An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Do you really need a coach?

There is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors. (Proverbs 11:14)

I've had a few running coaches, several of which impressed upon me some great lessons. All through jr high and high school. Since then, I've only ever had one coach, for any of my sports -- me. I know that when I was in high school, I had a very good cross country coach, who was also the distance track coach, and he was one of a few that really instilled a love of running. But after I graduated from high school, I immediately decided I wanted to run a marathon, and set about training for it right away. I digested every printed resource I could find (the internet was still several years away), and applied it to come up with a progression on mileage that I knew I could live with. And the funny thing is my running speed took off, along with my endurance.

Now here's the thing, though -- I've read a LOT about my chosen sports. Running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, triathlon... I couldn't even begin to count the number of books I've read, articles I've poured over, and 1's-and-0's of internet bandwidth I've killed trying to soak up as much information as I could.

Maybe one could say that I have HUNDREDS of resources, but the only one that applies all that knowledge to my training and racing is me. Which makes me the coach. Coaches are supposed to keep learning, staying on the cutting edge of technology, physiology, squeezing out that last ounce of untapped potential performance in their athletes.

Even the best coach will only be as good as the feedback he or she receives from the athlete. A coach can know a lot by looking at how an athlete is performing at various tests, time trials, and races, but that coach can never climb into the athlete's head, feel exactly what the athlete feels. The best communicating athletes (and let's face it, endurance athletes who spend a lot of lonely hours training are usually not the best communicators, myself included) will still fall far short of conveying what's really going on inside them.

The point being that, in the end, you will always be your best coach, as long as you're honest with yourself, and keep yourself open to new things. I still learn new things on an almost continual basis, experiment with nuances, see what happens. My training is taking on a more philosophical and psychological mindset than physical lately. Which is okay. I find I'm enjoying it more than ever. That's a very important aspect of sport that sometimes gets lost in the pursuit of that little bit more speed.

Do you really need a coach? Only you can decide that for yourself. Some people find comfort in handing over the responsibility to some one with, presumably, more knowledge than themselves. Maybe some people do it because they find that they're just not honest enough with themselves. Maybe some people do it for the social aspect.

I've found, for myself, the best coach I've ever had is the guy staring back at me from the mirror.

And that's the good news AND the bad news -- it's all up to me.

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