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Searching for Balance - An Update on Mountain Bike Coaching

So if it feels like it's been a while since you've heard from me, that's probably because it has been. The other day I happened to check on the last time I actually posted on the blog and was somewhat mortified to discover that it was last year! The very end of last year admittedly, but a long time nonetheless. And while time can fly when you're having fun, it can equally go just as fast when you're grinding through some of life's challenges. Even worse, it can be easy to prioritise things that seem important over things that you enjoy and are passionate doing - to the point of forgetting just how much you love doing said passion.

Before I get too much further, if you'd like to skip on my intial meaningless ramblings and want to learn a bit more about what's happening with the course and programs you can just click on the links below:

Once upon a time - life in a different reality.

But if I enjoy and am so passionate about mountain bike coaching, why would I be trying do less of it? - I hear you ask. In fact, some of you are often surprised to discover that coaching and being on the mountain bike is not actually a full time activity for me. I actually have an adult job. And while the details of what I do are pretty uninteresting, that adult job is probably about as far from mountain bike coaching as I could get - but that's probably the way with most adult jobs.

Actually, that's probably not quite true. I do find myself having to "coach" a lot of people in the current job on how to continuously do things better and develop their capabilities to get better results. I even used track standing (by demonstrating on a mountain bike in the office - not mine!) that achieving balance isn't about being perfectly still to not move, but that it's a series of constant adjustments which keeps you moving but performed so subtely that it seems like you're very balanced.

Which perhaps brings me to the topic of this particular blog - the search for balance.

For those of you who have attended some of my classes, you may have heard me mention that I have very bad balance. Even though it might not seem like it, my lack of balance is actually a very real thing. It is something that I have to work on and practice regularly otherwise I very quickly lose my ability to stay balanced. And when I talk about balance, I'm not just talking about balance on a bike, but life in general.

There is plenty of evidence around that proves I have terrible balance.

Throughout my life I have this innate tendency to become very focused on a very small number of things. The good thing about this from a personal perspective is that I can achieve pretty good level of competency at something in a very short amount of time because that's where all my energy goes into. And being a capricorn, I also have a tendency to be very stubborn - so I'll just keep pursuing something with all of my energy until the outcome I'm looking for is achieved, or die trying (I haven't died yet - come close once though!).

Due to a very taxing workload, throughout this year I had been focused on scaling back activities that I thought were unbalancing my life. Family outings, hanging out with friends (not that I actually seem to have too many of those these days, but that's probably related to focusing on the old adult job) and reducing the amount of coaching I've been doing.

Thanks to Renee who made me realise a very important truth - I love helping people enjoy mountain biking

As is the way of things to do with balance, if you're overly focused on one side of the coin other things become affected. In the case of this year, seamingly out of necessity, all of energy has gone into my adult job. I have what I believed to be valid reasons for giving the adult job a lot of focus, but lately I've had this nagging feeling that something isn't right. It wasn't until Renee from the latest Core Skills A Line course mentioned just how much she'd been looking forward to the class all week.

In that moment I realised what was bothering me. In trying to achieve balance I'd inadvertantly taken out so many of the activities that help me stay passionate about life to give me more time to focus on a single task - my adult job, which right now I'm not overly enthused about. And while as I write this and no doubt while you're reading this the problem of spending too much time on work seems blatantly obvious, all too often it can be very hard to see the wood from the trees, as the old saying goes. Or perhaps in this case, I just haven't been spending enough time in the trees.

A saying in a random book I read a long time once quote "We teach best what we most need to learn." And so it's time to start working on my balance again, beginning with mountain bike coching which I've always found helps to keep me centered both physically and mentally. At the beginning of this year, despite having a thought to scale back some coaching, I did have grand plans to update the course curriculums and introduce a few new things such as a dedicated e-bike course, charity rides and a few refresher classes to focus on helping people get back up to date with specific skills.

It's been a while since I've talked about the different courses and who they're for so I'll just talk about them now for those of you that are still wondering what might suit you best starting with the Gold Coast City Council's Active and Healthy Mountain Biking Programs.

The Active and Healthy Juniors Program is always inspiring - there is always at least one junior who comes away beeming because they've been able to do something they used to be terrified of.

The Active and Healthy Mountain Mountain Bike programs sponsored by the Gold Coast City Council are designed for both junior and adult riders that haven't had any experience riding off-road. In these programs I introduce you to some very basic foundation riding skills and techniques in hour long sessions to keep you safe, understand your riding fitness level and ride with confidence on the majority of green trails. Over the next 12 months both the Junior Mountain Bike Skills clinic and the 3 Week Come and Try Mountain Biking adult program will continue, however instead of four times a year we've decided to reduce it to three session as the Easter period tends to have a fairly small turn out. We've decided to drop the Tweens program as this hasn't been too popular and most tweens are able more than capable of attending the adult programs anyway.

Kate's very first time riding off-road was during the Intro to Mountain Bike Riding Skills Course but she took to it like a duck to water.

