September 13, 2012

Riding Free

So I'm going to go out on a limb and share a little something about myself you may not know...

I am often very hesitant to try to learn a new skill.

At first, that may not seem like much of an admission.  However, I can trace this hesitancy back to my childhood and it was not until I was older that I began to realize how much I was limiting myself by being scared.

I kept training wheels on my bike for far too long.  My parents bought me a pink "Dream Girl" bike for my birthday one year, but also bought an old bike at a local garage sale for me to learn how to make the transition to training wheels.  It seems they sensed my klutziness at a young age--ha.  I had the worst attitude when my mom started working with me to ride sans training wheels.  I cried.  I threw a fit.  I actually laid out in the grass next to the old bike and sulked.  I just wanted to take off on my old bike (with four wheels--so uncool) instead of focusing, being patient and learning a new skill.

Looking back, I know I was afraid of falling off the bike.  I was scared of hurting myself and scared of being embarrassed.

I don't actually remember the "a-ha!" moment when I got the rhythm of balancing and riding, but finally did--proof below--and have been a bike lover and rider ever since!

As an adult, I recognize that I struggle with forcing myself to learn a new task.  God has put situations and people in my life that have forced me to attempt new things.  When I moved to DC in 2008, I was stripped of my "home comforts."  My family was 1000 miles away and I had to learn how to overcome and do "hard" things on my own.  

There are so many instances that I've had to push and force myself to do, but one particularly funny one occurred recently that brought back some of my childhood biking memories.  Thankfully I have overcome the fear of general bike riding, but I have watched Kern ride around for years without using his hands.  It's a trick I have semi-attempted a few times only to tightly grip back on my handle bars after .2 seconds.  Despite my initial insistence that I could not (would not) be able to ride hands free, I decided that maybe this was something I should try to overcome.

And guess what?  I did it.

Not only did I do it once, but I rode up and down the street free!

This experience made me think about the similarities between learning to ride hands free and any other attempt at trying a new task.

I want to share a few tips that can be handy in any situation--from riding a bike to learning to cook to navigating a new job to overcoming a personal circumstance.

One: Ask for Advice
When I finally felt ready to try, I asked Kern what I should do--ride quickly? What should I do with my hands?  Instead of trying to figure it out by myself, I asked an "expert" who was able to give me tips.

Two: Take Baby Steps
I started out by riding with the tips of my fingers still on the handlebars.  I then moved to riding free for about 10 seconds...from there I could go just took a little time.

Three: Keep your balance
I quickly learned (thanks to #1) that the faster my feet pedaled, the easier it would be to keep my balance.  Sometimes you just have to keep going and not look back to achieve a goal.

Four: Change gears
I was in 4th gear and having a hard time keeping my handlebars from wobbling side to side. A few "trigger finger clicks" to 7th gear and even though I more resistance on the pedals, the bike felt more stable.  Sometimes it's easy to get caught in "cruise control" in our daily habits, but switching gears can help ratchet you to success by giving you a jolt!

Five: Practice Makes Perfect
I had to throw this cliche in the mix.  Even though my first attempts were wobbly and uncertain, I kept trying over and over until it became (gasp!) fun! I the only one out there who is scared to try new things or do you struggle with that sometimes too? Spill the can't be more embarrassing than a picture of you from 1990 sulking in the grass with a leaf stuck to your blue t-shirt.


  1. Em. Thank you for sharing this as it's something of which I need to constantly be reminded.

    Our move to Brazil has forced me (and given me space) to try to learn new things, but I still often feel overwhelmed by them and don't believe that I actually might be able to learn them.

    2 examples come to mind...
    1) the LANGUAGE. In my mind I know that I can learn it if I work hard at it, but I am so overwhelmed by it and scared that I will never get it that I feel discouraged before I even try.
    2) I am trying to take up some new hobbies here, so I bought some new painting supplies and tried to paint! I actually painted something that's in my bathroom and started another painting but have yet to finish. I think that art is a little scary for me & I'm embarrassed when the product looks like something a second grader could have done, but I do want to try.

    It's encouraging to be reminded that it's not too late to keep learning.

    PS -- I think you're a major inspiration in this as you have taken up so many cool new things: biking, painting/crafts, blogging, healthy eating, exercising... You're a star!

    1. Thanks for your honesty, Ash! I cannot imagine trying to learn a new language this point and I am so proud of you! I definitely understand the fear of painting something (or doing a craft project) that may or may not turn out weird. You know what I've learned? If I don't do it, I've already failed. So get in there and try! It doesn't have to be perfect, but it will be yours and that will be more than enough!

      Friends, if you want to follow Ashley's adventures in Brazil, visit:!

  2. Em. LOVE THIS! It is so true, a lot of times my willingness to step out of my comfort zone is dependent solely on mood. Although I used to ride hands free all the time as a kid as an adult I'm much reticent to "let go" I'm certain there's a deeper lesson in there... that and I'm missing a lot of the "core" strength I had as a child :)

    1. Thanks, Em! I'm glad I'm not the only one. I do think that a lot of times it has to be a conscious decision to ride hands-free. And that's ok. I want it to come naturally, and it may one day, but it's not a bad thing if we have to prod ourselves! :)


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