It may (or may not) be surprising to learn that Gandalf shaved his head and beard and had a phenomenal career as a professional cyclist, under the pseudonym “Svein Tuft”. It is the only possible explanation for that amount of wisdom to be stuffed into human form. Some of that wisdom was shared today by Svein in a Global Relay – Bridge the Gap as part of their “Conversation With ____” series, hosted by Randy Ferguson. You can watch the conversation on Youtube, if you’re interested.

The details, examples, and advice Svein shared covered many topics, but I saw a theme throughout – “know yourself”. Know why you compete in your sport, what you love about it, what brings you joy, what you need to make your living environment suit you, what your niche is in your sport, and what brings you balance in the hard times.

For young athletes focusing hard on succeeding in their sport, this human element is often overlooked. We focus on results and physiology more than skills and relationships, and as Svein reinforced throughout the conversation being able to form strong and postive relationships within your team is crucial to your success. It will help you be a dependable teammate, dig deep on days when your motivation is low, and enjoy your time in sport.

According to Svein, the most successful athletes have a strong idea of who they are and who they can be, without being delusional. How do they develop that self-image? What can you do to build your own, including and in addition to knowing your physiological strengths and your niche in your sport? You can work on understanding your personality, your patterns, identifying your supports and the things that make you happy. You can work on your transition INTO sport by zooming out and looking at your timeline into your second career after sport – this will not only give you an identity that can survive the lumps and bumps that come with being an athlete but will prepare you to transition smoothly out of your sport when the time comes.

Having a sense of who you are beyond your athletic identity gives you a solid foundation that can be your safety net throughout your career. When you’re injured or sick, you’ll have something else to work on while you recover and can restart training and racing. If you go through tough times in your sport, you’ll have the strength to either push through them or make whatever decision is best for you.

Most importantly, reaching out for help with this early in your career can help destigmatise asking for help if/when you need it later on. Do proactive, preventative work in any area (nutrition, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning, etc) is a sign of commitment, and it establishes trusting relationships with people you can lean on when you need to. Asking for help is a sign of strength, at any stage of your career.

If you’d like to do some of this work around identify and what you need to be successful and happy in your sport, Beyond the Podium Coaching would love to help. You can get in touch at

If you’d like to support athletes who would like to do this work but can’t afford it, you can donate in the “Sponsorship” section of our Athlete page – each $100 sponsors an hour of coaching with a young athlete. Athletes, you can apply for sponsorship on the same page.

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