A Frustrating Thing That Often Holds Us Back on the MTB Trail! (video)

Is this frustrating thing (that we all experience) holding you back on the mtb trail?

Are you letting failure hold you back?! Or worse yet, fear of failure? Dan Millman (World Champion Gymnast, Coach and Author) said, “Failure is natural and necessary part of the learning process.” He is not recommending failing for the sake of failing but going for it and when you do fail, learning from it.

Some fear of failure can be good, if more 12-35 year old males with an inflated belief in their skills feared failure a little more there would be a lot less trips to the emergency room! If the fear of failure involves a 40 foot double jump you might want to listen to it. In this case you can use the fear to ask, “why am I afraid to do that” and you might have a great answer, “because I have no idea how to do that in balance and in control”! If the fear of failure is keeping you from doing something less dangerous, such as cornering a little faster when you know proper cornering technique and you have knee pads on, the fear of failure can really hold you back. In this case the answer to “but what if I fail?” is usually, “your pride will be hurt for a moment”.

So let fear of failure protect you when it can, but don’t let it defeat you when there are little or no consequences for failure.

As I was writing this I found this video on you tube, check it out:

A common “failure” in mountain biking is sliding out in a corner. If this happens to you out on the trail, instead of kicking your bike and cursing it, figure out why you slid out and design a plan so that it doesn’t happen again. This exact failure is why I started BetterRide. It went something like this, “Wow, that stinks, my front wheel just slid out and I skinned my knee! It is a loose, gravel corner, maybe I was going to fast. No, Dusty made it through going faster than me, speed wasn’t the issue. ‘Hey Dusty, what tires are you using, I think my tires made me slide out.’ Dusty replied, ‘Dart/smoke combo, same as you.’ ‘Well how did you go so fast through that corner?’, I asked. His reply was something to the effect of, ‘let go of your brakes and hang on!’ Which made me realize, I really don’t know proper cornering technique, I wonder who can coach me?” I won’t bore you with my struggle to find a coach but that is a great example of failure leading to success in two aspects of my life. I eventually learned to corner correctly and founded a company helping others to corner and ride correctly!

Back to your riding and how to let failure inspire you instead of hold you back. Next time you fail on the trail, before just riding off, or retrying whatever it was that you failed at, stop and analyze what happened. Was it lack of proper technique, loss of focus, tension, panic or fear? Once you figure out why you failed you can design a plan to succeed!

My plan to succeed at cornering was to find a coach to teach me how to corner correctly and then use drills to master cornering technique (I realize that isn’t most people’s thought process, I was a former professional snowboard racer and a snowboard team coach at the time). In my case it was because I was doing nearly everything wrong in corners; my vision was off, my balance was off and I thought to tighten up a turn I needed to steer tighter! Looking back on it the main reason my front wheel slid out was my body position. I was going relatively fast into the corner so I was a little tense and scared (not horrified, just a little worried that I wasn’t going to make it) so instinctively (see this article on instincts: http://betterride.net/?p=1837) I shifted my weight back away from danger which unweighted my front wheel so it slid out. This is something I still work on in fast descending corners, I have to fight the urge to creep back on my bike a bit. I am sure the fact that I was looking at the apex of the corner (not through the corner like I should have been), was leaning with my bike and sticking my knee out didn’t help either! In this case simply being centered over the bottom bracket instead of having my weight back over the rear wheel would have been enough to give the front wheel traction and make the corner.

In short, don’t be afraid of failure, make the most of your failures, use them to learn and improve. As Michael Jordan said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. When you do fail, learn from it and use the failure as inspiration to learn and improve!

Avoid Off-Season Burnout, Mountain Bikers

Below I’ll address two things that seem to plague many MTB’ers in the off-season: one, what I call “gym-rat burnout” and two, body weight management.

