Challenges of the body and mind come in so many ways. For endurance athletes, they come intentionally. Jill Homer is a U.S. endurance cyclist and trail runner who’s taken on some incredible running and cycling challenges from the Tour Divide (a 2,745 mile bike race) to the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Jill joined us on the Tough Girl Podcast to talk about fears, overcoming fears, and about the times when you can’t overcome your fears.
1. You Can Handle More Than You Believe
With her first 100 mile winter bike race, Jill didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Her longest training run had been 9 hours. The race ended up taking 25 hours. A day later, the shock from this major feat subsided and Jill had a realisation. She shared, “You can handle, and your body can handle, and your mind can handle, more than you believe.”
Jill was hit with a number of difficulties, being cold and wet and far from civilisation, but getting through that was empowering for her. The Iditarod race showed her just what she could do. While Jill used to be a timid, fearful person who didn’t take risks, seeing what she was capable of pushed her to be more willing to take risks and desire bigger and bigger challenges. We can all become more confident in the face of fear by following in Jill’s footsteps and realising that we can do so much more than we believe we can.
2. Practice Self-Reliance
Jill’s next challenge was the 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational. Between checkpoints, she knew she would be completely on her own. She would have to be completely self-reliant. To prepare for this, Jill would leave her job each day to go camping in the snow and practice being on her own. If it was zero degrees with high winds, Jill would still go out riding. Becoming self-reliant became more important than being in shape.
It was so rewarding for Jill to practice using her own strength and capabilities to keep herself safe. Practicing self-reliance can help us all overcome fear by taking some uncertainty out of the equation. When we know that we can rely on ourselves, we have greater confidence to face anything ahead of us.
3. Be Brave, Be Strong
To get through fear-inducing situations, Jill developed her own mantra, “Be brave, be strong.” She shared that saying her mantra enough eventually made it true. In big thunderstorms and deep mud, Jill would repeat this mantra to herself over and over. By doing this, she could begin to rationalise her emotions and realise that things aren’t as bad they seem.
Fear comes from the thoughts we have in our brain about what’s going on and by consciously changing our thoughts to be positive and encouraging, we motivate ourselves to move forward. Combat fear by creating your own mantra or using Jill’s.
4. A Small Recovery Makes a Big Difference
One of the greatest fears of an endurance athlete is reaching their mental and physical limits. While this fear plagues Jill as well, she believes that you can always find more. Challenge after challenge, Jill never reached her limit and she attributes this to a little recovery. She advised, “A small amount of recovery makes a big difference.”
With a small amount of recovery and a readjustment of her mentality, Jill always found a way to move forward. Simply taking a small break and getting food can help you face anything that’s ahead. “The body is capable of more than we give it credit for,” Jill said. “Find out for yourself how much or how little you need.” Sometimes all you really need is to close your eyes for a few minutes and reset everything. What can you do no matter where you are to recover?
5. Move Forward Like You Don’t Have a Choice
When Jill and her partner participated in the Iditarod Trail Invitational on foot, the physicality was unlike anything she’d experienced before. Instead of having the help of a bike, she was completely reliant on her body. She felt pain in her feet like she never had before, and experienced all kinds of low points throughout the challenge.
Jill often had no choice but to move forward through the low points. She shared that when you see what you’re capable of when you don’t have a choice, you can keep going when you do have a choice. Jill’s an inspiration to keep moving forward no matter what. She shows what our bodies are capable of on a mental and physical level and how those capabilities can be applied to facing any fear or challenge.
Listen to the entire conversation with Jill Homer on the Tough Girl Podcast to learn more about her incredible journey.