was successfully added to your cart.


Monthly Archives

May 2017

Is vulnerability weakness?

By | All articles, Sport Psychology | No Comments

Over the years of pursuing my own dreams, I have encountered many friends who are afraid to go after their dreams – or afraid of admitting they’re going after it, or even worse, they do all the work and just before the big day of the attempt of realizing the dream, they give up. This has always surprised me, what could be the reason? Pressure, fear of failure, fear of judgement from others, lack of self-belief, etc. I think all of these reason are true, but more than that, it’s a lack of courage.

Courage can be defined as the ability to do something that frightens one, or showing a great deal of bravery. You might be wondering what has courage to do with vulnerability; well vulnerability can be defined as the state of being exposed to the possibility of attack, harm or pain.

Miriam Welte by byran lennon

Do you see that courage is what is necessary to face the vulnerable position to go after one’s dreams? Let me elaborate; in sport we tend to put ourselves in very vulnerable positions quite often. For example, the isolation on a big climb, being alone in TT or a pursuit, or even the daily training we do towards our goals. You are exposing yourself and who you are, all the work you’ve done and your potential as an athlete. You are exposing yourself to criticism, judgement and the doubt from others, based on your performance. People love to do that. Do you see how vulnerable you can become? It’s not only that, by merely admitting you are going after your dreams, have a goals and plan in place; you are opening yourself to this judgement – and you are vulnerable.

“Do what you want, people will judge you anyway”

If you truly want to be a champion; you’ve got to put out yourself out there, and take a risk; you have to have no fear of failure or what others think; you’ve got to believe in yourself; and you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to have courage.

No champion was born out of comfort, but champions are born out of adversity. You might fail; you might not make it, but what does that matter?

You are a champion because you took a risk and put it all out there, you gave yourself a shot at your dreams; you went after it while most are too afraid too!  The result is not the issue; the goal is not the issue; but your journey and who you become chasing it, is what matters.  From this you will learn lessons only life can teach you, your mental toughness and self-confidence will improve, and if you can do it again, you will have a better shot at achieving it.

Tom Dumoulin

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s the greatest measure of courage” – Brene Brown

Do you see, vulnerability is not weakness, it’s courage, it’s strength, and it’s absolutely necessary to become a champion!

“Don’t give up, you never know who you might be inspiring.”

Matthew de Freitas

Dreaming, or Goal Setting?

By | All articles, Sport Psychology | One Comment

“Dreaming after all, is a form of planning” – Gloria Steinem

I’ve heard of many athletes talk about the big dreams they have, and want to accomplish; often they are at the pinnacle of sport itself. Dreams like the Tour de France, Olympic Games and World Records come up. Now let me first say; this is not at all bad, in my opinion; if someone can dream like that, it’s a privilege; because so many people just cannot dream big and reach for the stars. But here’s where the problem comes in, when you ask them how they are going to achieve them, the numbers required to achieve them, the plan of action, and the measurable goals along the way; they often stare in shock back at you; almost with the attitude of how dare you doubt me and my dreams.

The definition of goal setting is to identify something you’d like to achieve, this can be anything from a certain number, a title, a technique, etc. and then set out an action plan that includes time frames and any factors contributing to the success or failure of the goal, and then to start work on achieving it. Only when we do that, can we say we have a goal.

Do you see the difference in between dreaming and goal setting, a dream without specific goals and action plan; in is all intents and purposes a wish. It’s harsh to say that in a way, but realistically, it’s the truth. If I say I want to go to the Olympics, and all I do is state it, I am wishing. But if I say the same thing, but I also say I have a 4 year plan with intermediate goals along the way, a training plan covering all factors, the qualifying criteria with important targets I need to reach, a nutrition and supplementation plan, sponsors who support me, the knowledge of the equipment I’ll need, and there are many more to mention; then I can say I have a goal. I might not have a snowballs chance in hell, but I have a goal with a plan, and am one step ahead of anyone else with a wish and a magic wand.

Do you see that goal setting is the foundation of performance, and if someone does achieve anything without a goal, it’s probably because of luck and chance.

Kristina Vogel by Rob Carr

Now that we can see how important goal setting is, let’s have a look at the different types of goals:

Goals should always be bound in a specific time frame, there are 3 types:

Short term goals are the realistic and often achievable goals; they can be daily tasks or routines, like showing up for training, sleeping 8 hours a night, etc.

