Belated happy new year! It's been a while, but it's also been sometime since I've done anything mountain biking related. The weather hasn't helped, but prior to last weekend, I hadn't ridden on the trails since Christmas eve, posted any photos or videos since mid December, coached anyone since the beginning of December or written anything since September. Truthfully though, I meant to write this two weeks ago, but I've also been unwell until recently. No, not with COVID - just some odd summer cold that has been making the rounds as well. But anyway, enough with the excuses.
One could be forgiven in thinking that my interest and passion in mountain biking has been disappearing of late. But that's what burnout tends to be like. A burnout of sorts anyway. It happens when something isn't quite right, a thing unknown that begins to sap your strength and energy, such as feeling exhausted anytime I went to do anything related to mountain bike coaching. But often you try to push through until you become so out of balance that you realise something has to give. Or something does give - but not necessarily of your choosing.
With the assistance of the wet weather and illness resulting in time off the trails I've had a chance to recharge. Which in itself is actually an odd thing to say because once upon a time, it was mountain biking that helped me recharge. During this time I realised that something hasn't felt quite right with my mountain bike coaching, that it's felt like a bit of a chore. Not so much the coaching itself but rather all of the other parts, the unseen things that accompanies the running of a business.
Even a hobby business requires almost the same amount of time off the trails as it does on the trails, at least if you're trying to do things properly. And that's without the burden of the photos and videos that I'd been doing a fair bit of until December came along.
I promised myself that if the mountain bike coaching stopped being fun and enjoyable I would actually stop and just go back to riding. And if I'm being honest, I've had those thoughts on and off now since I started back working in an adult job. The combination of working what can be up to a 60 hour week Monday to Friday adult job followed up with coaching on Saturday and Sunday can be fairly exhausting.
Throughout my time off the trails though, my subconscious went to work on trying to understand what the problem with my coaching was. And I did actually arrive at a fairly substantial revelation: I didn't become a mountain bike coach to help people ride their mountain bikes better. Or at least, that wasn't the primary motivation.
Well, once upon a time, not so long ago I battled with severe depression (which when I started coaching was actually common knowledge). If I'm being honest it still lurks around, like that bad back problem that never quite heals. But like that back issue, I've learned to manage it so that it doesn't impact my life in a bad way. And mountain biking was a large part of what helped get me through that rather challenging part of life.
There were many life lessons I learnt from the trails. Things such as:
Just being in the moment;
Slowing down is often more enjoyable than going flat out;
Learning that even on the trails things just go wrong without rhyme or reason and that being prepared for those instances is the best way of getting through challenging situations; and perhaps most importantly
That crashing is pretty much an inevitability (at least with me) but no matter how many times or how bad a crash was, I will always get back up and back on the bike... pun intended.
There are even more life lessons, too many to list right now. But it was actually those learnings that motivated me to become a mountain bike coach. So I could share what I learnt with others that might be going through a challenging time in their own lives and how mountain biking could help. I didn't actually learn how to properly ride a mountain bike until I'd made that decision. I just used to be able to go fast, but I would crash a lot. Actually, maybe not that much has changed.
When I first started coaching that was what it was all about for me. Not all of the time of course. But from time to time I would come across a student who was having a challenging time in their lives, but was able to gain some strength and confidence through what they realised they could do on a mountain bike. Even if it was for the briefest of moments. And they were able to take that new found confidence into other areas of their lives and continue to grow from there.
Over the years of mountain bike coaching, I feel like I've lost sight of that purpose and that it's just been all about teaching people the skills of how to ride a mountain bike. That actually isn't a bad thing incidentally. But I really didn't start mountain bike coaching just to help people jump better, or just to share photos of vidoes of them doing it. And I think that deviation away from my original intent of looking to help people learn life lessons from the trails has been a large part of why my motivation to continue coaching has been a little bit wayward.
But the first step in finding a solution to a problem is to first understand the true nature of what it is you're trying to solve. Now that I've realised what's been missing, it's time for me to figure out how to bring back my original inspiration and purpose into my coaching.
What does that mean for what I'm currently doing? Nothing immediately, other than I'll probably wind back the amount of courses I've been running so I have a bit more time to redesign what I'm teaching and how I go about doing it. The Life Lessons from the Trails concept has been rattling in my head for more than a few years now and it's about time I committed to bringing the idea to life.
So watch this space...