It’s not that I’m afraid of the downhills, it’s that I’m afraid of staying in the tracks on the downhills, especially if I can’t see the runout or if there’s a sharp turn at the bottom.
Theoretically, if a skilled tracksetter is grooming your trails, you should be able to count on his setting track whenever it’s safe and leaving the trail smoothly groomed when it’s too steep.
I know that, but it’s like there’s a deep part of my brain that doesn’t believe I have the necessary skill. I start in the track at the top of the hill, then part way down my subconscious takes over and I step out of the track, “just in case” I have to snowplow.
This is a mental problem. My friends Jane and Marlene have taught me five strategies for being less frightened of staying in the tracks on the downhills. I’m still not “cured”, but this tips have really helped me stay in the tracks in places I wouldn’t have before.
Tip 1: Stay Low
As Jane says, “The lower you are, the less far you have to fall.” Believe it or not, I actually find that comforting. Also, being in a low tuck position keeps your centre of mass close to the ground, which makes you more stable.
I know this tip seems counter-intuitive because tucking makes you go faster, but tucking also “locks” me into the tracks and helps me resist the temptation to step out of them. Remember, these are tips for helping you stay in the tracks when it’s safe.
Tip 2: Extend Your Hands
This tip is awesome! The more scared I am, the more I extend my hands in front of me, the more stable I feel. Try it! This is one of the best tips I’ve ever heard. I use this tip when I am out of the tracks too, no matter if I am tucking or snowplowing.
You can also “steer” with your hands when they’re ahead of you. Just point them where you want to go.
Tip 3: Contract Your Core Muscles
When I tuck, I really focus on contracting my core muscles, especially my lower abdominals and pelvic floor muscles. I’m not sure if this has any actual physical benefit but it gives my mind something to focus on other than being frightened.
Tip 4: Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!
Another favourite piece of advice. Letting out a big “Whoop!” gives you unexpected courage. Really.
5. Positive Self-Talk
“I can’t do this! I’m going to fall!”
These are not helpful things to tell yourself. Be positive and encouraging! The first, and most important step on the road to success is believing you can do it.
Can you help?
Do you have any advice to share with those of us who need more courage on the downhills? Share your tips in the comments below.