Chris Akrigg released his life story this week and, as the title suggests, it encompasses everything this site is about…….
The film is just shy of 40 minutes long and is an absorbing watch that I’d throughly recommend, but for me the brilliance is not in the narrative, it’s in the detail.
It Takes 10 Years to Achieve Elite Level Ability
The story begins with Chris riding bikes and motorbikes & competing in motor bike trials from 1985 on. He continues developing these transferable skills (that underpin his trademark riding and competitive style) until his excursion into mountain bikes is sparked by seeing Martyn Ashton and Martin Hawes riding around 1994. He first turns up on Martyn Ashton’s radar at a British championship event in Kent in 1995 with this being followed shortly by them offering him a trip with them to Spain and him winning his first world round and second British title in 1997…….1985 to 1995…..10 years to hit elite level ability!
If you then roll the clock on another 10 years, he takes the mountain bike film industry by storm in the first mountain bike trails film Trail Noir.
Purposeful Practice (not talent) = Elite Level Ability
I often make reference to purposeful practice (what is it? see ‘Bounce’ – a key message for mountain bikers) being essential to achieving elite level ability and have even used Chris previously as an example in ‘If at first you don’t succeed….’.
Throughout this film you hear Chris and others talking about his level of practice and see repeated examples of the lengths he goes to in order to push his riding on. He’s relentless.
It’s this level of practice, coupled with his development of transferable skills from other bike disciplines (motorbike trials and BMX), that has allowed him to develop the Deep Domain Expertise to excel in his field.
Another repeated theme throughout this film is Chris’ single minded determination to succeed. There are repeated references to Chris being red faced and in the Zone as well as clips of him in action. Watch him stamping on the wheel of his bike (23.13) when filming for Earthed 3 – this guy wasn’t giving up until the job was done!
Motor Imagery and Self Talk
In the clips of Chris when he’s totally consumed in the moment, you see him repeating certain behaviours. You see him following a course with his hands and visualising what he wants to do (eg at 3.39), and hear him shouting and talking to himself. Motor Imagery and Self Talk are on show in this film.
If you’re going to put the levels of practice in that it takes to be an elite rider, you need to have the environment to do it. I’ve spoken about this before in MTB Cribs but Chris also mentions it, stepping out of his back door to ride (35.15).
The Importance of Mentors and Power of Others
Finally, to reach elite level ability you need mentors to pull you along in the right direction and ‘others’ to push you to perform at consistently higher levels. The film details how integral Chris’ dad was in his development & progression and how Martyn Ashton, Martin Hawes and Eddie Tongue, along with other riders in competitions, pushed him to better and better things.
The 6 points above give massive insights into how Chris has achieved the elite level status he has but there’s loads more you can take from this film – enjoy!
If you’re going to take the time to practice, practice like the elite.