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#CountryCyclist: Climbing Mental Mountains

#CountryCyclist: Climbing Mental Mountains

For ages I rejected the claim that sport is 70% mental. I eventually got my head around the notion, but I wasn’t an adherent for long. It took a few months of pondering to conclude the figure is far closer to 100%.

Riding a mountain bike from Joburg to Durban is the most frightening sporting challenge I’ve ever attempted to get my head around. Craig Wapnick, the race’s colourful organiser, likens it to riding the 94.7 twice a day for nine days in a row. The key is not to think of it like that. To help with this, I consulted with life coach (and dazzling guitarist) Steve Peralta.

Before we move on, a brief musical interlude. Might I strongly urge you to acquaint your self with Steve and his guitar.

Steve Peralta ‘Bright Eyes’ by downtown-artists

Right, now that you have some idea of the man’s talent, here’s how I put his advice into practice…

1. Define values

i. “I” Values (Personal)
ii. “We” Values (Relationship)
iii. “All” Values (Social)

“It’s important to become clear on ‘I’ values and be living them before successfully tackling ‘We’ and ‘All’ values,” says Steve. “Only by living in alignment with our ‘I’ values will we have the energy to effectively live our ‘We’ and ‘All’ values.”

I found it harder than expected to put these values down on ‘paper’, even though they seemed straightforward in my head. Here’s what I came up with:

i. I value: Taking a challenge that appears outside my limits; Making a plan and sticking to it; Travel; The outdoors; Fitness.

ii. Here I thought of all the people at Country Life and Caxton Magazines who supported this campaign, as well as the #CountryCollaborators who made it possible. There’s certainly a binding sense of the value of the venture for our organisations. The time and expertise committed so far are strong proof of this. I’ve been heartened by dedication to make every part of the plan a success. That’s a combination of professional values and a personal belief in hard work, high standards and seeing things through to the end.

iii. I understand this to include the mountain biking community and the towns and people we’ll encounter on the 900km ride to Scottburgh. We all value community – that much is clear from the spirit among cyclists and the impressive social initiatives linked to joberg2c. There’s a clear respect for the environment. There’s also something I’ll call ‘fun’ which describes the uniting value we all share.

2. Define your vision or overarching legacy

“This needs to be the DREAM,” explains Peralta. “It is this that serves to inspire you so as to commit to the daily actions necessary to achieve your goals – all of which should contribute.”

The vision that sprints to mind is me rolling across the last of 9 finish lines on the KZN coast, hobbling down the beach and flopping into the waves. It reminds me of the most potent motivational lines I’ve read, from the great American football coach Vince Lombardi: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

The overarching legacy should rest in Country Life. I’d like #CountryLife to establish relationships that last and leave tyre prints on the brand, buttressing the publication’s reputation for the outdoors, South Africa’s countryside, photography and a curiosity for all the fascinating quirks of our small towns.


Steve is also a sport and fitness coach, who has advised me on some strength and flexibility issues – story coming soon.

3. Set your goals in alignment with values and vision

i. Vision first – Visualise both the goal and what you or your life will be like once the goal has been realised.  A powerful tool can be to symbolise this vision – either artistically or in a way that speaks to you.

ii. Write down your goals – Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-bound – SMART.

iii. Create a plan – It doesn’t matter how clear your vision and goals are, without a plan it is just dreaming.

My goals are simple: Stick to my training regime, form connections with partners that share the same values at Country Life, create excellent content with them… and then get my skinny pins to KZN.

Our plan was drawn up in great detail late in 2013. It’s far too detailed to include here. Suffice it to say our team attempted to foresee every need and opportunity, and prepare accordingly. We didn’t get that entirely right, but close enough, I think.

Other basics Steve suggests:

  1. Chunk goals into smaller goals. You need daily and weekly goals that build to the main one.
  2. Use both ‘process goals’ (focus on journey) and outcome goals (focus on destination).
  3. State all goals in the present tense and be as specific as possible. For example, “It is 20 July 2014 and I have finished X Race in a personal best time of 3hr25min.”
  4. Use Reinforcement (either positive or negative) to help you to stick to the plan when trying to reach your goals.  Use rewards and/or punishments and incorporate people you trust into the process, so that you’re accountable to what you say you’ll do.

Thanks, Steve!

Words and Pictures: Ian Macleod

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