Teaching your body to ride fast is only half the battle; you need to train your brain too. Enduro racer and sport’s psychologist Fiona Meikle shows you how:
Virtual reality rider
Before you even ride a trail, visualisation is a really useful tool for picking your line. It basically requires you to use all of your senses to practise the trail in your mind before you’ve physically ridden it.
Learn to ‘read’ the route with your rider’s eye so you know what to expect and plan how you are going to deal with it. Then practise riding it in your mind, visualising small sections of the route one at a time.
Look at the trail in detail, check out all the obstacles, the surface, how the weather is affecting it and how others ride it. You can then produce a mental video of yourself riding the trail successfully before you give it a go.
Pushing yourself too far beyond your capabilities can reduce confidence, especially if you find yourself on a trail that’s too technical or you crash. But staying in your comfort zone can also impede your progress as a rider and affect your enjoyment.
Set a goal that will push your skills but isn’t way beyond your ability. It needs to be a specific goal, like moving up a colour grade at a trail centre, and set a time to complete that goal.
Then set yourself smaller goals that will help you to achieve this goal, for example trying steeper sections or bigger drops. Make your goals achievable and realistic so you can increase your confidence and continue to enjoy riding.
Watch the descending tips that might help you achieve your goal
We’ve yet to meet a rider who hasn’t experienced white-knuckle syndrome; when you are so nervous you grip the bars like a vice. Being this tense directly impacts how you ride. When your arms are tense you have a lot less control of the bike and it can make easy skills more difficult.
When you start to feel tense you’ve got to relax: visualise how you want to ride the trail. Trust us, your body does what your mind tells it to do. If you want to ride the trail relaxed, light, loose and in control, imagine riding the trail like that, relax those tense muscles and it will be so. By relaxing the mind, you can relax your body.
Talk up the trail
Who hasn’t stood on the edge of a drop or steep trail or chute and talked themselves out of riding it? What you think and say to yourself can have a profound impact on your riding. Saying negative things to yourself like “That section is too steep” or “I can’t do this” can make you nervous, tense up or even panic.
Become more certain and confident, practise talking to yourself positively throughout a trail. Next time you try a new skill or steep section say to yourself: “This section is steep but if I focus on my technique and relax I can do it.” And you can.