Coach Tip Tuesday: Don't Make Fear-Based Decisions
Coach Tip Tuesday is back again!
A little over seven years ago, I was struck by a motor vehicle while riding my bicycle. I was injured, but I started riding my bike again two days later. In 2014, I went on a mountain bike ride with my brother; that day turned out to be the worst of my life, as I watched him sustain a life-threatening injury that resulted in an amputation of several of his leg muscles. Less than a year later, I was involved in another cycling accident of my own; this one was more serious than my first and is the accident from which Vader Arm was born. 12 weeks after that crash, my doctor told me that I was allowed to ride outside again. And so, I got back on my bike, and I haven’t looked back since.
When I was 13, one of my friends, Jill, was killed in a cycling accident (she wasn’t wearing a helmet), which is something that has absolutely shaped who I am as an adult. And now, as a thirty-something adult, I’ve clearly seen my fair share of accidents and injuries both in myself and in others. It honestly would have been very easy for me to say that cycling wasn’t for me, that it carried too much risk, and that I was done.
The reality is this: I love cycling. I always have. As a kid, nothing brought me more joy than riding my bike around my neighborhood. When I would visit my grandparents for the summer in South Carolina, I would borrow my grandmother’s bike and cruise around their neighborhood down there, sometimes staying out for hours. Riding a bike brings me so.much.joy. Every single time I’ve gotten on a bike since Jill died, I’ve made a deliberate choice to continue to do something that I love. And yes, that choice has resulted in some significant injuries and some dark days. But the fun, extraordinary days far outnumber the bad ones. And so, I continue to choose to pursue the good days.
I chose not to make a fear-based decision back then, and I continue to make that choice now. I didn’t want my life to be ruled by fear; I didn’t want to lose something I love so much because I was scared to pursue it.
And so, I got back on the bike. Was it scary? I’ll be honest: yes, that first day back on the bike after each accident was scary. And then it took me a bit to be able to ride the same routes where the accidents occurred. But as I continued to nudge myself to get back to doing what I love, my love for cycling grew stronger, and it outweighed the fear I felt. And with time, the fear became something I didn’t even really feel anymore.
Yes, I am cautious. I do some things differently now than I did ten years ago. I am very vigilant outside, and I am extremely mindful about distractions (i.e. I don’t allow any notifications to push through to my Garmin devices, and I keep my phone on silent when I’m riding - in my opinion, everyone should do this). I bought a device that can give me turn-by-turn directions for my courses of choice so I don’t have to think as much or check written directions if I’m riding somewhere that I’m not familiar with. I pre-program all workouts into my Garmin devices so I can just execute the workout as it tells me to, and I don’t have to worry about pressing buttons, keeping track of intervals, etc.
Also in those ten years, I have been deliberate about increasing my knowledge base so that I can be as comfortable as possible. I have experienced that fear typically comes from a place where there is a lack of understanding or a lack of knowledge. Knowledge combats fear. So, I learned more about my bike. I learned more about road conditions. I learned how to handle my bike, how to be able to take evasive action if a situation calls for it, and how to control it in all conditions that I can foresee that I may encounter. I often tell folks that they wouldn’t ever drive a car without learning how to control it; the same should be true of a bicycle. While the risk of hurting others is lower when operating a bicycle compared to when operating a motor vehicle, the risk of sustaining injuries to yourself while cycling because of a lack of knowledge is higher.
And so, my Coach Tip this week is this: don’t make fear-based decisions. While I’ve used cycling as an example of this in my own life, this tip is absolutely not limited to cycling.
Don’t let fear take away the things you love. Identify the source of your fear, and then arm yourself with the knowledge and skills to combat it. I promise, you will feel less afraid if you do. You may even end up enjoying yourself more than you ever thought you could.
You deserve to be happy, and you deserve to pursue any/all goals and dreams you have for yourselves. So, take a deep breath, and go for it. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.