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Must Practice Be Stressful?
Only if you are trying to get better

By: James R. Davis

We practice in order to get good, or better, at what is difficult for us - to become skillful - or to CONFIRM that we remain skillful.

That is not the same as 'conditioning' - you learn endurance by enduring.

So, it seems to me that a practice session should be stressful if we are trying to gain skill levels and should be satisfying if we are only confirming a skill level.

I usually find that I am totally drenched with sweat and dead tired after only 15 minutes of a good practice. But far more often than not a practice session for me lasts only 5 minutes and I am content that it has been perfectly sufficient for my purposes.

When I practice I am always looking for the little secret that makes what I am attempting look easy. That is, riding a motorcycle is not at all difficult. Riding it with complete control, on the other hand, takes skill and experience. The experience exposes those 'secrets' (that slow speed control, for example, is fundamentally in your left hand) to you and practice provides the experience in a relatively safe environment. Once you learn them they look to others like you have 'skill' while in reality what you have is confidence. Over-confidence, on the other hand, means only that you THINK you have the skills you will need. Using practice to confirm your skill level is the difference.

All I'm trying to get at is that when you start out, or come back after lots of years being away from motorcycles, or upgrade to a heavier or different type of motorcycle, your skill level is nonexistent so practice MUST increase them as you 'stretch/grow'. And the process of growth (confidence building) is stressful.

When you are tired, or notice that you are not making progress in one skill area or another, go for something else or call it quits for the day and go home and park the beast. Next time you go out and practice you will more likely than not do better on your first try than you did on your last one the last time out. And the stress level will diminish.

Don't feel like you are the only person that goes through it. After 45 years of riding I am often stressed when I practice. That's good, no? It means that I really am trying to get better at something that I'm not at all confident about. Toes over the line - with successful effort - results in moving the line. And that's the primary reason we are out there.

In the end, being on the road should not be stressful at all because you have enough experience that you KNOW you can control your bike, not just react to what it does on its own. That's confidence.

Sooner or later you will realize that you can always improve some aspect of your skills but you will CHOOSE not to. That is, your practice sessions will be used to confirm that you can always do AT LEAST as well at something as you elect to be your personal target. That turns a practice event into a pretty short session if all is well. If not, you get back to the level you personally insist is how good you want to be.

Stress is associated with getting better, not with confirming you 'still have it.'

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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