Try something new-overcome the fear

 In Anxiety & Nerves, Coaches, Confidence, Healthy Lifestyles, Professional & Olympic Athletes

You’ve done the marathon, triathlon, swimming thing and are thinking that this year you might want to try something a little different. Mm…mountain biking seems like something you could be interested in but it seems intimidating and hard which makes it scary to venture into. How do you get over the fear of trying/starting something new?

What gets in the way

If it sounds like fun why wouldn’t it be something you would want to try? Why wouldn’t you just go for it? Let’s continue to use mountain biking as our example. Some of your reasons for not getting involved might look like this: buying another bike can be expensive, mountain biking isn’t something I can do from my back door, none of my friends are mountain bikers or I am afraid to learn something I haven’t done and do not know anything about. Which one of these reasons for not getting involved is probably holding you back? Dare I say the latter?

Being a beginner

Do you remember starting something new that now you do all the time? How did you feel in that first moment? Butterflies? Increased heart rate? Scared? What do you remember thinking? What am I doing here? I am never going to be able to do this. All of these people are so much better than I am. When you are feeling and thinking these things, what happens? Many times it stops you from proceeding.

How did you handle this past situation so that you overcame your fears enough to incorporate it into your life? How did you get through that first time of it being hard and wanting to stop? How did you overcome that to get where you are today? Your friends or family my have been the impetus. Maybe you got a great deal on equipment. Maybe you didn’t have a choice. But, it may have been that instead of worrying about not being able to do it, you went at it just wanting to have fun and find some enjoyment in it (which is really the reason anyone should want to do anything). Sometimes how you’ve handled past similar situations gives you a good base for what you are dealing with now.

Worst case scenario

It’s funny that so many times we go into situations thinking the worst when in actuality how many times does the worst really happen? Instead, you’ve wasted a ton of energy that you could have put into learning the skill or being in a more positive space. Being negative and putting yourself down not only decreased the energy you have to go forward but de-motivates you to the point of never wanting to participate again.

Self fulfilling prophecy

Self fulfilling prophecy holds a lot of truth. Most of what you think is going to happen does happen. If you are thinking that you can’t do something you probably won’t be able to, but if you think you can do something, although it will take some time and patience to learn, you will be able to do it. One key here is that you might not be able to do it ‘perfectly’ but you can still enjoy and have fun with something even though it doesn’t happen as ‘perfectly’ as you might have wanted.


Mountain biking is a good example for me to use because I can still remember when I first started mountain biking. I went into my first ride without fear because I am a strong cyclist and thought to myself, how much more difficult can mountain biking be? Needless to say it was a very different experience than road riding and the first time I hit loose gravel on a 15% incline and then fell over not only did I realize how different it was but I also realized I needed to learn some mountain biking skills that I didn’t have. The experience did put some fear in me. For awhile after that, every time I got to a loose gravel hill I stopped, got off the bike and walked it up. Part of that was fear of falling and part of that was because I didn’t quite have the technical skills to be able to handle those steep, loose gravel hills but I stuck with it and told myself that ‘I can do this’ and I did.

Overcoming ‘beginners’ fear

Start out positively and child-like and follow through with that attitude. You have to give yourself time to learn what you don’t know and allow yourself to make (human) mistakes. Knowing your limitations is also important. If you’ve never mountain biked before of course it’s going to be challenging and probably somewhat frustrating at times, so you need to learn mountain biking skills and again allow yourself some time to learn and improve with time.

When learning a new skill goal setting can be helpful because you can make a checklist for yourself and every time you accomplish something on the list you can check it off and move on. You can see your mental and technical accomplishments/improvements (were you’ve come from and where you are going). This will help keep you motivated and help you feel successful; even if it’s not the ‘perfect’ level of success.

Being perfect

Why is it that everyone wants to be good at everything they do, whether they’ve done it or not? How can you be good at something you’ve never done? Society puts a lot of pressure on all of us to be perfect at whatever we do but is that realistic? It’s important to ask yourself these questions when thinking about taking on a new skill or task. It’s important to be realistic with yourself. You didn’t wake up one morning, decide you wanted to be lawyer, doctor or dentist and jump perfectly into it the next day. When you were a child you although you were born to walk and run you had to learn how to do these things. Everything takes time and patience. My advice for you is to go into situations with an open, positive, child-like mind and to push past thinking ‘you can’t do something’, into thinking, ‘you can do anything you open your mind to’.

Happy Saturday!

Dr. Michelle

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