Intermediate goals are measurable goals along the way to your long term goals, they are there to keep you on track to your long term goals, and should be a challenge to achieve.

Long term goals are your biggest dreams, and the culmination of all your intermediate goals. These goals can be somewhat unachievable at first, but the closer you get, the more realistic it becomes.

We also get specific achievement goals in these time frames, and there are also 3 types:

Process goals are specific to a technique or process within a sport; it could be a pedal stroke, standing start technique or the form in a squat. The point of process goals are to perfect the way you do certain actions in sport.

Performance goals are goals that are specific to an individual standard, i.e. the numbers. It can be the power you put out, the weights you lift or your time over a distance. These goals are there to measure your performance and to be able to compare it to your past performances to analyse your improvement. These are the most important, and they reflect your performance the most accurately (controllable factors), and external factors (uncontrollable) are taken out of the equation.

Outcome goals refer to the outcome of your performance, i.e. the result; it can be favourable or unfavourable regardless of the performance due to the nature of sport. These goals should simply be there to provide guidance and motivation. They are the traditional point of sport, but in terms of high performance athletes, they are only there for the for-mentioned reasons.

Which goal is best?

As mentioned, short and intermediate goals coupled with process and performance goals are the most important as they measure your performance and progress the most accurately, and can be analysed and compared according to controllable factors.

Long term and outcome goals, are simply there as “the dream”, and serve as motivation and guidance. They provide the framework for your intermediate and performance goals.

How to set them?

There are many ways to set goals, but a nice technique that includes all the factors one should take into account is the SMART technique, which is:

Specific – goals are specific to numbers or a technique.

Measurable – they should be able to be analysed and compared.

Accountable – the athlete must be accountable for their actions.

Responsible – the athlete must take responsibility for their actions.

Time specific – the goals must be set in a time frame.

How high should goals be set?

This has always been a hot topic of discussion, should goals be set realistically, or should they be set unrealistically or even unachievable?

Personally, I like the technique of Viktor Frankl, who says that if you set a goal above a person’s potential, they will land on their potential, but if you set a goal at a person’s potential, they will fall short.

He explains this using the example of how an aeroplane flies, always above the bearing it’s aiming at, as the wind will push it back. Or when you put on the golf course, you put against the gradient to reach the hole.

I think long term goals should be set as high as possible, what happens when an athlete achieves them? They will have reached the pinnacle of their own mind and loose motivation and drive. Long term goals should always be stretched to the furthest the mind can conceive, sometimes almost scaring the athlete. Realism, albeit good not to be stupid, it’s the killer of dreams. By dreaming big, you can achieve more than you ever thought you could.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are usually the ones who do” – Steve Jobs

What is the end result of goal setting? In my opinion, goals not there to be achieved, if you do, that’s great!   If you don’t, it’s not the end of the world, and not even the point of it.  It’s about the person you become, things you learn and experience, the memories you make, the legacy you leave, and the life you live, while on the journey striving for your goals. That’s what makes sport so beautiful, it has the power to steer the course of a person’s life from mediocrity to greatness, can make s diamond out of a piece of coal and can reveal the true character of the human being.

“A goal is not always meant to be achieved, it often serves simply as something to aim at” – Bruce Lee

Matthew de Freitas

The loneliness of pursuing a goal

By | All articles, Sport Psychology | 4 Comments

“If you want to be successful, you will have to learn to disappear for a while”

I’ve heard this quote over the years, but never quite grasped the meaning of it; until I later realized what it actually takes to be successful. I realized the extent of the sacrifice, the amount of hard work it takes, the dedication and commitment that is required, and the attitude of leaving no stone unturned that is demanded by your goals. Another crucial factor in this equation is the type of people you allow around you on this journey – this will play a big part in this.

Cycling is already a lonely sport; you train alone, suffer alone, and often on a hard day you are left only with your own thoughts for company. There’s no team to hide behind, and no little tricks to get you out of a tough place. The road doesn’t get flat because you are getting dropped, the wind doesn’t stop blowing because your legs are sore, and the required power to turn the pedals doesn’t magically get less when you want it to.

Burton Witbooi

I’ll use the example of a track sprinter out of personal experience. I think sprinting more than most disciplines in cycling is especially individual, and more so lonely. Each effort is maximal and only you can get that out of yourself. You’ll spend hours alone at the track in between efforts, hundreds of monotonous reps at the gym trying to get that 1% gain in strength, and need discipline on your slow recovery rides that no enduro will join you on. Even if you have other sprinters for company, you’re still alone on this journey. In sprinting there’s no back up, and the race happens so fast it’s done before you even realize it. Sprinting is 100% up to you!

