In my spare time I coach adults either becoming endurance athletes or looking to improve. After 16 years as an endurance athlete I have found coaching to be a real benefit to my own training, one which has led me to continuous improvement in both my performance and enjoyment, now well into my mid-40s. To that end, I have been thinking about my role in my athletes' lives.
There are only so many things a coach can do for his athletes. Among the most important is that a coach set a correct mental framework for training. To this end, I have always tried to instill the following expectations in my athletes of themselves:
1. At the start of the workout, all of my athletes will arrive ready to train. This means they will be properly rested, fed & hydrated.
2. They will be properly clothed and equipped.
3. They will have a reasonable expectation of the workout ahead of them, and their expected effort.
4. They will give their best attempt to match the effort of the planned workout, both in terms of duration and intensity.
To me, if an athlete goes 4/4 on the above list, then the workout is a success. Repeating the process over time builds resiliency and confidence. Occasionally, things do not go as planned (#4) and when that happens the goal is to learn why it did not happen, and apply the lessons to the next workout. Curiously, on a planned 17 mile run yesterday I failed #4 myself due to an overtaxing bike and hike workout the day before, plus an ill-suited dinner of Moo Shi pork the night before (earning me a surprise visit from the GI Fairy at mile 4 on the run!). Lessons learned: I am moving my big bike day to Friday to prevent tired legs on Sunday, and toning down my food choices for Saturday night.
As a coach, what I say or do affects the athletes in developing these expectations of themselves. Here is how I focus my efforts:
A. Workouts begin and end on time. As adults, my athletes have complicated lives and schedules, and beginning and ending on time indicates that I respect their other interests and obligations. Once started, the workout moves forward purposefully.
B. Each workout has a purpose, one which is precise and communicated ahead of time. In keeping with my race philosophy, I always have a plan. I also always have a plan to change that plan should the circumstances warrant.
C. The attitude during the workout is one of relaxed focus. We are having fun out here, not splitting the atom. Negativity is not appreciated. (One of my rules is that my athletes may bitch and moan about the weather as much as they want the first mile. Since we can't do anything about the weather, it's pointless but human to whine about it. Get it out of your system and move on).
D. I encourage my athletes to think critically about their performance: what they did well, what they can improve, and what they can take to the next workout or remember for race day.
Some athletes are highly proficient at doing all of these things for themselves. For everyone else, working with a group or a coach can help you bring the maximum benefit from your training experience.
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In my spare time I coach adults either becoming endurance athletes or looking to...