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Feel The Fear (And Do It Anyway)

The title of this post comes from a book that I haven’t read, so if it’s a pile of horse-shit then I apologise. But as a sentiment, I like the title and it kind of sums up the way I live my life. So if you want to drop in on your BMX, hit those dirt jumps, race Enduro, ride DH or enter your first road race, then read on.

I wrote a post a while ago that attempted to debunk the myth of lucky and help you realise that your life is in your own hands, rather than those of the gods. This piece is in some ways a natural extension of that one, as it deals with how to do the things you secretly want to do, many of which happen to be the things you’re envious of other people doing. The point I’m clumsily getting to in referring to the other article is that you shouldn’t attribute everyone else’s seemingly wonderful lives or fantastic skills to good luck alone, as that makes you feel like you can’t have the same. And you can.

Juliet Elliott cycling BMX in Bluegrass Helmet

Photo: Reuiller for Bluegrass

 

As this is a cycling blog, lets pull things back to bikes, because they’re what’s really important. You can use these tips and this advice in other areas of your life, but let’s begin by trying to answer a question I’m often asked – how to overcome fear in a cycling or sport context.

I ride all kinds of bikes and do all kinds of silly things on them, from jumping gaps on my BMX, racing through rock gardens on my mountain bike and speeding round the velodrome in extremely close proximity to others on my track bike. So unsurprisingly some people think I’m totally fearless, which is so very far from the truth. In fact I am so extremely sensitive to nerves I basically ditched my pro-snowboarding career because I got psyched out by competitions.

Since those days of dreadful panic, I’ve figured out a few techniques that help you to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway,’ and get over whatever is holding you back from dropping in at the skatepark, attempting that trick you’ve never done before or entering your first race. I hope they help.

 

Juliet Elliott cyclist Charge Bikes Bluegrass Superbold Helmet BMX

Photo: Reuiller for Bluegrass

 

 

Just do it before you have time to think about it.

The first tip sounds silly, but it’s one of my favourites. Before you’ve given your brain the chance to process what you’re thinking of doing, just drop in and go for it. Before your thinking has caught up with what’s going on, you’ll have done it.

Count Down.

Count yourself in and when you reach one, just go. The more you use this technique, the easier it gets.

Visualise Success.

If you have stopped to think about what you’re doing, try playing your trick/endeavour through in your mind and seeing yourself successfully nailing it. It can be hard at first not to visualise disaster but the more you practice this technique, the easier it becomes, just like with the other one. The brain can be trained, just like your body can be.

Give Yourself Three Attempts

Give yourself three chances to try going for whatever it is… eg. Hopping onto a rail. Tell yourself that three tries are all you’re allowed, and if you don’t attempt it within that limit, you have to go home. It’s a bit harsh, but it kind of works!

Imagine How Good You’ll Feel.

This is my favourite one. Imagine how you’ll feel after you’ve tried it. You’ll be so stoked and proud of yourself. Imagine how you’ll feel if you don’t even try… If you’re anything like me you’ll be really agitated and annoyed!

Rebrand Your Nerves.

You know that twisty turny knot of anguish you get in the pit of your stomach, or the horrible fluttering butterflies you feel in your gut. That’s excitement, not nerves. Keep telling yourself that!

Be The Best Version Of You You Can Be.

Sorry to end up on a cheesy one, but do you want to go through life averaging a five when you have it in you to be a ten? If you don’t care, then this post isn’t for you, but imagine the endless possibilities and opportunities there for you and visualize where you could be if you properly made the most of them. Then go for it!

And to finish, one last tip: Be sure to feel proud of yourself for trying – don’t just base your feelings of achievement on whether or not you’ve landed your trick, won your race or whatever. Having the guts to take a chance and try something new is good enough, and a big step forwards from just not trying at all.

So make sure you’re kind to yourself, give yourself a pat on the back and take the time to have a little think about all the stuff you’re good at, rather than the things you find tough. This might sound silly, but when I’m doing quite badly in a race and comparing myself to other people (which it’s better not to do, but I find it hard not to) I like to think to myself:

“Well I might be slow in this race, but I can do a 720 on a snowboard and air a quarter on my BMX. I bet the winner can’t do that!’

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Comments (9)
  1. Chelsea Fietsgodin March 4, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Another one I’ve heard is flapping your arms like a chicken when you’re sweating something and focusing on how silly you feel/must look because it makes you forget how scared you are. I’ve done this a few times and idk if it actually works, but it can’t hurt any. The most useful one for me is seriously asking myself what’s the worst that could happen? Usually the answer is meh, some road rash, an umteenthousanth concussion, maybe a bone fracture. If the answer isn’t something that I’m okay with then I’m probably not ready to try the trick anyways. Once I’m past that I just visualize landing it, hang on and focus on keeping my fingers off the brake lever

    • Juliet_Elliott March 11, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      I find it really hard to keep my finger off the brake lever, it’s drawn to it!!! I’m gonna try the chicken dance though, that sounds like a winner : )

  2. Luciano March 5, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Hey Julie thanks , I like your positive poit of view!
    Yes is not easy recognize excitement or nerves, only your mind can help you.
    For this reason is most important don’t forget to training this muscle too

    • Juliet_Elliott March 11, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      Hi Luciano! Thank you! I’ve been reading a lot of psychology books recently and been amazed by some of the things I’ve learned … I didn’t quite realise just how adaptable and trainable the brain was before. Definitely worth remembering!

  3. Tom July 7, 2016 at 3:09 am

    I know this is over year old but I just found this. It seems very helpful. I am 42 year old guy who just refound a love of bmx. I guess I am still 15 inside somewhere. However because of my age and how much more wrecking hurts than when I was 15, I have a lot more fear that is holding me back from doing stuff I know I can do, realistically. The tips you mentioned above make a lot of sense and I will practice them.

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • Juliet_Elliott July 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      hey Tom, glad to hear you started riding BMX again. I’ve not ridden mine in a while but really want to get back on it!
      I’m pleased you found the tips helpful, good luck with your riding!

  4. Louise Brownley July 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Juliet, you are the coolest women on a bike and are the inspiration that gets my ass off the floor whilst still conquering spd pedals, my husbands a road bike fiend and I thought ‘ok at age 44 I’ll join him and get a life’ after seeing on wiggle a video of Dave and yourself for Metz helmets I was hooked and determined to be better!
    Love this article and for you to let us into your world, learn your fears which allows me anyway to feel normal :0)

    • Juliet_Elliott July 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Wow, thanks Louise, that’s really nice of you, and AWESOME that you’re inspired to join your husband. I hope you guys are having a great time out on your bikes together!

  5. Manny March 5, 2017 at 10:48 am

    This article is absolutely spot on. As we get older we develop more fear because we worry about broken bones and how we’re going to pay the mortgage etc. But we very often overthink situations and build a picture of ourselves hitting a jump and landing in a heap of pain. What we should do is picture ourselves floating over the jump and landing it and celebrating it with our friends. Believe to achieve. Positivity will get you over that. Thankyou Juliet for the article. Its helping me as a 47 year old get back into bmx tricks and jumps. Peace 🙂

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