Lee McCormack (aka Lee Likes Bikes) is a professional skills coach and author of Mastering Mountain Bike Skills. Lee teaches in-person clinics, as well as running an online Mountain Bike school. I’ve worked with Lee online for the past year, as well as doing in-person clinics whenever I’m in Boulder — so I can vouch that he is awesome and knows his stuff. Wanna work with Lee? Scroll to the bottom of this post for details on an exclusive discount, only for readers of this blog!
This is my second post about learning — see Part I if you haven’t already.
In the last post, I talked about how learning is a skill — and one extremely important facet of that skill is developing an openness to advice and coaching. I’ve noticed a lot of mountain bikers seem to prefer to learn by doing — hucking bigger jumps, following faster people, just going for it and hoping for the best. And while you certainly can learn this way, it isn’t the fastest way to do so — in fact, if you’re like me, this method will make you faster, but leave you with some unhelpful habits. You may even acquire some doubly unhelpful injuries. I believe all learning follows a similar process — if you wanted to learn a foreign language, you’d get a teacher to instruct you on the basics. Sure, you could learn something wandering around a foreign city, but you’d be lost without some sense of the fundamentals. Mountain biking is the same.
In the spirit of this post, I’ve posed some questions to Lee McCormack. Lee has coached thousands of athletes, beginners and professionals alike, so he has an intimate understanding of what makes a good learner.
SS: What would you like to tell all your clients to know before they show up for a clinic?
LLB: Don’t judge yourself. Heck, you’re not even qualified to know whether you’re doing things correctly. If there’s something to say, I’ll tell you. Otherwise, focus on what we’re working on and assume you’re doing great. (Syd’s note: Lee has to remind me of this one a lot. Like every ten minutes. He is very patient.)
We’re not here to impress anyone. The fact you’re open minded enough to be here makes you a badass. We’re all somewhere on the path to eternally reduced suckage. Take each lesson one at a time. Focus on good movement. Enjoy how great your riding feels. Everything else you want to do — bigger, faster, radder — will come when it’s ready.
Most of us have to do a lot of things that aren’t fun. Mountain biking is supposed to be fun. This is sacred time. We will enjoy.
SS: What are the most common roadblocks to learning that you see in clients?
LLB: Not being open minded. That’s rare in people who show up, but many of us are closed in ways we can’t understand until we see what open really means.
Being too hard on yourself.
Coming in with a story about how you can’t do this and that, and sticking to that story. I understand — as well as anyone! — about fear, self criticism and self judgement. When you want to do something, but at a deep level you don’t believe you can do it, that causes a lot of stress, which makes your riding tense and confirms that, indeed, you can’t do that thing. You have to start with a fresh mind. Take it one step at a time. When I teach you, I know you can do the thing. We take whichever path is needed to get you doing it. Then we do the next thing. Before you know it, your body knows (and believes) how to rock that drop.
SS: Think about your clients that learn the fastest and are the best to work with. What characteristics do they share?
LLB: Body awareness, beginner’s mindset, enough intelligence to understand the concepts and then the ability to release mental control and let the body do its job.
One of the best XTERRA athletes ever, Conrad Stoltz, knows how to learn — and that’s why he’s been so great for so long.
SS: You offer both online coaching and in person clinics. Which is better?
LLB: In person is the best way to work with the individual mind, body and heart to create new skills. Everyone has unique needs and baggage (aka trail trauma), and in person in real time I can help untangle everything.
Online is great because:
– It’s always there for you.
– You can revisit each lesson. Learn what you can. Practice. Master at your current level. Come back. Learn more. Practice even better. Master at an even higher level. Repeat.
– I can methodically and completely lay out the concepts with great examples.
– You can understand the concepts and begin practicing on your own.
– Thanks to our private Facebook group, you can ask questions and post photos/videos.
– You can get high-quality feedback from professional coaches and like-minded shredders.
– It gets you very ready for highly productive in-person work. Since the concepts are already clear, we can focus on helping your mind/body/soul execute them.
(Syd’s Note: For me the best thing about the online school has been the ability to work on skills for a very short time — 15 min a day, every day — and get expert feedback as I progress. There’s a limit to how much you can progress in a single day, even under the best of circumstances. I always find that the week AFTER an in-person skills session, things start to click. With the online system, I’m able to share that progress with Lee and continue to get feedback.)
SS: What are your tips for anyone who wants to be a better learner?
LLB: Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t let bad habits ruin your life — you can learn a new behavior that works better. Focus on what you want to happen, not what you want to avoid. Don’t push through fear. Emphasize precision — don’t just make yourself a human missile and hope you learn something before you explode. Smoothness comes first, then speed.
I’m super stoked to be able to offer my readers (aka you) a great deal for the online skills coaching through the Lee Likes Bikes Online Mountain Bike School — just click HERE, make your order and type “10offmonth4Syd” to get 10% off a monthly membership or “20offyear4Syd” to get 20% percent off a yearly membership. (Don’t include the quotation marks!) That means you’ll get full access to all of Lee’s online resources and expert feedback for a year for right around $160 bucks, which is a screaming deal.
Check out the final part of this series, about how I learned to wheelie in a week(ish), here.