Objectivity is something I consider to generally captivate. The thing that allows you to look at a situation, problem, or task in a way that voids emotions in order to construct sound judgement. This does not rule out empathy, which is necessary when working with people. But instead, it is the ability to understand the bigger picture in mind. In fact, I would say that is one of my strengths in my profession.
As an athlete however, this has been my most extreme weakness as of late. This year has been especially chaotic personally and professionally (outside of bike racing). Stress is stress and I wasn’t adjusting well when it was time to hop on the bike. I still found myself asking “what is my deal?” on a regular basis. You would think I could objectively look at myself and be like…dude, let’s lay out the facts here, chill out. But I apparently thought it was easier to ignore and implode. Have you ever tried to make logical sense of an emotional breakdown? heh.
I’m worried this is why so many hang up the sport for good, or give up in general. Hence my rant here. I truly believe one of the most crucial points as an athlete (and human) is dealing with the temporary frustrations of not making any progress. It is an integral part of the path towards excellence and everyone must do it. Success is different for everyone, and is not a linear process.
For me the culprit is this cocktail of unknown, expectation, and general overload . Let’s step back and look at someone who is first developing a skill, or maybe just graduating college. Really it’s the ‘new’ factor. The possibilities are endless and ignorance is bliss! Everything is so exciting and you see the motivational memes pop up on their social media page. But what happens when that upward trajectory slows down? Plateaus? Or you start heading backwards?
Social media. Let’s talk about this. I’m not the first to call this out either. Lesley Paterson wrote about this in a recent Liv article and alluded to it in her book, “The Brave Athlete”. Just because you see a bunch of motivational quotes, smiling faces & coffee ride spins, does not mean that person isn’t going through some shit. They are not perfect, and bike racing is not luxurious. Sacrifices are made, you can piss family and friends off through negligence, and you will have some serious lows. As anything that’s worth doing, it is hard as shit. Honestly, I find the most interesting athletes are the ones who also work full-time, are students, mothers/fathers, etc. There are more than you think! Did I make some enemies just now? I realize there are full time racers out there who are trying to figure it out and/or have future aspirations. Those who can make a career out of a bike racing: you go, Glen CoCo – much props! Do what you love, always always always.
‘You get to travel to so many places!’ Yah, then sit on a trainer in between work meetings.
‘Ah, what did you do while you were there?’ I’m usually washing off in the airport bathroom post race….
There is a balance that needs to happen. You should 100% experience joy and happiness. That’s what makes us go fast! But the fact is, easy choices/hard life, hard choices/easy life (Jerzy Gregorek). Is it really worth it to ride for 3 hours and miss another family dinner? It may be more effective to slice that time in half and tackle some quality riding. There is no secret sauce to achieving personal goals, but it does need to be just that: personal. Just because you see Rita Gofast on Strava riding three hours, motor-pacing, and sitting in cryogenic chamber each day does not mean that is what you need to do to hit your targets. I want to highlight (really, beat to death) the misconception of social media. It is all smoke and mirrors, and I only sound like a crabby old lady because I want to obliterate the ideology that athletes do not go through serious struggles. They work their asses off. I once had someone tell me what I was doing wrong on training based on what they saw on my Instagram feed. Another stranger came up to me after a race and told me there is ‘no reason you should’t have finished 5th’. How would you know this, exactly? 5th? And sorry, who are you?
I have spoken to three women who have communicated to me their frustrations of the cyclo-season. Each one of them at one point referenced someone they know on social media. Something along the lines of: “but look at Jane Doe, she’s blah blah blah blah”. Are you objectively looking at this situation? He/she is not talking about the bad things on the medias. Take those inspiring athletes and set goals for yourself. Sure, you’ll feel motivated at the time, but what are you going to do about it? The best athletes I know realize when it is time to reassess. Being objectively true to yourself really is the secret sauce.
Shit, this is a forever exercise and it’s hard! Yet it is extremely crucial and can be translated to multiple sectors throughout our lives. Think: cross training, but for your brain. Ever wonder why businesses like to hire athletes? Discipline and reaction to hard times. You do not need to be in the UCI rankings, or finishing within the top whatever to experience this. Give yourself a chance because your brain needs you to figure shit out when it gets hard. Know the difference between running yourself into the ground and hard work. Choose your own battles and influences, and keep those #happywatts firing.