• Emily Holland

What I Learned From My First Mountain Biking Class

I was really nervous. I hadn't been on a bike in 5 years or so. I was with all new friends at the AdventurUs Women Escape Series in Bend, OR. I wanted to make sure I took advantage of the time we had with our instructor and wanted to push myself to learn new skills.

With the first hour being mostly skill based, I was feeling pretty good. I hadn't fallen off my bike yet, and I hadn't cried yet. Already a success! Our instructor, Tina "Earthquaker" Brubaker was such a force. We learned how to stand on our bikes, how to get down in ready position, how to feather the brakes, how to fiddle with our seats for uphill and downhill, and what positions we wanted to be while riding in various terrains.

All these skills were fantastic, and I felt like I was really getting my fill of what I needed to know about this new sport. As Tina walked us through these skill drills, some of my classmates and I discovered something. Tina kept dropping what I would call incredible metaphorical life lesson one-liners. And I scrambled to write them down so that I could come back to them later. Here are a few of the main gems she dropped during the class:

More smiles than cries - a true success!

"You Gotta Stand Tall When You Want To Get Over Something"

We learned how to go up something hard like a steep rock, and that we want to stand up when we are trying to get over it. Tina dropped this one-liner and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought about some of the pieces of my life that I'm trying to work through right now. My relationship with myself, and my body. My desire for career change. My personal relationships, what things to let go of.

Tina said what I knew rationally was true, but it was a revelation. What if I stood in my confidence and stayed there, what things would work themselves out? Would I get over the things that I needed to leave behind? I think so.

Latasha crushing it while Tina instructed how to go down off a feature, rock or otherwise.

"Don't Let Anything Have Too Much Power"

We were discussing how there will be rocks and different features on the trails we would be going down. We all looked at each other a bit nervous, 'wow, that rock looks big,' or 'that downhill looks scary.' Tina taught us to not give any of these features too much power, otherwise our nerves would get in the way of succeeding on the trails.

I thought of my entire life in that moment. Almost every single thing that I've tried, I've given tremendous power, as if I was a passenger and these things were happening to me, with no agency of my own to make it less so. After this class, I vowed to myself to minimize the power I give most things in my life - my climbing, my running goals, my career goals, and just keep my eyes forward and my chest tall on the trail ahead.

"Lead With Your Heart"

When we were continuing the uphill conversation, Tina mentioned that you should always lead with your heart, meaning your chest. But of course, being the sentimental being that I am, I took that as more of a life lesson. It was a good reminder to me that you need to be following your passions, and lead with your heart, or what makes you feel most alive and purposeful.

Some people know what their passion and path is seemingly from birth. I'm often envious of those types of people. Me? I knew that I liked people and I liked being outside for a long time, but it hadn't truly formed into something tangible. Yet. But I think letting my heart, or more importantly, my soul, guide me, is a good place to start.

"When Things Get Wonky, Let It Roll"

Tina taught us that when you're going over a big rock section, or falling off a feature, that you should just keep letting it roll, keep riding, and stay calm. Yes, this led to me falling off my bike a few times but I liked the thought behind it. Our normal reaction to things getting 'wonky' is to panic - 'I'm going to fall!' or 'what if I get injured?' But Tina teaches us to stay calm and push through the weird, uncomfortable parts. And that it is okay, if I fall off my bike or just wobble for awhile, as long as I get back on and keep riding.

A baby wheelie at the end of our class.

This class challenged me in quite a few ways, and made my butt sore for at least a week, but one of the biggest things that I learned, or rather, was reminded of, was that I don't need to be good at everything, and my ability to do this or any other sport is not a reflection of my worth. I had a moment, or a few moments, when we went out on the trails and put our skills to the test, that I forgot everything and let my fear and insecurities take control. It was brief, and then I came back from it. And honestly, the amount of time that I let myself be upset was much less than past experiences like this, so that in itself was a win.

But after the class, I had a conversation with one of my classmates, Jill, and she talked about approaching these types of activities, or really anything new, with curiosity and to 'stand in our power.' I love this sentiment and try to carry it with me now. Like, 'oh a new thing, what's this all about?' instead of 'a new thing, you should be good at this and if you aren't, you're a failure at life and everything else.' Pretty stark contrast, and much more compassionate approach.

After the class was over, I rushed back to my room to write down a few of my thoughts. And the main sentiment was that I need to do more things like this, to face my fears, to get out of my comfort zone and push the boundaries of what I think is possible for me. And the rock feature that I put so much damn power in during the class, well, I'm not even thinking about that now.

Learn more about Grit Clinics and AdventurUs Women.

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