Anxiety and Mountain Biking

Mayo 23 — 2019 | Whistler, BC

A method of coping and management

Words and Creative: Hailey Elise

My move into mountain biking follows a similar story to many. To give a simplified version, my brother got a bike and when he grew tired of it, I took it over. We were lucky that we grew up right at the base of a mountain where existing trails were in place. My brother and I were often dropped off at a forest service road and could ride pretty much back to my childhood home. I loved it, that’s no secret, but what doesn’t follow suit is the story of what motivated me to keep coming back for more.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had anxiety. When I was little, it took on the form of stomach aches and your average childhood fears but as I got older, it became darker and more consuming. Impending doom would hit in the middle of a conversation or an intense worry would hone in on me during a holiday dinner. These are just small glimpses into the day to day life of anxiety. As a result, dark holes decorate my current life story- periods of time where I was incapacitated by it. Of course, it had its peaks and valleys but nonetheless, anxiety consistently showed up every day, day in and day out.

Despite my parents best efforts, I moved to Whistler, British Columbia. Once here, I rode more, experienced a variety of trails, and met people that motivated me to push myself on a bike. In between feeling so out of control in my own head, I began to find reprieve while on the trails from the constant worry. The need to be focused while on a bike was a brief period in time where my body and brain worked synonymously. The result was freedom.

It was this that projected my journey into mountain biking and also, helped me gain a say in how anxiety governs my life. I biked more and more because I knew that I could exist on my bike free of the constricting feeling of all-consuming fear. The progression I found within the sport gave me confidence both on and off the bike. If I could tackle an intimidating rock roll, then why not something bigger or even unrelated to mountain biking? Why not anxiety?

The connection was not immediately apparent. I looked to improve at biking and saw that I needed to address some qualities within my mental game that were holding me back. It turns out that positive self-talk, checking in, being present, and plain old taking care of yourself can minimize the severity of anxiety as well as help on the trail. The mental toughness the sport encourages also provided an optimum environment for letting the negative feelings come up and then the power to stop them from spiraling dead in their tracks. In addition to finding peace while ripping through the trees, it seems the skills I needed to overcome performance blocks also helped me in coping and managing the anxiety that had run rampant all those years.

Mountain biking unknowingly gave me the tools and strength to approach my own inner demons head on. Not only that, it gave me purpose. And for that, I am forever grateful and will never, ever, stop riding my bike.

Disclaimer: This is my own personal journey and my experience does not replace that of a professional. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to a professional. And who knows, they might just tell you to hop on a bike.

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