The Intro to Mountain Bike Riding Skills program is that bit of an orphan program that I never sure needs to exist - that is until I run it. Designed to cater for riders with no off-road riding experience to those that have ridden a few green trails but felt that they didn't have the skills to ride anything more advanced, the program itself has increased its scope to help new and inexperienced riders take on more challenges off-road in a safe and confident manner. The focus of the course itself is to introduce riders to key riding and off-road balancing techniques to set up a foundation for good riding habits as they progress their riding. Originally designed to get students riding confidently on any level of green trail, the next course will be revamped to to also introduce riders to handle the entry level blue trails of Happy Valley. I'm aiming to run this program once a quarter with the next one starting at the end of June, but it is a little bit based on demand.

When I told Bernie that in this Particular Core Skills B-Line class that she would be learning to lift her front wheel up three different ways, she didn't believe she'd be able to do any of it - so much so that we bet a case of beer over whether she'd be able to do it. Guess who won...

The Core Skills programs are pretty much the foundation of the Balance Mountain Bike programs. Very much skills oriented, the programs focus on on teaching and reinforcing key riding and balance skills that are useful in everyday mountain biking to help you ride efficiently handle moderately challenging features and obstacles and keep you as safe as possible while doing so. The Core Skills programs themselves have been designed around basic Trials Riding skills (think Danny MacAskill and Ryan Leech) which is one of the main reasons I highly recommend doing the classes in flat pedals rather than being clipped in. Incorporating a range of balance techniques, these courses are designed to help you tackle mountain bike challenges not just when you're going fast, but also while you're at stand still. In addition to the skills elements, I also introduce you to various aspects of your bike - how they work and things you should pay attention to with respect to set up, maintenance and safety.

The Grade 2 Core Skills B-Line program focuses on getting you used to the specific balancing techniques you need to become comfortable with when mountain biking. Designed for riders with limited off-road riding experience or haven't been exposed to specific skills and techniques, the focus of the Core B course is as much on building up your confidence and exposing you to what you can actually do on a bike as much as it is learning specific riding skills. The next Core Skill B-Line program scheduled in July has actually sold out but if there are more people wanting to do it sooner I can look at scheduling another course.

10 year old Maria shows that attitude is the most important thing to learning new skills in the Core Skills A-Line program.

The Grade 3 Core Skills A-Line program is the course that people often think they want to do. Covering a variety of cornering, wheel lift techniques, jumps, drops and handling a more challenging blue trail it appeals to the mountain biker who has been out on the trails for a while but is struggling to break through a barrier of skills that would help them advance their riding. This particular program suits the more experienced rider who is has a lot of confidence riding the trails but just finds they are struggling to with a few specific skills and just can't break through the barrier of learning them. It's not a pre-requesite to have done the Core Skills B-Line program before the Core-A course. However I do often find that people have have completed Core Skills B-Line often have a much stronger foundation skills base established which helps them learn the skills in Core-A more easily.

After first joining me on the Intro to Mountain Bike Riding Skills program, Rick has been steadily improving his skills base having last completed the Flow Skills B-Line course.

The Flow Skills programs take the Core Skills that you've established and begin to combine them together. Coupled with your improved balance on a mountain bike and your increased confidence the aim of the Flow Skills courses are to move you past the element of apprehension and doubt that you may feel to help you ride in the present smoothly and efficiently out on the trails. Even though I class the Flow Programs as an intermediate level of riding skill, these programs are also designed to challenge students physically and mentally to help them break through the barriers of what you may think is possible on a mountain bike to knowing that so much more is achievable with time, effort and knowing the right skills and techniques to apply. And while you don't need to have completed the Core Skills programs to do the Flow Skils courses, you really do need a good level of fitness and a high level of confidence in your ability to learn new skills and techniques. The Flow Skills programs themselves aren't ones that I run very often simply because there doesn't seem to be a lot of riders that are interested in participating in them.

The Grade 4 Flow Skills B-Line program is a course I tend to run twice a year at the moment. It is designed to introduce you to the idea of combining the Core Skills you either have been taught or have naturally learnt into allowing you to handle more challenging features out on the trails. In this course we also work on specific combinations of techniques to help you build a foundation for more advanced techniques such as bunny hopping.

Harry was one of the students of the very first Flow level courses.

The elusive Flow Skills A-Line program is the Grade 5 course that I've not acually run in almost two years. Part of the reason is because it is a fairly challenging program and given the Flow Skills B-Line program often doesn't have a lot of interest, I haven't been sure that the Flow A course has needed to be run. The other reason is that over the years, all of the Balance MTB Skills programs have been becoming more difficult as I figure out ways of coaching more challenging skills to riders earlier in their development - so I actually need to give the Flow Skills A-Line program an overhaul. Strictly speaking it's focus is to give riders the skills and confidence to apply more advanced skills to more challenging features such as bunny hopping over reasonably sized logs, clearing moderately large gap jumps and flowing down steep, riding up challenging technical climbs and flowing down steep, obsacle laden descents. I do actually want to try and run this program again in 2021 so stay tuned!

E-bikes have some specific nuances that can might benefit from some specific techniques.

Beyond the current program regimes I've been wanting to explore a few new programs. A Core Skills Refresher to help people refine and adjust their skills is something that I believe some riders could benefit from and a course on the nuances of riding e-bikes I think could be another. I'm hoping to have these programs written in the next month or so but it there's something specific you'd like to see, do let me know.

So anyway, that's where I'm at and so apologies for being so quiet - life has a funny habit of giving the exam first and the lesson after. And the lesson for me is I'm still passionate about helping people ride better so it's something I need to do more of, not less. See you out on the trails soon!

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