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What I once loved now caused me anxiety!

What I once loved now caused me anxiety.

Since my lung surgery in 2009 (left upper lobectomy) hills have been my nemesis while cycling.  Since the surgery I haven’t been able to climb to the top of a large, steep hill without stopping.  To make matters worse, I’ve actually fallen over on several attempts because I hit the “brick wall” and couldn’t unclip my shoe fast enough. The worst one was when I fell over and the momentum carried me down into a rocky ditch.

Over time & several falls later I built up a fear of hills.  I started believing what the surgeon said, “You won’t be able to ride like you used to.”  I started to say things in my head like, “I won’t make it up that hill so why try,” leaving me waiting at the bottom for my husband to ride it and come back down.  I wouldn’t go on group rides because they all involve hills and I didn’t want to make people wait while I started & stopped again and again to get to the top (or even worse, would have to walk the bike to the top.) I quit doing hill repeats on the indoor trainer because it hurts and “why bother it’s not going to make a difference.”  I had given in to my fear and was letting it control me…until yesterday!

Yesterday was a perfect cycling weather day and I had time for a ride but I found myself making excuses not to go.  Fear was reminding me of the hill at the turn-around point on one of our regular rides.  Fear was also trying to cause me to fear riding alone on those beautiful country roads we ride.  Then indignation rose up in me and I said to myself, “How can I let fear grip me like this and then turn around and teach a PDR class tonight asking my students to overcome their fear?”  So I put on my bike clothes, filled my water bottles, turned on my Strava and took off.  On the way to the turn-around point and the big hill, I started using what Coach Blauer taught us…the Cycle of Behavior™. 

As I was riding I started going through the cycle of behavior™…what is my scenario?  It’s riding up the steep hill.  What was my motivation?  It was not good based on my expectation of what will happen, which is based on how I visualize my attempt (I saw myself falling over and then fear took it even further…what if I fall over while a car is approaching, I’ll get run over.), so my belief at that point was that I couldn’t make it up the hill without falling over (which hurts) and possibly getting run over.  My neuro-association to that was that every hill would bring me pain.  There were no fear management skills in use before this ride. I would just get threatened and enter the fear loop causing me to turn around at the bottom of the hill.

But yesterday…!!  As I played all of that out in my head I got to the fear management part and asked myself, “What do I lose by not overcoming this fear?”  What I lose is…

  1. The ability to go on a lot of beautiful yet challenging rides since we are surrounded by hills.
  2. I lose the feeling of accomplishment I once felt after tackling and getting to the top of a climb.
  3. If I allow fear to control me in this area of my life, where else will I give it access?
  4. How can I teach others to overcome fear if I’m allowing it to wreak havoc in mine?
  5. And finally, if I’m afraid of a hill, an inanimate object that is larger than me that can cause me pain, will I translate that to an attacker that is bigger than me that could cause me pain?  My answer to myself on that one was, “yes, that could cause me to freeze in an attack and I can’t afford for that to happen.” 

The last point, especially, caused indignation to arise in me to kick fear in its teeth and get challenged!  So I determined I had a lot more to lose than the fear I had for this hill.  When I got to the bottom of that hill I said, “You will do this!” and I went after it. I visualized myself succeeding.

Did I make it to the top?  No, because anaerobically I’m not in shape to get to the top of a mile climb at a 10% incline.  Why?  Because I quit training for it…because I have limited respiratory resources I HAVE to train (remember earlier in the story I mentioned that I had quit doing hill repeats on the indoor bike).  BUT I made it further than my last attempt and I didn’t fall over!  The rest of my ride felt GREAT!  It felt like it used to!  I enjoyed the freedom of being on a bike on an absolutely gorgeous day, seeing plenty of wildlife, even almost having a head-on collision with a very large turkey (hunters would have been envious of my “catch”), and cycling with ease (anxiety free) and having an attack mentality on every rolling hill I faced on the way home.

I got out of the fear loop, I got challenged, I made a new goal, I came up with a plan to climb that hill, I made a decision to go for it, I stayed in the present (not thinking about past failures or future “what-ifs”) and I took action!

The training we received from Blauer Tactical Sytems and that we now extend to our students transcends self defense, reaching into all aspects of life.  I am eternally grateful for this training and for the opportunity to pass it on to others!!

Who’s up for a bike ride!!


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear (apprehension, dread, terror, fright, timidity), but of power (strength, authority, control), and of love, and of a sound mind (not affected by irrational, unfounded, and absurd thoughts.)” 2 Timothy 1:7


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