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Is Skydiving More Mental than Physical?


Skydive Perris Posted by: Skydive Perris 6 years ago

Experienced skydiver Marty Jones smiles after landing
Photo by Dennis Sattler

It’s often said in our sport that skydiving is 90% mental and 10% physical. In some ways, that’s great news: You don’t need to be iron-man strong or Instagram-yogi flexible to make it as a skydiver. Skydiving welcomes all body types and pretty much all fitness levels. Indeed, the fiercest demands of the sport are placed squarely on the contents of your skull. Here are some reasons why skydiving is more mental than physical.

To skydive, you need some very strong, very specific mental skills. Skydiving requires your laser focus. It requires you to direct all your energies to the task at hand. It insists that you develop strategies to manage your fear. It requires you to set aside your self-consciousness and enter the coveted “zone.” Ask anyone who’s been doing this for a long time: In a very real way, the physical side of skydiving only seems to exist as a kind of portal to get you into that zone and help you strengthen those mental skills.

How Is Skydiving Pysical?

When you’re up at the pointy end of competitive skydiving, the physical side does get serious. Like any serious sport, skydiving requires physical strength, flexibility and endurance. That said: Until you get to the point that you’re training for a big world record or angling for a national podium, you won’t have to sweat that much.

At the casual end of the spectrum, solo skydiving only has a few physically exerting moments. For example: If you land “out” (or even just on the far side of the landing zone), you’ll likely sweat a bit in the long tromp back to the packing area with your gear. Packing — especially when it’s hot outside, or when you’re already a little sore from some adventure or another — can be another sweaty undertaking. Working to hit a jump-numbers goal can leave you huffing and puffing if you’re not used to packing ‘em in. This much is evident: Sometimes, you’re gonna sweat.

How Is Skydiving Mental?

Sure, skydiving makes you sweat sometimes, but it’ll get you doing mental and emotional gymnastics always. Learning about the equipment that gets you up and down takes time and lots of effort. As you do, you’ll be putting together a checklist that includes the details of every piece of gear you come into contact with on any given jump, from the parachute to the airplane. (Spoiler: That list is long.) With each jump, you’ll augment your ability to focus both wide and narrow: on general safety, on exit, on freefall and on the canopy objectives for each successive jump. You’ll need to learn to adjust your stress responses so you’re able to relax and breathe in freefall while performing the mental, physical and teamworking tasks the jump has in store for you. You’ll have to expand your awareness in order to meaningfully protect the safety of everyone that your decisions might affect on the plane, in the sky and on the ground.

Finally, you’ll need to teach yourself — using the strategies that work best for you — how to handle the stimulation of a skydive and react correctly. The struggle of “door fear” is real, especially in the beginning. Overcoming that stimulation and focusing on the task at hand is the aspect of skydiving that will serve you well in your life far beyond the dropzone.

So there you have it: Skydiving is 90% mental and 10% physical. Yeah. But, somehow — as you will most certainly learn as you advance farther and farther in our beloved sport — skydiving manages to be much more than the sum of its parts.

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