I really wanted to speak to athletes sponsored by the brands in question, however I knew this could be difficult. My gut feeling, from inside the circle of elite climbers in our community, is that many athletes sponsored by Red Bull don’t actually drink it themselves but they do support the brand for other reasons. Consequently, I recognised that many athletes wouldn’t be able to be truly honest with me as it would be a breach of contract. This transpired to be true with many big-name athletes ignoring my emails and for those that did respond it’s difficult to tell whether their responses were written by the athletes or their PR team. “Red Bull vitalises body and mind,” said top US climber Sasha DiGiulian. It’s hard to consider this a personal response given that it’s a trademarked phrase straight off Red Bull’s website.
“By flooding the consciousness with gnawing unpleasantness, pain provides a temporary relief from the burdens of self-awareness,” write the researchers. “When leaving marks and wounds, pain helps consumers create the story of a fulfilled life. In a context of decreased physicality, [obstacle course races] play a major role in selling pain to the saturated selves of knowledge workers, who use pain as a way to simultaneously escape reflexivity and craft their life narrative.” The pursuit of pain has become so common among well-to-do endurance athletes that scientific articles have been written about what researchers are calling “white-collar rhabdomyolysis,” referring to a condition in which extreme exercise causes kidney damage.
Many people feel having someone to teach psychological skills to an athlete means that the athlete is unstable, or has “mental problems” or is “totally mad.” There is a feeling among coaches and even some athletes is that psychologists are people who provide help to those who are disturbed or maladjusted. They would never consider that a “normal” athlete has the need of positive cognitive assistance of someone trained in psychology and specifically sport psychology. Further, many coaches want only tough minded athletes and they do not want what they think are “head cases.” Coaches have eliminated athletes who had all the necessary physical assets because they did not appear to be able to perform with any degree of consistency or because they “choked” under pressure. They have never stopped to ask if certain skills could be taught to these athletes which would enable them to use their physical abilities even more effectively.