In sports you hear the words "the process" thrown around quite a bit. In endurance sports that coincides most times with training; in team sports it can mean cohesion of a team and/or skills development. So many times throughout my athletic life, I've heard these words but never really sat back to think about what they mean. Sure I've always trained or practiced for something, but I always just let things take their natural course. I suppose as I grow more into adulthood and approach new sports with a more mature mind, I "think" things through much more now than I did when I was younger and just "did" them.
On a bit of a whim, I got a dirt jump bike this autumn. Obviously I've been riding bikes for quite some time now, but in with my ever-lasting desire to learn more stuff (about every two years I shift my focus to a new sport-I'm developing a pattern here!) I decided to give it a go. The seed was really planted this summer in Spain when I watched all the kids in the village riding DJ bikes everywhere-and I mean EVERYWHERE. They rode them on the streets, the steps, the trails-anywhere and over everything. I loved the versatility of the bikes and figured owning one would be worthwhile just because of that. But, it was when I saw them jumping that I was sold. Small jumps or big jumps, it didn't matter. It was awesome to see them develop their skills...and skills, after all, are what attracted me to my love of mountain biking. See where I'm going here?
Ok, well if you don't I'll spell it out. Skills on a bike are something I really value. When someone tells me that "so-and-so" is a good rider, I ask them, "In what way?" To me, Lance Armstrong is a 'strong' rider, but I wouldn't necessarily call him a 'good' rider. Danny McCaskill is a ridiculously 'great' rider, but he might not be considered a 'strong' rider. The measure of a rider, in my opinion, of being fit vs. skilled is very important. Lance is very fit and can ride on paved surfaces faster than most, but Danny can backflip, front flip, tail whip, etc. until the cows come home. It's two different types of riding-one requiring great fitness and one requiring great skill. Sure, it takes skill to climb, descend, and navigate mountain roads like Lance, but I don't think I'd lose an argument as to who the more 'skilled' rider was.
So anyway, with all that, my skill set on a bike is very important to me. I feel that endurance can be built up in anyone. Skills require a patience and natural ability that not everyone possesses. Yeah, there are some people who will be faster and stronger than others as they reach their peak fitness, but I feel like there is a much more definitive line drawn by what limits skill development. Earning your peak fitness on a bike takes patience and commitment. Earning your maximum skill potential takes patience and, in most cases, a giant set of balls.
Back to the DJ bike...
So I got this thing and have ridden it a few times. Been to the dirt jumps (before today) a couple times, and then did some street riding (learned 180's and how to ride backwards-before falling off-in the process). It wasn't until hitting the jumps today, though, that I realized learning the new skill of dirt jumping is a process. It takes commitment, heart, and guts enough to know that you're going to crash, get dirty, and possibly get injured. However, if you go about it in a specific way, you're going to get the most out of it.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I'm taking a more "thinking man's" approach to this. The idea that I'm "just going to get out and do it" doesn't take a back seat, but it does share one with the question of "how am I going to get there?" The answer, quite simply is progression. You start small, doing what you can manage, and then you push the envelope ever so slightly. When you get comfortable there, push it only a slight bit more. Get out of your comfort zone until it becomes your comfort zone. Then, continue to repeat this process. With consistency, you'll build confidence and strength in what you do.
What I've got here isn't anything grand, and certainly isn't anything that anyone who has accomplished anything in their life would consider strange. What I suppose it is, is a road map for getting to where I want to go. With endurance sports, this would be referred to as a training plan. I'll call it my "skill-development plan".
The process is what this is all about. Learning along the way and dealing with adversity won't always be an easy thing, but in the end I'll find out some things about myself and do something that I'll be proud of. I think what's most important in this is that I do this for me and only for me. Sure I'm stoked that it'll look cool and people might think I have "talent", but why I really do this is because it legitimately scares me. Something about overcoming that fear and doing with my body what my brain says isn't possible is kind of a cool thing. Actually, it's a DAMN cool thing.