The following is purposely not very specific or in-depth, but more of something to think about and address on your own. This is mainly because we all have different goals, aspirations, time crunches, athletic endeavors, etc. outside of biking (which is my area of expertise) and the off-season is the time to partake in all kinds of other fun/necessary stuff that we have a tough time doing during the summer because we have other very important things to do… like ride our bikes! I’m also not an expert at pilates, road riding, xc skiing, or many other activities that MTB’ers use for off-season fitness, but I am very aware of how difficult it can be to maintain fitness over the winter. So again, I’ll keep this kind of loose, but these are two things that most of us, as riders, have to deal with in one way or another.

If you’re a fairly serious rider or racer (and you live in an area where it is the off-season) you should currently be enjoying a break from the intensity of training, racing, serious rides, etc. This doesn’t mean that you have to stay off of your bike, but bike rides should be fun and enjoyable at this time. If you’re a cyclocoss racer, or serious skier, or snowboarder, or something of that nature, great, just make sure that you will be able to get enough time to fully recover and then be ready to go again (both mentally and physically) for MTB in the spring.

Just because we don’t have a race right around the corner doesn’t mean that we can completely forget about what our goals are as riders. The off-season can, and should play a very important role in your successes next spring and summer.

First, I’ll address “gym-rat burnout”:

We ride bikes because riding is fun. Even if we take it extremely seriously, even if we make money doing it, we still do it because it’s enjoyable. We get outside. We get to compete (even if its with just ourselves). There’s often a good dose of camaraderie. Often, bikes give us a reason to travel. For most of us, the gym offers nearly none of this. The gym is a means to an end, and therefore, just not a whole lot of fun (for me at least). Ditto with road riding, running… So, it’s often tough to stay motivated to do these things for a long period of time.

Motivation is the key to anything as far as I’m concerned. This winter, if you spend three intense hours per day on your trainer in your basement, putting in thousands of miles and tons of interval work, and also hitting the gym like Lou Ferrigno, and then when you emerge in the spring, you hate your bike and the pain that it represents… well, you’re probably not going to be very motivated to kick the season off correctly. I’m guilty of this myself pretty much every year (kinda). I take about a week off somewhere in November, and after a week off of the bike, I get super motivated!!! I then get in the gym and put a program together, start trail running, start backcountry snowboarding like a banshee, ride my bike in the snow… I feel like an animal all winter long until around March and then I peter-out. I’m over it, over winter, over the gym, over running, over snowboarding… I end up eating like crap and being lazy for a couple of weeks right when I should be ramping up for the riding season to start. This has happened, consistently, for as long as I can remember. Sounds like I need to make some conscious adjustments to my off-season program, huh?

I’m not the only rider guilty of this, it happens to a lot of people. So relax a little and pace yourself. Stay active but do some other things besides road riding and the gym (that are fun, or at least, mix it up a bit). If you are very serious and want to make some fitness gains over the winter, cool, but be conscious of your mental state and put yourself on a pace where you’ll be chomping at the bit and ready to rip out the throats of your fellow competitors’ and/or riding buddies’ in the spring (literally, of course!!!). You want to be hungry when the season starts.

Something else that many of us need to deal with in the off-season is weight. And I’m not talking about shaving grams off your bike! The off-season is the time to make adjustments in body weight, or, at the very least, keep weight gain (or loss, for some people) under control. In my own case, I would like to slim down and improve my power to weight ratio (o.k., keep it under control, also!). While I’m not necessarily a fat-ass, 5’6” and 165 isn’t really ideal for getting from point A to point B (got some great ‘short-and-stocky’ genes from my mom). I do have a nice layer of beer and pizza induced baby-fat that I can rid myself of, but also, I can lose a bunch of muscle (especially upper body) that actually hinders me, speed-wise, on the bike. But in order to do this correctly, I need to maintain a calorie deficit. During the season — though I definitely don’t get to race as much as I’d like to — I do a lot of hard riding. This includes a lot of intense trail riding, motocross, dirt jumping MTB’s, stuff that I could easily get hurt doing if things go wrong (which, of course, they do from time to time), and often, on back-to-back-to-back days, whenever I have the opportunity. So during the season, recovery with adequate food intake, and being strong and fit is more important then focusing on losing weight (and doing it correctly, which is difficult). The time for me to do this is now (please don’t ask how its going!).

