I was asked to present this week, at a California Sacramento State University physiology/training plan development class - that's a mouthful. With coaches and training plans a dime a dozen - It was a valuable exercise for me to step back and drill down what, in my experience, differentiates effective coaching and training.
Below, I share a few take-aways…
I realized the differentiator is simple – it is the coach’s ability to digest the science based data and clearly and concisely deliver the message to the clients. Bottom line, athlete-clients need to understand why they are doing particular workouts and consistently be reminded as to how it relates to their overall goals, in order for them to tackle workouts with purpose. It is ultimately the athlete’s understanding and intention which allows them the gain the every ounce out of every workout, contrasting with the client who mindlessly gets through the time and ticks off the box.
While science is the training plan’s backbone, I realized it is my experience as an athlete and coach that has polished my practice. It is invaluable for me as a coach to walk the walk, and ask my clients to do as I do, not just as I say. I want to personally understand and experience the mental and physical demands that I ask of my clients. This also helps me create unique effective workouts and facilitates more effective, detailed and accurate verbal descriptions and cueing.
Consistent communication is a key component to successful training, not exactly sure how the generic hands-off training plans pull it off. For me, it is essential to sincerely understand each of my clients’ life demands to provide training that is relative to them in every respect, and presents an athletic challenge that fits within vs conflicts with the confines of life.
As a coach it is also important to help clients keep data, in perspective. For example, it is a luxury as a cyclist to train with a power meter as the numbers are not skewed by other factors as with the heart rate, but we need to remember it is a tool and means to an end, not the end. This data-driven focus must be balanced with the emphasis on honing pedaling efficiency, bike handling and race tactics. We don’t compare power numbers at the start line to deem the winner.
My final take-away, is the importance of equal respect to mental conditioning. As physical beings, living in a physical world – we are hyper focused on physical factors. Based on my athletic career, I feel we under-estimate the contribution of our mental state in our physical outcomes. When athletes examine their race performances, for example, they tend to focus on how they trained leading up to, and how they fueled during the race, etc. I want to understand how they mentally entered in to the race, were they psyched to race,or uninspired, going through the motions? And what were they thinking during the race? In my career I clearly realized the direct connection that my thoughts had over my physical performance – it was the decisive difference.
Thanks for reading - Be Calm and Carry On!