GET YOUR MTB MOJO BACK
Durban- based sports psychologist Dr Kirsten van Heerden points out that confidence (or a lack thereof) shouldn’t come from your last ride – the one when you crashed; it should be drawn from all your rides. People tend to focus on the crash, she says, and forget about all the other rides they’ve had in which they didn’t crash.
“Our brains seem to have a default setting towards focusing on the negative, so you should remember those other, crash-free times, when you were great – you have to be quite purposeful and mindful in doing this.” Van Heerden adds that being nervous often comes from incorrect focus – in other words, concentrating on the uncontrollable. “Getting back on the bike means focusing on your job as a rider, picking the right line, and managing the technical parts of the trail – the things you can control. If you do this well, more often than not you’ll get through a ride without any problems. Focusing on the ‘ what- ifs’ (What if I crash again? What if I hurt myself?) just makes things worse.”
Clinton Gähwiler, a psychologist at the Sports Science Institute of SA, says it’s not circumstances that make us feel things; it’s how we think about the circumstances. “It has to do with how we process what happened. While obviously we can’t always control circumstances, our thinking habits are in fact largely under our control.”
Thankfully, he adds, humans are very good learners. “We feel fear after having crashed, so that we can avoid similar situations in future. So fear is an adaptive thing. But there’s helpful fear and unhelpful fear – the challenge is to know the difference.”
If your fear is ‘unhelpful’ (for example, if the tension of riding downhill after a fall puts you at greater risk of falling again), then it’s worth developing mental skills to manage that fear. Confidence, says Gähwiler, must be rebuilt slowly.