This article originally appeared in issue 11 of Mountain Bike for Her.
What if I told you I had a little secret up my sleeve that will stop you from crashing as often and potentially seriously injuring yourself on the trails? When I’m not in the gym making you stronger, I’m out on my bike teaching you to become better, stronger, and safer riders. I teach you things like better body position and proper use of your brakes as well as how to ride that technical trail feature. All this stuff is great, there may be one extra point that I can impart right here that should change the way you think about riding.
In all honesty I’ve seen way too many friends injure themselves in the past year, and were they doing something outside of their abilities and skill set? No, I don’t believe so. When I look back at the majority of my accidents I also wasn’t doing something outside my skill set, but for me my mental and physical capacities when I have crashed most certainly were a contributing factor.
It’s that moment when you over shoot the corner, you get a bit too squirrely at the bottom of a rough technical section or you come down way too nose heavy on that little drop you do all the time. That’s the moment on the trail where you need to stop, and take a moment to have a little self reflection at where you are at right now, and I’m not talking in the spiritual sense.
Let me explain, one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is when to say “no”. No I shouldn’t do that drop today, no I’m not going to try for a new 1 rep max today, actually no, I’m not even going to get on my bike today. Not only one of the hardest lessons but also one of the most painful, when I look back I can honestly say that many of my crashes could have been prevented if I had spent a little time in my own head.
This is something I do now before every ride and also something I have learnt to redo when I am on the trail, have you ever noticed, that how you feel before you start the ride and how you feel on the ride can be two different animals. It doesn’t even take a minute to run through these two check lists and the potential benefit of becoming more self aware speaks for itself.
How to do a pre-ride mind and body check:
I start with asking myself, how did I sleep, did I get my eight hours or did I toss and turn and get 5, am I tired? Not as switched on as usual? What about my mental state in general? Has there been a lot of stress in my life lately, maybe a fight with a co worker, a stressful situation with a family member? you know “Stuff on your mind”. Am I maybe just a little burnt out mentally from all the physical activity I’ve been doing of late? Just how mentally fatigued am I?
How does my body feel? Have I just come off of two days of rest and relaxation or is it day six of riding long summer days? What about my nutrition, did I eat a substantial breakfast? I also ask if there are any injuries, maybe a sore finger, a tweaked muscle? You know nothing major but something just not firing at 100% Just how tired is my body?
Once I’ve gone over both my mental and physical checklists I then decide how I’m gonna play on my bike, for example if I’m 5x5 then it’s game on, I’m ready to take on the largest of rides and the biggest risks, within my personal comfort zone of course, but if I’m physically or mentally got a few Xs in the boxes then I will start to dial back what I plan on doing. This includes things like, shortening the length of the ride I had originally planned, maybe taking some of the less consequential lines on the trails I am riding.
This isn’t a fix all, it won’t stop you from crashing ever again, sometimes “stuff just goes wrong” but doing this little pre ride check will make you more personally aware of the physical and mental factors that can impede your performance while riding, my hope is that this will increase your chance of getting down the trail unscathed