This is an interesting subject matter when it comes to riding bikes, and it’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while. So after a rejuvenating ride today I’m ready to share my thoughts.
In the world of bike riding, mind over matter typically occurs in two scenarios. One scenario is when we’re trying to overcome something that scares us. This happens with all riders and at all levels from beginner to pro. This can be a small log to a monstrous Red Bull jump. The other scenario in which we encounter this is when we are on a ride and physical pain and fatigue begin to set in.
The people around us can have a great impact on how we deal with both of these scenarios. For me personally, it’s all about the vibe I'm receiving from those around me and, therefore, I label myself a “vibe” rider. I find it easier to ride harder and feel safer pushing the limits when I’m surrounded by good company. Knowing someone’s there to pick us up when we fall is very comforting. Many of us have been in the scenario where peer pressure, either mentally or through words had us doing something a little more than we were comfortable with. It might not have gone completely in your favor, but by attempting something you let your brain control your emotions and be the boss of your body. I have a personal rule I try to follow when riding and am in a situation in which I’m not really comfortable. I give it three tries, and if I don’t do it by then, it’s time to ride away and come back another day. Chances are the obstacle will still be there waiting to be conquered. It’s all an issue of mind over matter when it comes to things like this. Now don’t get me wrong, by all means ride to your ability and don’t start riding over your head. That will only get you injured or worse. However there are those times where you try, commit, and succeed at what you were trying to do. Pushing the limits is how we take our riding to the next level. Your skills and equipment are ready to go; it may just be your mind that needs to catch up with what's going on. I actually experienced this today on my ride. I came into a section by myself and there was a series of jumps, I quickly eyed up the jumps and decided to go around all of them (4 in total). They were covered in ice, and I immediately focused on consequence instead of just trusting my ability. Here’s the funny thing though, I came back an hour later with two friends behind me and hit all the jumps without hesitation and without worry. Why? To me it's simple...because it’s happened to me so many times while riding bikes...I felt safe. I knew everything would be fine, and I had no hesitation because I was riding in good company and having fun. I wasn’t tense or nervous; I just did what I was supposed to do and rode my bike. My mind was turned off to fear and tuned in to riding my bike. What had me hesitant before had now become simple; I let go of the worry and everything became instinct. The more time we spend riding the more things become instinct. It’s kind of like driving, we get in a car and perform so many tasks that at first we had to focus intensely on but now they are second nature.
Now here’s an example of mind over matter I experienced on my ride last weekend. It was cold, really cold, and I had just worked out hard the night before, and my body was feeling tired. I really wanted to do a long ride outside especially since the weekends are my only time to ride outside these days. The sun was out and it was calling me to get on my bike and ride. I bundled up in my gear and headed to the towpath to put in some time and miles. As the ride started I was happy to be on the bike, pedaling and soaking up the sun. I wasn’t in a rush but knew I had to be at certain place at a certain time to meet up with a friend. As I looked at the time, I worried that I might be late so I upped the pace a little. Then my phone rang, my friend had bike issues and wasn’t going to be able to meet me. I felt deflated, and my pace slowed. I felt the excitement and energy drain from my body, my ride continued, but my pace slowed. The goal of the ride now changed, and even though I was happy to be outside, the excitement of riding with a friend was gone. Cold temperatures are always easier to deal with in the good company of others. It helps to put your mind in a better, happier place, where it’s not cold, your feet aren’t numb, and your water bottle isn’t frozen. Oh wait, those things still happen but you deal with it better because you know others are most likely in the same boat. Ok, now back to my ride. So I’m cruising along when I run in to my friend who had the bike trouble and now his bike is fixed and he’s ready to rock on. Not only have my spirits returned, but my energy is back and I’m ready to rock and roll. So how did my mind go from telling my body that my battery was low to telling it that I’m now an Energizer bunny? It’s simple; it went from just a ride, to a fun ride with a friend, and now my mind was telling my body to go go go. Good company will always make a ride better. So I had a second experience with mind over matter on this same ride. I was now on my way home, my riding buddy had split off, and I was a few miles from my car. I was tired, my legs were sluggish, and I was frozen. My job was now to simply get the ride over with, and to finish with all my fingers and toes. As I rounded the last corner it was as if I was viewing the finish line to the Tour De France. Energy levels peaked, there’s no pain in my legs, and I’m back in the game. As I finish the ride, I’m reminded that I went from zero to hero all because my mind said it wanted to, and that, my friends, is the point of this article.
Our bodies are capable of so much; it’s our minds that need to be along for the ride. Negativity and self-doubt can and will hold you back from achieving your goals and ambitions. If you’re scared of an obstacle, jump, log, rock garden, just take a minute to put things into perspective. Think about why you’re scared or nervous, and slowly decide what you should do. There’s no rush to getting hurt, but if you begin with a plan and surround yourself with good company, you will only be improving your chances of success.
Also, next time you’re trying to crush that climb, or stick with the break away and feel like you can’t hold on, decide if it’s your mind or legs that can’t hold on. Don’t let your mind be your body’s biggest enemy.