Sometimes you just need to stop thinking and start doing, says our columnist.
I’m sitting here eating some (guru-approved) chickpeas right now, thinking about all the things I need to do in the next 24-48 hours. The list is getting longer with every chickpea I ingest, and the end is nowhere in sight. But at the end of the day, in order to avoid a full-blown panic attack, I have to just know in the back of my mind that I am capable of getting through everything that I need to do.
This is an important mental skill to hone. Trust. Some call it blind faith; others choose make it an activity: a “leap of faith.” Sometimes the only way to the other side of that Cottesmore Leap is to just trust that you’re able to make it safely across.
We humans love to overanalyze things. Especially us women. We all think we’re so bloody smart, but usually we end up complicating things way more than they needed to be, preventing us from reaching our end goal.Take that bending line you’ve been working on all summer, for example. You could walk it in a four, a five or a six. You come around ready for the five, but you jump it in seven, and then you freak out and jump it in three.
So then you start analyzing. You begin playing with the quality of the canter, your position, the lines, maybe set some poles, re-walk your line a few times, call George Morris, change your bit, up your horse’s feed, change the shoeing, fix your open-front boots and think about every possible scenario that could happen in that small distance. And all of a sudden your warm-up crossrail starts to look massive, and you can’t get to it at the same time as your horse to save your life. Soon you’ve given up jumping completely and decide that competitive trail riding is more your style.
When really, at the end of the day, all you needed to do was commit to a line and jump the jumps.
At the top levels I see riders go through the mental cycles of this conundrum over and over again, but they always come back to the conclusion that they’ve done their homework, they’re prepared, and they trust their horse. Yes, sometimes the problem is solved analytically, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. Failure is always a possibility, but if all you’re seeing is failure, then you’re guaranteed to run straight into its welcoming, open arms.
The other day in my functional training class (basically, Cross-Fit) my trainer had us doing handstands. I am certainly the most #noob one in my class, and I knew no one expected me to kill the handstand, but little did they know I once was a rocking gymnast. (OK, I took gymnastics for a few years.)
Some of my classmates who’re much fitter than I were really struggling. Not because they were physically unable, but because they didn’t trust that they were capable of success. I told them, you just have to believe that you can do it, and you will. (I also felt really cool that I had 2 cents to add, not going to lie.)
Honestly, it was with a leap of faith for me that I was in that class at all. I’d been watching what I like to call “the inner circle” work out together pretty much since the first day I stepped into my gym last November. At the beginning of this fitness journey, I had already decided that one day I wanted to work out with them—but I had to be physically ready, so as to not make a fool of myself.
With each month that passed I got a little bit fitter, but in every new month I also came up with some new reason that I wasn’t ready. I simply wasn’t confident enough to ask to join “the inner circle.” Confidence is something that I rarely lack, and so this was a new concept for me to internalize. So, naturally, I blamed it on not being fit enough and kept stalking the inner circle for training techniques.
Soon, I was a regular gym rat and finding myself at the gym at the same time as these people day in and day out. At first I was an outsider who no one really noticed, but I’m pretty sure they soon started thinking, “Who the heck is this girl that is here every day staring at us?” It almost got to that point where it’s too awkward to start talking to people because you’ve waited so long to talk to them. You know, like when you ride the elevator with the same people every day at work, but have never talked. You know so much information about them and their habits, but don’t know their names. There is an imaginary deadline for friend-making, and if you wait until after that deadline, it’s doomed.
Finally this summer it started bothering me so much that I hard-deadlined myself. I had to join the inner circle. I knew I was fit enough—my only problem was my over-analytical confidence-draining thought processes. Yes, I was going to suck at first, because I had no idea what was going on, but I had to take a leap of faith that they would accept me and I would get better.
One of the hardest things I did was tell my trainer I wanted to work out with them. His response was, “Finally!” (Awkward… So I guess they did notice my stalking…) At first I was slightly irritated that no one had approached me about joining them, but then I realized how lazy and self-righteous that thought was. If I want to keep getting better, it is my responsibility. It is my goal, and it is my struggle. The only person who gets in the way is me.
Taking that leap and joining has been one of the most exciting successes I’ve had so far. It seems so insignificant, like jumping that bending line, but it’s opened up a whole different level of challenges and goals, both mentally and physically. Who knows what’s next? What an exciting concept!
So I’m challenging you all to take whatever it is you’re preventing yourself from doing—fitness or otherwise, and think about it. And if you can’t figure out how to get from point A to point B, maybe you should try jumping to see if you make it.
“Meg Kep” as she’s best known in the U.S. eventing community, resides in Chester, N.J., and works as head groom and manager at Sinead Halpin Equestrian. Meg, 28, is also committed to sustainable avenues promoting good horsemanship and the sport of eventing, and her recent dedication to fitness has inspired her to share her story and help others toward “the path of awesomeness” at MyBodyTutor.com.