It never occurred to me how much work and discipline Skydiving requires.
Looking at those extreme sportsmen on YouTube videos – they made Skydiving seem like fun and games.
It seemed like those people did acrobatics through the air as if they were in their natural habitat.
After 74 Skydiving jumps I can assure you, it takes a lot of work and effort both mental and physical to get you to the point of “pure enjoyment”.
So let’s talk about those “requirements”.
Keep in mind that these are my personal expressed views and opinions, and my experience that led me to these conclusions.
You might follow a completely different path to Skydiving bliss, and that’s perfectly OK.
Biljana’s mental preparations for Skydiving
Challenge No1. – Overcoming fear
The first obstacle I had to face was fear itself. In my opinion, if someone tells you they’re not afraid, they are either lying or foolish.
When I started the Skydiving training I wasn’t quite sure what I was afraid of (it certainly wasn’t heights, I actually dig them).
But I had two choices, overcome the fear and Skydive, or give in and let go.
In order to overcome that initial fear, and decide to Skydive your desire has to be bigger than the fear you’re feeling. If the desire is stronger, Skydiving will happen for you.
After finishing my training, and learning everything there is to know about Parachute Systems, the Physics behind it all and lots of Meteorology – I felt ready.
The real problem, it turns out was my complete lack of knowledge and respect for this incredible sport.
After learning more about it and actually experiencing it, I was humbled and amazed.
Why is fear in small doses good for you? – It keeps you on your toes, it helps you stay safe. Acting fearless and reckless is certainly not a noble thing in the Skydiving world.
Challenge No2. – Visualization helps if You utilize it
Visualization can be a helpful tool, especially for beginner Skydivers.
Relaxing your mind and trying to imagine the whole process vividly and repeatedly in your head helps build a good Skydiver:
Jumping out of the plane in a safe position is super important in the beginning.
You are supposed to form the most aerodynamic shape with your body and retain it during your fall.
The same way the rain falls from the sky, you fall with your arms forward, your legs tucked in and your back ARCHED.
© Picture by paulmcenany on flickr.com
If you’re thinking you’ll be able to just roll around the sky doing stunts right away, you’re in for surprise.
My worst jump happened when I decided to completely focus on smiling for the camera that was attached to the wing.
As I was getting out of the plane all hard training went puff and away, I smiled and then tumbled down in a most uncomfortable way.
I remember looking up, realizing I was upside down and seeing my legs straight forward above me at one point.
I opened the chute underneath me and got pulled upwards. Lesson learned.
So every jump is another lesson, and the trick is to keep jumping, learning from it, and to stay consistent. Having longer breaks and not staying active doesn’t help with Skydiving.
Trying to visualize something you haven’t done before is super hard.
At our training center we had a little bed, with wheels, that was arched in a way to help you practice your falling position.
I practiced on it many times on the ground, but actually doing it is a process that doesn’t happen naturally, you have to work for it. Once you do achieve the “stable position” while free falling, your body memorizes it, and you work on perfecting it.
As you progress through your jumps, you will start using visualization more and more.
It is advisable to use it before bed, as the positive thoughts of yourself performing a perfect jump will last even after you fall asleep.
Once you learn how to navigate your body through the air (unlike cars that have wheels, skydivers use their bodies to turn left or right) you feel more confident and start fully enjoying the experience.
Challenge No3. – Over confidence is your enemy
You might think fear is your enemy.
In my experience overconfidence can be an even greater one.
Here are 2 real stories that show what overconfidence means in the Skydiving world.
Story No1 – Where Is My Shoe?
There are certain benefits to Skydiving that you can’t plan on, such as becoming a better driver on the ground (again my experience).
On the other hand, there are certain disappointments as well, like realizing you’ll have to pack your parachute before every jump.
I remember standing in front of an open canopy, admiring how big it was (training canopies), and then how disappointed I felt when I found out I had to stuff it in this tiny bag.
I’ve never been good at packing and that part of the Skydiving experience is still a drag for me.
