How do extreme athletes overcome fear?

7 October

The first psychological stresses of any sport – whether that’s doubting yourself, or being generally scared of what you’re going to do next – can be debilitating, and dangerous. Being unsure can cause someone to make mistakes. In my case, as a street trials biker, I try to do a smaller version of the trick I’m about to attempt, before working up to the larger version. That builds confidence and technique. I always make sure to ride within my limits. That’s rule number one.

The second rule is to visualise what you’re about to do, and to see a successful outcome. Practice will also help you to achieve that. You’ll develop a feeling for the trick ahead and you’ll see what’s going to happen in your mind. The more you do it, the more vivid and realistic the sensations will become in your visualisations.

Then, if you’re really taking on challenges that are pushing yourself, rule three is to use music. Before a new stunt, I put in my headphones and play a track that makes me feel good, or I know well, and use certain points in a song as cue. When a chorus kicks in, I’ll lock my foot in the pedals and push off. It’s like a starting gun. I find it takes my mind off any fear that might have crept in.

Danny Macaskill is the author of At The Edge – Riding For My Life

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