I am just now learning how to swim and swimming is hard. Had I learned at a younger age, swimming would now be second nature. I suddenly see why parents push their kids to succeed in sports early in life. I, on the other hand, was able to pick and choose my activities. As a "girly" girl, my activity was dance. I spent over 15 years in ballet, tap and jazz. You know what I have to show for it? I am pretty good at yoga. I can do a mean cobra and have decent flexibility (especially for a runner/cyclist). That is about it.
Do you ever wonder how good you could be at cycling and/or running and/or swimming if you would have started at the age of 5? I do all the time. I really think it would have been a HUGE advantage on the mountain bike. My main hurdle on the dirt is the fear that manifests in my head. When you are young, you have no fear. Now every rock, rut and ledge are potentials for a horrific fall. I think about this when I ride, even on the road. I think about falling, getting hit by a car, riding off a ledge or having a distracted driver blow a light and run over me. Most of these scenarios involve my body flying through the air like some sort of rag doll. Is this normal? I don't think so. But maybe I am a safer cyclist (at least on the road) because of my fatalistic thoughts.
It is a HUGE detriment on the dirt though. Those who have spent time mountain biking know, if you think, "I am going to hit that rock". You WILL hit that rock. I have a friend who takes his young son mountain biking all the time. This kid has no fear and can conquer any obstacle. And if he falls, he just tries it again. If I fall, the last thing I want to do is try "that" again. I am scared of falling. I have fallen many times and I have to say I'm not a fan. At times I will see something down the trail and jump off the bike. I am determined that there is no way I can climb up that or descend down whatever obstacle looms in the distance. So I just jump off the bike and don't even try.
This has also been an issue for me in life. Like the old saying goes, "you never know unless you try". Fear can be the biggest obstacle we face in life. How many times have you avoided a situation because of fear? Fear of failing, fear of sounding stupid, fear of loosing or fear of not finishing. I know that we have fear as a survival instinct, built into our mechanics to prevent an early demise via a saber tooth cat or some sort of giant, wingless terror bird. But do we want to survive or strive? I work every day to strive, not merely survive.
I think I am going to dust off the mountain bike!