Another example is of working family man training for the Cape Epic. You’re someone with a full time job, a family, and responsibilities; yet you have the guts to take on this challenge. It requires years of hard training, for you it’ll be early mornings and late evenings, it’ll be time spent away from your family, it’ll be pressure from work, and it’ll be the self-doubt and second guessing the decision along the journey. But when you get through the 8 days of pain, it’ll all be worth it, and you will not be the same person. You’ll end up stronger than ever before, and be inspiration to your family and friends.

Nate Koch by Drew Kaplan

On this journey to your goals, you’ll soon start to find that you’re losing friends; you have no time for fun and other activities other than what it takes to achieve your goals. The commitment required is so huge; there is simply no other option. The simple fact is that your priorities have shifted.

Due to the commitment and focus you have, you’ll soon start to realize you are receiving more criticism and judgment from others than ever before. From some people you’ll start to receive less support; and from other who you might not have expected it from, you’ll receive support like family. It’s truly a time of sacrifice, with the only thing on your mind – a goal!

“They want you to do good, just not as good as them”

What you’ll also notice is that the greater your goals, the larger extent these effects will have on you.

But why? What is the reason? Well, simply put – you change, you grow, you move forward on the journey. On this path you can’t hold onto the past and look back, you are moving forward, and fast! You need to realize the person who you currently are is not going to achieve your goals, it’s the person you are becoming that will achieve them.

“Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end”
– Robin Sharma

I think it’s important to understand that it’s okay to experience these almost “birth pains” on your journey, it means you are on the right path, and growing into your full potential as an athlete. It’s okay to outgrow friends, situations, places, etc. You are evolving, and that after all is the purpose of setting and pursuing goals: to transcend who you once were. That in my opinion is the definition of success.

Hendrik Grobbelaar by Robert Ward

If you can understand this, you’ll understand the importance of perseverance; this could be your only chance at achieving them, you need to immense yourself fully and make sure you have no regrets; but most importantly to embrace this journey. Just a few weeks ago, Azizul Awang won Malaysia’s first gold medal at the UCI track world championships in Hong Kong. After he won, still out of breath, the first words he uttered were, “I’ve waited 10 years for this moment”. How inspirational, a man who has been grinding at it for 10 years, come closer than a tire width to gold, made sacrifices few would make, and defied the odds due to his small size, can stand on the podium after a journey like that.

Not everyone has the privilege to have a goal, and the desire to actually go after it. You my friend are truly living!

Here are some practical applications to help you as an athlete get through tough times of loneliness and stay focused on your goals:
– Make sure you have a clear action plan, one that you can go back to time after time for reassurance and guidance that you are on the right path. At times you will want to quit and doubt yourself, go back to the plan, re-focus on the goal, and carry on.
– Don’t read too much into other people opinions, criticism or even praise. Focus on yourself, your own actions, and your own goals.
– If you notice you’re losing some of your current friends, re-cap with old friends and family that matter to you, and that support your goals. Build your own support network, and be picky about it.
– If you notice you’re changing, your interests, your perspectives, your opinions, etc., embrace it. It means you’re growing, and stepping further towards your goals. The worse it is, the greater the goals, and the closer you are to achieving them.
– Free yourself from any negative person or situation, or anything that is hindering you from achieving your goals.
– Find things that help you to relax, obviously things like drinking or high intensity activities won’t work (the latter maybe in the off season), but you can find new hobbies. Some pro cyclists have found interest in coffee and making movies.
– Don’t forget the balance in your life, in between your training and other responsibilities (here’s the balance), find time to reflect on the process and the progress you’ve made. If you’ve neglected people, catch up; and if you need help, ask.
– Realize and understand the privilege you have of having goals and the ability you have to go after them. Whether you achieve them or not, it’s a privilege simply to go take the risk and go after them.
– Most importantly, enjoy every moment of it; you’re making memories that will last a life time!

I hope the above helps you in some small way to help you stay on your path. Remember it’s a personal journey to your personal goals. If you’re sitting alone, feeling lonely with only the thoughts of your goals to keep you company, reading and relating to this, maybe you should learn to like yourself a little more! And if anyone asks you how much you’d bet on yourself, go all in!

Matthew de Freitas

Newsletter Sign Up