holding you back has no basis in reality.
Any belief that holds you back is a self-limiting belief. When your subconscious says, “I am not good enough” that is a self-limiting belief. Sometimes they actually start out positive “I can do that well but I never will be as good as ….” but in the end they set a limit to your achievement/performance.
They are often caused by failing at something (as you may or may not know I believe that, “failure is a nature and necessary part of the learning process” quote from Dan Millman). For instance, a former self-limiting belief I had was that I could not do a trackstand. One day a friend and I each tried to trackstand and I ended up falling over. For years after this when asked if I could trackstand I would reply, “no, I can not trackstand” and for years I couldn’t trackstand. Was this limitation real? Of course not, looking back on that day I fell over trying to trackstand I realized I did a trackstand for five, possibly ten seconds before I feel over but I guess my goal was an hour are so, so in my mind I failed. One day I decided I would try using baby steps (working my way from 1 second trackstands to 20-30 second trackstands) and in less than an hour I was doing ten second trackstands consistently.
From discussing self-limiting beliefs with our students it seems like society is often to blame. A parent, a teacher, an older sibling, a teammate, anyone whose opinion you respected may have had set something that is holding you back. In my case, when I was seven or eight I came home crying because I didn’t make the baseball team and my mom, trying to comfort me said, “honey, you’re just not a natural athlete but you are so much smarter than those boys. You’re IQ is ….”. Not exactly what a seven-year old wants to hear! At the US Snowboarding Championships in 1992 I remember looking over at my competitor in the dual slalom quarter finals and thinking, “holy cow, look at the size of his legs! He is a natural athlete, what am I doing here, I am not a natural like him.” Not exactly the best thing to be thinking right before a race! I actually ended up beating him, barely but, I got eliminated in the next round. Can you imagine how much better I would have raced if I had thought, “wow, look at the over developed legs on that guy, to bad he doesn’t have my skill, I am going to smoke him!” With that much more positive self-belief I just might have one the competition!
How to do you stop this often subconscious self-defeating cycle? Step one is to identify the belief, “I am a good rider but will never be great” or the most misguided one I heard the other day, “I only weigh 140 so I don’t have the muscle mass to climb like the bigger guys” (this is misguided because in general the lighter you are the better climber you are, most great climbers are short and stick thin). Once you have identified the belief check to find the source of the belief and see if it is real. Where did the belief come from? Does it make sense? Is there proof that the belief is true? Once you have these questions answered you can create a strategy to rid yourself of the belief. If the belief was caused by a past failure tell yourself, the past doesn’t equal the future and correctly practice doing the skill/section of trail that you felt you couldn’t do. If it has no basis in reality (your friend said, “wow you suck at descending” 10 years ago) tell yourself, “that was ten years ago, I now understand body position and vision better, my bike is way better and I have the skill to descend much better now”. Often you will find that once you identify a self-limiting belief you laugh, realize that it is preposterous and you move past it.
Don’t let fiction, fantasy, someone else’s opinion or conjecture hold you back. Attack these self-limiting beliefs and achieve your best.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 for the other two issues that keep you from riding at your best.