3 lessons to ride and live better

Lessons learned mountain biking can easily be applied to everyday life, and often what we learn on the trail reflects our actions off the trail, making us stronger, more determined and accepting of challenges.

The last two seasons we have spend quite some time multitasking on a mountain bike – technical climbs, tough obstacles, rocks, switchbacks, it has all been thrown at me. This is what I have learned so far:

  • Pick a line and commit to it. 

One of the first things you will learn when on a mountain bike course or guided trip is the “ready” position: standing up on even pedals, your knees and elbows slightly bent, index fingers resting on the brake levers, and eyes scanning the terrain ahead. This position allows us to anticipate what is coming and adapt to the terrain, moving the bike underneath you and your body around over the bike. In this position, your body acts as an extra suspension, so you can roll over rocks and roots – in maximum control. When you are riding, you don´t always manage to stay on the line you´ve choosen;  You need to be prepared to ride through it and be ready to take a new line. The same goes for life. As we learn to adjust to new and changing situations, we are more likely to report greater life satisfaction and a greater sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Things do not always turn out the way we would like or plan to, but we got to stay flexible. When the path gets rocky, pick a line, commit to it by getting in the ready position, and you will get through.

  • Look to where you want to go.

The key to choosing the best line? Scan the terrain ahead. I am often challenged by this, I find myself sometimes losing focus, freezing in the moment, and not looking ahead. Problem is that you loose the overview and that you can´t anticipate on what is coming. The solution is easier said than done, but if we let our bodies do what they really want to do, which is to follow our gaze, then we´re set up quite right.

In life we often struggle with unmet expectations (either that we have to ourselves or other people) and we find ourselves focusing on these. There´s really no use focusing on where you don´t want to be, whether it be with your career, relationships or fitness. Instead, we should set our sight on where you want to get to and aim to reach this goal – especially mentally. We know that visualization can lead to success, as many Olympic athletes prepare themselves using imagery, which could mean mentally practicing a routine or imagining yourself crossing the finish line. Looking forward toward your goals and envisioning success helps you accomplish them much faster than wasting your time looking back.

  • Think happy thoughts.

When the trail gets tough, or you´re just having a “bad day”, feel intimidated by a certain trail feature, it´s easy to get down and let negativity sneak in. However, staying positive is the key. Ofcourse, it´s okay to fall. Everyone does. It´s okay to know what you can do and what not. It´s okay to get off the bike and pushbike for a bit. But use your skills, and your knowledge of skills, to remind yourself of what you can do. When you meet difficulties on the trail, break down the trail in sections, and try it anyways. Commit to the hard stuff and celebrate the fact that you did try, whatever the outcome was.

It´s easier said then done, but a positive attitude can take you far on the bike and in life. After all, while you might not always be able to change the circumstances, you can change your attitude. Maintaining an optimistic outlook by mentally pushing out feelings of doubt, anger, sadness, defeat or failure will result in a better bike ride and life. I have started to practice this, and whenever I feel a gloomy thought coming, I try reversing it into a positive and repeating it over and over. Doing so affects me physically and mentally, and in the end; it is infectious!

What has mountain biking taught you so far? Have a think about it, jot it down and be aware how it affects you and others around you!