MOOC: Online Learning platforms

Yesterday I wrote this post about the Athlete Learning Gateway and how I like online learning. MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platforms are great. Therefore I wanted to make you a quick list of all the MOOC & online educational platforms I use or know. I will add more platforms and my view on them along the way.


Kahn Academy










iTunes U stands for iTunes University. There is an extensive library of courses. This one is a bit harder to link since it’s within iTunes. When you open iTunes on your computer, then instead of “music” choose, edit menu and click the checkmark in front of “iTunes U”. This will then open the course catalogue.

Athlete Learning Gateway

Although it was already launched last April, it was only today thay I came across the IOC’s athlete learning gateway. Being a big fan of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) I see it as a great innovation by the IOC to start online courses for elite athletes. It can mean a lot for athletes who need to find their way to the Olympus with limited resources or limited knowledge about specific topics. A challenge that I faced during multiple periods in my own Olympic career as well.

As a canoe slalom (white water) athlete in a flat country you can imagine not all the knowledge or resources where available like in the big sport disciplines (and still we did quite well, but that’s another topic). As an athlete I needed to search a lot by myself. When I first made it into the Dutch team I had a really good coach in canoeing, but we didn’t have a team with a nutritionist, sport psychologist, weight trainer or physiotherapist. Neither did we know much about these topics. We did it on best effort. Also to market myself, find sponsors, build a website, etc. All was on best effort with an eagerness to learn and get better.

Being a big fan of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) I see it as a great innovation by the IOC to start online courses for elite athletes.

Another game

Now those topics are another game than 10+ years ago. With the world getting more connected it is getting easier and easier to find and use knowledge from all over the world. You want to extend your skills on a certain topic? You can most certainly find an online course about it. From now on that’s possible as well when it concerns topic related to being an elite athlete. IOC’s Athlete Learning Gateway still offers a limited variety of courses, but I am looking forward to see the course catalogue growing. At this moment courses can be followed on creating an high performance training plan, nutrition, the measures of success, the mindset, avoiding injury and illness, sports media and several topics related to career transition and coaching.

Online learning platforms

I was already a regular user of similar more mainstream platforms such as Coursera, Kahn Acadamy, Codeschool, Codeacadamy, Udemy and Pluralsight. But I am looking forward to also discover this platform. Further I am interested in on which level the platform will develop and extend it’s course base. Coursera and Kahn Academy are academic oriented, Udemy is open to everybody to start teaching a course and codeschool and codecademy offer courses for a specific market (eehr, coding). They also operate a mixed model between free and/or paid courses.

All in all it’s a very interesting development to see a MOOC platform specifically for elite athletes, and I am looking forward to where it will develop to keeping the different models of the abovementioned MOOC or online learning platforms in mind.

PAIN is just French for bread

There was one training, one test that was so heavy, that already before starting you knew that at the end you would be throwing up or seeing black spots. You would be in pain no matter how fit you were.

Pain is just French for bread


Once in a while we did this test in our canoes to test our strength, fitness and limits. It was just in a straight line. Paddle up the river for about 100m and paddle down again. But with resistance around the boat so that every stroke would drive you only half the length forward as it would normally do.

Already days before you knew this test was coming, and you knew it was going to hurt…. hurt bad. Or maybe it would not just hurt, you would be throwing up as well. Or after crossing the finish you would be holding the bank so dear as if it was your girlfriend, just in order not to tip over in the water because your head was spinning and black spots emerged in front of your eyes.

Paradigm shift

But then one day I was stuck in traffic and read this on the number plate in front of me:

PAIN is just French for bread

Reading this ment a paradigm shift for me, it was a ‘mindfuck’. I always associated this training with pain, in the English sense of the word. It was a negative association. But why wouldn’t I associate it with pain in the French since of the word: bread. I liked the French bread (pain), and even more the ‘pain ou noix‘. It’s delicious! So why shouldn’t I associate this training with deliciousness instead of hurt?

Since that moment I approached this training in an entirely different way. No more loss of negative energy, but a positive association. The training itself was just as hard, just as painful. But changing the entire idea towards it already made a great difference.

Your association

This taught me that it’s mostly your association with a certain event that makes it a difficult event. Not the event itself. I applied this paradigm shift to a training session, but it can be applied to many things in life. So just stop for a while and think of an event where you always look up to in a negative way. While you can’t change the event itself, it’s your choice where you associate it with. And you can be strong enough to chose for another association!

A double espresso

espressoIt’s 01:54am and I am wide-awake. I was wondering why, because I normally sleep from 11pm to 7am. But, as I just told my wife, who is lying in bed next to me, it might be because of the double espresso I took this afternoon. While I never, ever drink coffee……

It’s amazing how the body works, and what impact its environment has on it. While I am not a specialist in the workings neither of the body, nor on all it’s influences I just wanted to share my experience with it; the body and its sensitivity.

For the majority of my life I have been a (professional) athlete. I first tried some tennis, football and hockey on a blue Monday and then turned to athletics. But in the end I reached the Olympic final (Beijing 2008) in the great sport of canoe slalom. It was in canoe slalom that I reached the most sensitive state with my body.

Being an athlete is great, and especially when you come to a level where your body and your mind are in such a shape that they bring you to a higher state of observation, performance, etc. This state is like walking on a sharp edge. You are on top of your abilities but you can also more easily get out of balance.


While I was very careful in nourishing my most precious asset (the body) there were also rare times where I let go a bit. And the result was immediate. I remember drinking a glass of cola in the evening and not being able to sleep until 2am in the morning due to all the sugar racing through my body. Likewise when I paid a very rare visit to a fast-food restaurant after a long trip home and consequently not being able to sleep until 5am due to all the … well I don’t even want to know what was racing through the body….. It’s crazy how drugged we get by eating or drinking all this sh*t on a regular basis.


But one final impact, which has nothing to do with the food above, but is food for thought anyway, is the impact of inspiration. I remember hardly sleeping for a few days since I felt so inspired, empowered, motivated, energized, etc due to this very cool book I was reading. This story really turned me on and energized me to the fullest. It’s typically an example of mind over matter.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that the intake of food and drinks have big impact on the physical state of your body. It’s something that almost everybody is aware of and takes care of. But my last example makes you think hard of the impact of your brain on your physical state. And that’s something a much smaller group is aware of, and something which is much less obvious than eating and drinking to take care of. Food for thought!