As most people will tell you, I have a relatively firm point-of-view on most things. The more passionate I am about something the more committed to that point-of-view I am. The great thing about having a point-of-view is that if done right, it is built upon a strong foundation of knowledge and experience and it is always being sharpened. My coaching point-of-view is no different in all of these ways. The purpose of this post is to share with you what my point-of-view on endurance coaching is. If that point-of-view resonates with you in one way or another; good or bad, I urge you to reach out to me. I’d like to discuss it further with you.
My Point-of-View on Endurance Coaching
My job as a coach is 100% centered and focused around your goals as an athlete. Whether your goal is to get in shape and finish a local 5K, or your goal is to have a Boston Qualifying Marathon time, or your goal is to qualify for Kona, there are some fundamental things that I know to be true about coaching you toward your goals:
- YOU NEED PATIENCE. If you haven’t run a mile and your goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year it is my job to put that goal in perspective for you. Is your goal challenging? Yes. It is attainable? Yes… IN DUE TIME. I know how important this is first hand. When I started to get into endurance sports, my goal was Ironman. I wanted so badly to finish an Ironman. I wanted to do it now. So I started to train. And I trained. And I trained. I was accumulating yards in the pool (very ugly ones at the time) and miles on the bike and run. I then went to a clinic about Ironman and realized a few dozen things that went into it that I didn’t even begin to think about. It was then that I knew that I needed to look at that kind of goal as an incremental journey and I slowed way down. Did I shelf the goal of finishing an Ironman? NO! What I did is I applied a much more healthy approach to getting to that goal. Goal setting is hard. Bottom line… get help and be open-minded. I can and I will help you there.
- YOU ARE UNIQUE. There aren’t two of you that are the same. I can have two athletes with the same goals that perform at a similar level that even have similar physiology, but they will be unique. As a coach, I have to engage with you so that over a short period of time, I can identify what those unique things are so that my interactions with you are effective and are always driving us both toward success. What I say, how I say it, and when I say it are very important to having effective communication. Without effective coach/athlete communication, success is very difficult to achieve.
- KNOWLEDGE IS IMPORTANT. I certainly need to know my stuff as a coach, but more importantly I need to be willing and able to share that knowledge with you, the athlete. I have found that the more informed you are, the more successful you are. If you know why I am asking you to do a certain workout or training block a certain way, then you are more likely to nail the execution of that workout or training block maximizing the its effectiveness. As a coach, that is what I want for you. I communicate “the why” to you. With that understanding, you can make the most out of every second you spend working toward your goals. Some of you not only need to know why you are doing things a certain way, but you need to know why you should not do them differently. That’s goes back to the fact that you are all unique and require different messages throughout our time together.
- STRESS MUST BE MANAGED. Like it or not, training toward your goals in sport is a stress and without management it could keep you from achieving your goals. You have a life outside of sport. For most people, your endurance goals are secondary to your family, your relationships, and your work. That is why it is important to integrate the pursuit of your endurance goals into your everyday life. I cannot (and frankly, will not) simply layer an additional stress on you. I know this to be ineffective and I have seen the negative impact that this approach can have on people, their loved ones and their careers. Each week, I will ask you what the coming two weeks looks like for you from a family and work obligation and responsibility perspective. I seek to understand any days of excessive workload or any evenings that need to be focused on family events, as a couple of examples. I take that information and weave the week’s endurance pursuits into the fabric of your everyday life. Over time, I have had athletes tell me that this approach makes training like eating or breathing. It’s just something that they do. I have also been told that it eliminates that feeling of having to “cram in a workout”, allowing them to really focus on the training, increasing effectiveness. That’s music to my ears and exactly why I do it this way.
- WHO ARE YOU? The concept here is simple, but sometimes difficult to understand. There are so many outside influences that cloud your mind about who you are as an athlete. You have your training partners, you have what you most recently read as published benchmarks on the internet or in a book that you have measured yourself against, and you have your own fundamental pre-conceived notions that can go all the way back to your childhood. One of the most important things that I can do for you as your coach is to help you understand who you are as an athlete without these outside influences skewing your thoughts and ideas. As we increase your “You IQ” as I call it, we can have more effective communication throughout the relationship. I try to make the “You IQ” more quantitative than subjective, although “feel” is a really important component of your “You IQ”. We get this quantitative data by benchmarking. We train, we recover and we benchmark. Benchmark workouts for swim, bike and run for the triathletes, for example. They are built into the plan. Most often you do these benchmark workouts on your own and then report the results back to me with feedback. We discuss them. Your “You IQ” goes up. You can now make better decisions about how you are training and the coaching I am doing is far more collaborative. You also get to see the results throughout the training process. If, for whatever reason, we don’t see the results we expect, we have the opportunity to make course corrections in real-time, leaving nothing to chance. I have seen so many training plans that don’t include benchmarking and therefore don’t include an increased “You IQ”. That means that race day is benchmark day. As an athlete, I know what that feels like. It makes the nervousness of race day that much more pronounced because you don’t have any incremental successes throughout the training to look back on and see the improvements you’ve made. You see it all the time… “Trust the training”. I believe in that very, very much. With benchmarking and well executed training based on a collaborative training plan, you can really TRUST THE TRAINING.
Whatever your goal, I highly recommend at least discussing it with a coach. Even if you don’t end up hiring one for a while, it’s a good time to start the process of evaluating coaches. Even if you know them, sit down with them and ask them about their coaching point-of-view. All good coaches should have one. It’s not ALL about the specific methods when it comes to hiring a coach. There is more to it than crafting a training plan. It’s a relationship. The goal of the athlete should be shared with the coach. The coach can’t go out there and toe the line on race day, but they should share in the process and have a committed interest in the success throughout the training leaving all the way up to and past the finish line.