Getting Back On: Why Do You Do It?

Four weeks ago, I crashed my bike.  I was riding at Mountain Creep Bike Park in Vernon, NJ, and was practicing out one of their “Progression Drops,” essentially a balance beam for bikes.  As I approached the highest board in the set, I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if anyone ever rides off and hits that tree.

That’s exactly what I ended up doing:

This is a pretty normal occurrence for me, and one that I don’t particularly mind.  You land, you roll, you get back up.  Unfortunately in this example, I didn’t roll, and ended up with scratches that resemble a bear mauling and a sprained wrist.

I thought it was broken, and the PA in the emergency room was more interested in the cuts.  “Dude, it’s fine,” I said, “But I can’t hold on to anything.”  Clearly, my focus was still on moving, not recovering.

After wearing a wrist brace for most of the month and buying a wrap to support me while riding, I’m feeling 85% better and have gotten back on my back.  This past Sunday I went back to Mountain Creek to ride, and I had one major goal before I left:

Ride off the same drop that I crashed on.

In hindsight, I could have walked up the hill, rolled off, pumped my fist, and call it a day.  This would be a very short post about conquering what you haven’t been successful at before.  I could use, #NeverQuit #NeverGiveUp #StrongerThanYouThink, and then for good measure, add, #IHaveALimitedViewOfTheWorld.

See, I’m not sure that all of life is about getting up and conquering the world.  I think we’re missing the point if all we do is try to crush it.  Too often we get carried away with results or benchmarks, and we forget to enjoy the process.  We miss the lifelong process.

Rather than heading back to MCBP simply to “beat” something, I went back to eNJoy something; I wanted to enjoy the experience of being on my bike, hurtling down a mountain.  My semi-serious M.O. tends to be, “Go really fast and try not to die,” but it’s actually about the experience.

I can’t check Twitter on my bike.  I can’t check e-mail.  I can’t think about the most appropriate deadlift for an online coaching client, and I can’t think about where I’m planning my next surprise date.  When I have thoughts that include, “I wonder if anyone’s ever hit that tree,” I become the affirmative answer to my own question.

Some people use meditation to find mindfulness.  I do the same thing, on my bike.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 8.31.20 PM

This could be a quite cliche, “Get back up when life knocks you down” sort of story.  If it was only about biking, I’d write, “Don’t be an asshole and grab your brakes when you get scared on a 12″ wide board.”  It’s not.

We’re thinking about finding pleasure in the process.  There are times when things knock you down, and you’ll never want to do them again.  Sometimes that is okay.  You don’t need to get back up and conquer, crush, or convince yourself that you’re less of a person for it.

Conversely, the things that you feel a strong urge to rectify probably don’t need it.  I have a feeling that we spend so much time thinking about the things we should be doing, that we’re not doing the things that we enjoy doing.

Over the weekend I had the chance to re-listen to The Rise of Superman in it’s entirety.  The book considers the psychology of the flow state while considering the incredible rise in action sports performance.  The rate of improvement has never been seen in human performance.

Graham Agassiz

One of the key factors in Flow is changes in brain state that show that our critical brain relaxes while our creative brain turns on.  For this to happen, there must be a level of mastery and comfort in the skill or activity that we’re doing; it can’t be a conscious, practiced action.

When I first listened to The Rise of Superman I thought about it as a mindset/psychology book.  This second time, I considered it a motor learning book.  I’ve found these things to be closely related, but rarely discussed, in the fitness world.  Our success with a movement is largely determined with how we learn and think about that activity.


We may be learning a deadlift for the first time, dancing at the edge of our ability, or engaging in our weekly pick-up game.  Whatever the activity, we’re almost always more successful if we’re not doing it consciously.  We ‘own’ movement that’s automatic and unconscious.

I have a feeling that if we can accelerate how we learn about activities, we can save ourselves the decision whether or not we should go back and do it again or not.  If your learning has become automatic or subconscious, we’re better able to enjoy it, because our brain spends less time analyzing the activity.  Sure, practice makes perfect, but perfecting how we practice can make the process that much more efficient.

They say that the ability to ride a bike never goes away, and that may be true.  My personal preference is to continue to build on that ability, to learn along the way, and to create your own sense of adventure.  As an ‘adult’ this means taking on the downhill adventures of mountain biking and skiing.  (Fortunately, I can do both at Mountain Creek!)

Getting back on my bike wasn’t about conquering that drop.  It was about enjoying the ride, the excitement of the mountain, and having a mindful moment outside.  Sure, I got to ride through those drops at the end, but I had a blast of a time before I even got there.

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