With that being said, I am a bit slow when it comes to packing the chute, but I take great care in doing it properly because I want to stay safe.
Well, one of our senior skydivers got careless one day and packed his own shoe in the canopy (he had another pair for jumps).
He landed with a nasty bruise on his face and got the serving of laughter from everyone.
He was lucky – the shoe could’ve wrapped around the ropes and caused him a huge problem.
Story No.2 – Goran’s Whiplash
There were 5 people in my group when we started our Skydiving training, and Goran seemed the most prepared of us all.
He didn’t care about the lessons as much, was rarely there on time, and was only interested in jumping out of the plane while performing stunts.
After his 3rd static line jump, he said he was prepared to go solo. In our training program, 10 jumps where a requirement before you can actually open your own chute.
They let him go on the 8th, just because he seemed so confident.
I wasn’t in the plane that day, but I could see him clearly tumbling through the sky, flapping with hands and legs everywhere while trying to open the chute at the same time.
Once he managed to open it, he got whiplashed by the ropes so bad that he had burn marks on his back and legs for a long time.
I was happy to see he landed safely and learned his lesson too.
What’s the moral of the overconfidence stories?
Skydiving might seem like a fun adventure, but it’s so much more than that.
It is mastering a completely new environment where you move in a 3D space with your entire body.
Once you feel comfortable in that world, you can finally enjoy it.
Biljana’s Physical Preparations for Skydiving.
The methods of throwing yourself from a height vary, some people use airplanes, others helicopters or air balloons.
No matter your preferred way, having strong arms and hands is a must!
Believe it or not, giving massages to people and riding my bicycle has helped me a lot with physical strength.
I work as a massage therapist in the summer, and using my hands and arms repeatedly has helped me get a better, stronger grip. You will need this once you’re up in the air.
Your legs need to be strong as well, some people go running, I prefer to ride my bicycle EVERYWHERE.
I go to work with it, I use it when visiting friends, literally as much as I can.
In a way, Skydiving made me take better care of myself, and it has become a way of life for me.
Do whatever works best for strengthening your core, different people will keep themselves fit in various ways.
In my country, we have a compulsory medical exam for Skydivers once every 2 years, and I have seen people not pass it.
Since I want to end this article on a positive note, I’d like to share with you a couple of many Surprising Benefits Skydiving brought to my life that I mentioned earlier:
1- Skydiving made me a better driver.
I had a huge mental block when it came to learning to drive a car.
My aunt has flopped the exam 5 times in her youth and wouldn’t miss a chance to talk how difficult it is while I was growing up.
Once I started driving (I passed on my first try) I found myself constantly panicking over the traffic. Other drivers and pedestrians pissed me off, and I would yell and curse.
How horrible and unlike my pedestrian self.
After Skydiving for a few times I started feeling completely relaxed while driving.
I could feel that my reflexes are better and that I have a few seconds more to react to unpredictable situations.
I actually started waving and smiling if another driver made a mistake.
I truly felt comfortable with myself, the chaos outside couldn’t harm me anymore. What a feeling.
2- Skydiving Beat My Fear of Darkness
This was debilitating to me.
If I woke up in the middle of the night, there was no way of me getting to the kitchen without turning all the lights in the apartment on my way.
The thing is, my mom, put me and my younger brother on a diet of 5 VHS movies per week. 4 of them were horror movies and one cartoon. After watching the cartoon for 10 times we would turn to the others.
There were some crazy things happening in the dark, and they stuck with me for a while.
I was 9 and feeling pretty weak.
Again, after Skydiving for a while, at the age of 29 (and I can’t really say exactly how or when it happened) one night I had to walk down my building form the 10th floor using the stairs, and the electricity was down.
I remember climbing down the stairs, realizing I was not afraid, still cautious of the living, but completely free of irrational fear.
I still get surprised by the lack of fear every time I have to face darkness, and it still creates a smirk smile of freedom across my face.
What can I say?
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