I recently just started biking, enjoying the benefits of crosstraining for my running routines. Mountain biking does not come natural to me and I started to wonder why that is. Usually, I am all up for some action, speed, fun and adrenaline. But when it comes to mountain biking, I get really tense and nervous: I get really scared going downhill. Yesterday I had a longer chat with my parents on the phone and now things become much clearer.
My fear of Crashing when riding a bike
I am not really scared of many things except for huge hairy spiders and going downhill. I am not just talking about mountain biking. Whenever I have to go down the road, I feel uncomfortable: it could be on a skateboard, a regular bike, whatever. Confronting me directly with my fear does not really help. Whenever I feel pushed too hard or am scared – in any situation -, I completely shut down. Sometimes I literally freeze.
My dad told me that I had a very bad bike accident when I was a child. Ended up in a hospital with a severe head injury, three months of physical therapy and never wanted to step on a bike again. I honestly cannot remember AT ALL! But now things are starting to become a bit clearer.
Fear and anxiety are two immediate reactions to a traumatic event when your sense of control has disappeared. As a result of your experience, you now believe it is not safe and your body is on steady alert. You may also find yourself thinking negative thoughts, not trusting yourself. And that is exactly how I feel when going downhill.
Taking little steps
I actually had no idea, since I did start to feel pretty messed up. On Saturday I went on a four-hour mountain bike tour near Munich. I actually LOVED the challenge to “climb” up the hill on my bike, to cruise along the lake, having fun, going fast. Except when I needed to go downhill. There was one point when I just saw how steep it was – steep and narrow slopes. I did not wanna go down that path, but the guide told me not to be such a wimp and simply trust my instincts.
Well… That did not work out well at all. My fear immediately kicked in, I completely froze, started sweating and shaking and then it happened: I hit the breaks too hard and almost crashed. Afterwards, I was walking downhill. I did not feel safe anymore, had tears in my eyes.
After talking to my dad, now I know where it comes from and that I need to work on it. But forcing me to do things, going down slopes I don’t feel comfortable with, surely is not the right way. I realized how important it is to find the right mountain bike guide or bike buddy. Trying a new sport can be hard, yes. But it should not make you feel scared and uncomfortable – on the contrary.
I definitely could have needed more guidance and support this weekend. When I don’t feel safe, my heart starts beating like crazy and then, when I am being pushed instead of getting the support, I completely shut down – my body shuts down.
When I run, my head is completely empty – I feel free, happy and have a blast. I wanna feel like this when riding my bike. If this means, I need to start slowly, going along the riverbank for a while before trying to go down the slopes again, so be it.
Maybe I will take my bike with me to Switzerland in July riding through the Dischma Valley by myself. I already know that route, the guide made me feel pretty safe and I feel like I trust myself enough to manage it. I mean, my bike is AWESOME. I really LOVE it. Small steps, right? But the main part for me: having fun. I don’t like these many thoughts in my head, led by fear. I exercise to clear my head, find my inner balance, refuel my energy and be happy.
Thus, this week, I will take it easy – no steep hills going down. Just having fun with my bike along the riverbank!
photo credits: V’s World