Guest Post by Elaine Bothe
Are you stuck on a lesson or not quite getting something? What have you found helpful to blast through it?
During a recent practice session, I discovered how reviewing other skills and riding on different terrain can help! When you hit a plateau, try these ideas to mix up your practice sessions.
Review or start the Baseline Balance Skills series. These foundation lessons helped me reboot my wheelie and improved a lot of other useful trail skills.
Back up two or three lessons, and practice those skills on different terrain. With some extra caution or more armor than usual, ride your favorite gradual uphill slope when it’s bumpy and dry. Ride when it’s windy! Or practice in a new field. Make your field new by going downhill, or traverse across it! Practice on a gravel road, dust over hard pack, even pavement if you’ve been working on grass. Go slower. Or a little faster! You’ll learn how to adjust your technique and balance in new...
Soon to be published in Explore Magazine:
Bring awareness to your breath
Seemingly simple, and seriously profound. Yet reliable access to the focus that breath awareness brings is not simple, it’s a skill, and requires an ability to become more quickly aware of those times you’re preoccupied with planning, calculation, judgement, and general thought.
Bring awareness to your body
Breath awareness can then extend to body awareness. Access to body awareness that is free of judgement is also challenging, especially during adventure; athletes like to quantify their bodily sensations with tags such as tired, sore, strong, good, bad, which are largely based on past experiences which then predict and influence what will happen in the future. Allowing your body to be-just-as-it-is moment to moment can free you to perform more naturally and up to your full potential.
Bring awareness to the environment
Become aware of...
Wheelies took a very long time for me to learn. It was one of the very first tricks I worked on with my first mountain bike. I practiced relentlessly to learn it.
Once I overcame my frustrations and finally learned to wheelie, I had the belief that I could learn other technical bike tricks. I then discovered trials riding, and with my trust in practice, believed I could learn trials with enough dedication.
Essentially, I came to believe in the power of practice.
With yoga, I thought I was just a stiff biker dude, and would always be that way. My yoga teacher told me otherwise, and with practice I now enjoy, among many other things, an incredible range of motion.
With meditation, I thought it was a waste of time, both scientific and anecdotal evidence told me otherwise, so I practiced and sure enough, the benefits have been profound.
If you have an hour to practice something, how are you going to make use of that time? I remember when I was learning trials, I’d go on group...
My parents are proud of my career as a pro mountain biker, what a blessing to have their support through the years. As I diversify my offerings in the world to include yoga and Integral Coaching®, my Dad decided to present me with a gift to commemorate my years thus far as a pro.
He secretly began tinkering in his workshop attempting to modify one of those bmx flick trix models to look like my trials bike. It didn’t work. So he started from scratch!
A reference picture and some brass tubing...
Through the years Norco has been kind enough to continue tweaking and making me trials frames exactly as I like, and I’ve been riding a white Manifesto frame for the last few. With careful measurements and soldering, clever jigs and fixtures, my Dad managed to replicate it, in miniature!
The pieces coming together...
During my career, I have partnered with many supportive sponsors, on the back of the Trials Trix packaging, my dad listed them, including my very first bike shop...
I brought the simple teaching of presents vs presence in to my yoga class last night. Everyone can give presence, but rather than going to the store to buy it, you have to cultivate it through practice. Yoga is one way.
You can also receive presence from another, but it requires you to leave the busy inner ‘me’ space and enter an open ‘we’ space-sounds simple, but again, takes practice.
If the person you are with is ‘not very present’, or perhaps has been taken over by the holiday crazies, your well developed presence is naturally contagious, they will feel it, and so rather than two ‘me’s’, you will help to create one ‘we’. And what a gift that would be!
Talking about gifts, the playlist below was given to me by my wife Caryn to use at class last night, a great vibe for my last yoga class of the year.
Don’t be competitive in yoga, that’s the untold rule, it’s just not allowed, it’s not yogic.
Hmmmmm, okay, so you’re asking me to PRETEND I’m not competitive?
Okay, I can do that, no problem….and in the process show up as a complete FAKE!
I’m a competitive person, it’s part of me, it’s part of who I am. I’ll look over at you, see what you’re doing, and try to do it as good or better. In fact, that’s a big reason why I became a yoga teacher, I’m very observant of others bodies and techniques; so using my competitiveness may be one of my greatest assets as a teacher…and it certainly was during my pro riding career. Though learning how to use my competitive nature honestly, skillfully, and with awakeness has allowed me to turn the results of that competitiveness into healthy growth rather than the reactionary and physically destructive patterns it once brought - the latter however was necessary...
A poem I wrote as a reflection on my values as a mountain biker and as a learner:
You can fail in action or from inaction.
Failure from inaction arises as increasingly potent and painful signs.
Failing from actions is obvious, and culturally avoided. Tricky.
A dis-harmony between body and mind creates the developmental tension necessary to drive us to face failure through action.
Failure helps us to more accurately calibrate our body and mind with the realities of the world.
We can use sport and yoga to practice failing.
Embedded in every failure is opportunity.
We must be conscious of when we fail in order for the opportunity to fully emerge.
Honoring this opportunity is the pre-requisite of healthy growth.
We all start out in riding by imitating.
Monkey See Monkey Do. (to borrow the title of an old Hans Rey film)
That’s what we are for the most part, monkeys.
Almost all our abilities on our bikes, arise from imitation.
Typically, once you master what you’re imitating, then you’re in a position to add to it.
This goes for style just as much as technique.
An example from my career. I combined a variety of skills I’d imitated from many different pros, and the result was something unique, the Leech Loop, excerpt from my old instructional trials film, Mastering the Art of Trials.
Though it should more accurately be named ‘all the riders I imitated plus me loop’.
It’s standing on the shoulders of giants.
My portion is very very small. But someone needed to make that very very small contribution in order to keep this whole evolving and progressing machine running.
When you’re the first to do something, you’re making the...
This is a modified excerpt from The 30 Day Wheelie Challenge:
There is a common phenomena in technical sports where big gains are made AFTER giving up. This has been my personal experience too, though I find it’s not a matter of trying too hard, or needing to wait until you get to the point of giving up, it’s a matter of knowing when to take some time off!
I remember trying to balance down a wobbly chain on my bike for a video, tried about 200 times without success. Then came back a week or so later, and cleaned it within just a few attempts.
While there are fun days with no instruction built in to the Wheelie Challenge program with this exact phenomena in mind, you may need, as a strategic move, to take a step back for multiple days with zero practice. I’d recommend this for those who are overly frustrated, or those who are feeling some repetitive strain discomfort developing from their dedicated practice.
Everyone has a different idea of what ‘trying too...
For me, wheelies took a very long time to learn. It was one of the things I worked on when I got my first mountain bike. I practiced relentlessly to learn it, and for a while I never thought I actually would.
Eventually I did! It gave me the belief that I could learn other technical bike tricks. So when I discovered trials riding I was equipped with the belief that with enough practice I could achieve all the fun tricks I wanted.
Is there anything you've learned in or outside of riding based on your dedicated practice or study that would have otherwise seemed like a bit of a longshot?
I like to think of myself as a pro-practicer and that’s what led to my career as a pro-rider.
I remember when I was learning trials, I’d go on group rides. We’d be out riding and practicing trials for a few hours, and I would practice ten times more than anyone else in that same period of time. People would come up to me and say, “wow, you’re such a natural at...