On the other side of this is simply not gaining unwanted weight. We all know how the wintertime, football season (obligatory beer drinking), the holidays, etc, can be a fat-laden kiss of death for keeping weight in check. Let’s be realistic about this: ideally, we’d all get down to our perfect “fighting weight”, during Nov, Dec and be on our way with our off-season training (and if you’re serious, you need to do this). But sometimes real-life does get in the way for real people. However, there’s no excuse for coming into the riding season 10-15 lbs heavier (fat wise – bad heavier) then you were at the end of the previous season. Five lbs.…? O.k., I’ll give you that… But, trying to dial in weight while you’re also trying to get stronger is a difficult thing to do and you’re starting in a hole if you begin your fitness and race training overweight.

A great way to help you keep things in check weight-wise? Keep a food journal. Especially over the holidays! Write down absolutely everything that you eat. Make sure that this is a small notebook or something that can be kept conveniently on you, so that you WILL actually do this! Every cheese sample at Whole Foods, every stray piece of Halloween candy, the dressing that you put on the salad… EVERYTHING! If you have to write it down, you’re conscious of it, you can’t simply “pretend it didn’t happen”. You won’t be saying, “man how’d I get so fat… I thought I was doing pretty good…”

So, a little advice on two things that most of us wrestle with during the off-season…

Good luck!!!

Mountain Bikes = Passion, Adventure and Challenge!

Here’s to the passionate ones! Those of you like Jackie and Dante Harmony who gladly live out of a van and occasional hotel room for half the year so you can challenge yourself and chase your dreams of World Cup glory. Whether you are a surfer chasing good swells around the world, a snowboarder living on ramen noodles and caffeine as you chase your dream of making the US Team, a climber living down by the river in your Subaru wagon so you can wake up and scale a tougher wall or a parent (also a lawyer/ and volunteer soccer coach) who still sleeps in a tent on non-soccer weekends so you can ride one more day in Moab you are a friend of mine.

 

Challenge, like crossing a raging creek in January!

As I agonize over which house to buy in Tempe (the really cool little zen like house that is going to stretch my budget or the nice but boring house that is a great deal) I have to laugh at all the energy, time and stress I am spending worrying about something that really doesn’t matter! My house doesn’t bring me joy nor does it define me, it is simply a place to rest, recover, store my stuff (that is a whole ‘nother rant) and prepare for my next adventure in. I grew up in a 1,200 square foot house with only 1.5 baths! While four people using the same shower every morning was a struggle we managed to get by just fine. Of the thousands of great memories I have from growing up none of them were limited by that house and none could have been enhanced if we had grown up in a 7,000 square foot custom home (although skateboarding through a 7,000 sqf home at 12 would have been fun!).

 

A whole crew of dirt bags riding the best trail in Moab

Life is so much better with passion and challenge than simply trying to get by. We (mountain bikers) are fortunate to have found something that we love so much that we will give up the “necessities” that so many people can’t do without to chase our passion. Next to spending quality time with my family and loved ones the happiest, most rewarding and most fun times of my life have been spent out there, often on the edge, not in front of a TV set.

A big thank you to all the dirt bag* mountain bikers, skiers, snowboarders, surfers, river rats, skaters and climbers that I have met along the way! It is easy to get caught up in our culture of more, bigger, better, NOW when it is constantly in your face. Thankfully, when my priorities get a little askew, it seems like there is always a soul brother or sister there to remind me that life isn’t about “things”. For those I have met along the way thanks for living the dream and helping me keep perspective.

In short, go for a ride, or hike, or climb, get out and enjoy yourself. Spend less time worrying and more time living!

*”Dirt Bag” is an affectionate term used by my friends