By Margie Sugarman
I haven’t ridden for a decade; I stopped riding after a bad fall. I decided to do things that scare me, riding included, before the end of 2020. How do I help my confidence return and get over the fear of falling?
Practice is key in any endeavor. From when we’re very young and reminded constantly to practice — such as playing an instrument or riding a bicycle — there’s truly a valid reason why. When we lift weights, we see our bicep muscles becoming more and more developed. When we practice and repeat an activity over and over again, it impacts our brain.
Practice-induced changes occur in the brain as behaviors are repeated. Moreover, this activity triggers the release of certain chemicals that make you feel more relaxed and happier. Then you say, “But I got hurt before and I don’t want it to happen again.” Keep in mind that your brain takes survival very seriously. Consequently, it makes fear a consistent emotion. Although irritating, this is normal. You must find a comeback that will quiet that negative voice: “enough already,” “it is what it is and I’m doing it,” “whatever,” “watch me.” Repetition is just as important to emotionally train your brain as it is to physically train yourself or a horse.
The brain’s primary concern is survival, and fear is the stumbling block on the path to that survival. To clear the path and get that fear out of your way, your brain needs to know that you’re going to survive whatever’s going on. You quiet the fear and clear the path with reassurance: positive affirmations. The physical reassurance, confidence and desire to move past your fear come from the actual repetition of riding.
Find a good trainer and explain your situation and goals. Sharing your motivation to overcome your fears and return to something you once found to be so much fun will hopefully help your trainer guide you to your goals. Everyone likes to be a helping force behind someone else’s achievements — utilize that position to gain a trainer’s guidance, motivation and expertise. It might also be advantageous to discuss with your trainer the fall that sidelined you for 10 years. In dissecting the situation, you can address the cause and learn a solution should that situation present itself again. Remember that old saying, “The best defense is a good offense.”
Coupling your mind (mental reinforcement) with your body as it rides (completing the physical activity) prompts your brain to release chemicals that ultimately help overcome your fears.