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  • Gary Borland

#39 Small Adjustments - Big Changes

Seemingly small adjustments can have a big impact in all areas of our lives. What adjustments could you make?

My son and I recently went on a 2-day trip to Bike Park Wales, a purpose-built mountain bike centre. A fleet of minibuses with bike racks take you to the top each time, followed by some seriously fun 5km downhills. Suffice to say that I went on the trip feeling a little apprehensive about some of the more challenging downhills, but not about my general riding. The misplaced confidence soon reared its head about 2 minutes into the first run. Small jump – no problem – another small jump – landed a bit to the left and about 3 seconds later I was lying in the woods having gone over the handlebars of my bike. So far so good!!

The remainder of day 1 really was fantastic and in particular, watching my son ride the trails like he’d been doing it all his life. On Day 2 we had a coaching session and set off on some trails where the instructor took video, debriefed each of us individually and offered advice on what seemed to be fairly minor and low-key aspects of our riding. Or so it seemed. The advice I was given related to the position of my feet. I had the correct foot/pedal position but rode with my feet either flat, or if anything, slightly pointed down at the front. His advice? Drop your heels. Is that it I thought? Where are the top tips on jumping, on drop-offs or some other seemingly significant aspect of my riding? But without dropping my heels, the rest of the riding would be sub-optimal and, in some cases, dangerous.

So, while I had no doubt that he was sharing good advice, I confess to being a bit sceptical about how that would significantly improve my riding. What I first noticed when I tried to drop my heels was how difficult it actually was to make this seemingly small adjustment. Not only that, but my foot position had become so habitualised after decades of riding, that it felt physically uncomfortable. After a minute or two I had returned to the old foot position, and I kept having to choose to re-adjust. A couple of runs later with my feet increasingly in the right place, I started to notice a difference. But not a small difference. When going over drops I wasn’t rotating forward because I could now push against the heels to stay where I wanted to be on the bike. Going up very steep ramps now felt much more controlled as I wasn’t snapping forward when I hit the ramp. My riding now started to feel so much safer, and my confidence increased to try different things.

What was my conclusion? Small adjustments can bring big changes. It seems to me that my experience has lots of parallels with life more generally. When I choose to listen more carefully, I hear things in a way that have the potential to impact my life and those around me. I create space for others to experience being heard, being valued and being significant. When I choose how I speak, I create space for others to experience being empowered, being validated, being cared for and loved. But these seemingly small changes are often not easy to make. Our habitualised behaviours are likely to kick in unless we choose to intervene with them. Small adjustments can make big changes to our lives and the people around us. Why not pick one thing and choose to make an adjustment?


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