“Confession: I may be a “little” stubborn. What I mean when I say “little” is probably more like the equivalent stubbornness level of a team of pack mules. I’m being honest. Just ask my husband. I tend to get stuck on an idea or thought pattern, and it kind of takes an act of congress to change my mind.“
Typically, I am able to disguise the depth of my “stuck” to friends and acquaintances by clever maneuvers such as avoidance and, well, avoidance. Fortunately, through perfecting the art of avoidance, I have reached an age north of 40 in which I rarely have to deal with confrontation (except, of course with family, but that is for a different medium in which to share possibly, never; see, I did it again….avoid! avoid! avoid!) Therefore, as a stubborn-older-than-40 lady, I would have been one of the last people to have ever considered engaging the help of a triathlon coach. I am sharing my experience because I have had my views profoundly changed through this endeavor. I also feel like I’ve been blessed with a great coaching relationship, but feel strongly that is the way it should be.
Initially, a dear friend of mine, introduced me to the exceptionally foreign idea of having a coach. She and her husband have been professionally coached, extremely skilled, age-group triathletes as long as we have been friends. This friend also was my running partner for almost 2 years before she even suggested I consider hiring a coach. Clearly, she knew what she was dealing with in this mule! But, as a true friend will do, she spoke truth to me. She told me I wasn’t getting any younger (thank you!) and if I wanted to try for a marathon PR after the age of 40, I needed to do something different than what I had been doing for 20+ years. I was shocked and quickly thought of about 100 valid reasons why I am not well-suited for hiring a coach. The list of “DON’T DO IT’s” in my head was very long, but I will share with you the top few biggies, and how my mule brain has changed.
#1. Mule brain says, “I am so-very-NOT talented enough of a runner to have a coach!”
I thought coaches were for really fast and talented people. Maybe former collegiate athletes or people trying to go “pro” and win money, they are the elite peeps that have coaches. Not people like me! I am a stay home mom!! I’ve been blessed to enjoy and be healthy enough to run consistently and recreationally since I was 18 years old. Due to my constitution (see above “stubbornness”), I have been able adequately train for and complete several marathons and half marathons over the last two decades, but certainly have never considered myself competitive. While I dreamt of getting faster, logging more miles, and hitting PRs the reading and research I had done on my own seemed to have tapped me out skill-wise. I felt like I knew what I was doing, but my body just wasn’t born to move faster. Why on earth would a coach want a slow nobody like me?? Well, pleasantly I have completely changed my attitudes in regards to “talent” level and coaching. I have realized, it is about chasing my dreams and tackling my obstacles. It’s not about what anybody else is doing or how fast they are doing it. I understand now that coaching helps me to define and meet my goals which at times may be a number on a race clock. But also, maybe I’m finally growing up, but I have realized that my “training” goals have much more to do with relationships, health and balance than race results. Talent or not, I know that my goals are from the heart. What gets my mojo going and excites me? My coach has helped me figure that out. Also, those goals are a moving target, which is a reality of life. I get so excited thinking about what’s next, but really, the excitement is about who I am sharing that with? That is my real training goal AND a life goal…it’s one in the same for me.
#2. My Mule brain says, “You really want to be responsible for disappointing someone else?”
I have people in my life that I exhaust myself in attempt to not disappoint. By choice I figuratively dance, scramble, sing and jump to please these loved ones. Truthfully I think that is my the makeup of the fabric that is me. For the most part, I am a pleaser. I like doing for others. The idea of paying someone to worry about wether or not they are going to be happy with me and my accomplishments terrified me. The coaching relationship had to be established and experienced for a few months for me to understand and trust that is not going to happen. Granted, I am blessed with a super amazing coach! However, she has taught me through her words and actions her “disappointment” is not part of the equation of our relationship. While I fully believe she is supporting me to reach my goals, if and when I do not, the conversation never has a punishing or negative tone. In fact, I feel like I have a clean slate to start with each day, like, what do I get to do today?? What I also appreciate is that her words and actions are not empty sunshine blowing, as that would be exhausting too! It is something you have to experience I think to understand, but it has everything to do with trust. Yes, I still disappoint myself (almost daily), but I have never worried about disappointing her with my “performance” or lack there of in either training or racing. If you are like me, triathlon is your outlet, hobby, fun and entertainment. There is no room in your hobby to accommodate someone else’s disappointment. I’m way to hard on myself to pay someone else to be also!!
#3 My Mule brain says, “Wait, this is too much money to spend on myself!”
Yes, it is a financial investment. My hubby and I try to be fiscally responsible and hiring a coach seemed frivolous. Fortunately, we were able to make room in the family budget for me to commit for one whole year. I do think that was an important timeframe in order to see if coaching gave me “results”. HA! What I did not realize is how much more I have gained from having a coach than faster split times. Life enrichment with a new network of friends, experiences, training locations, social opportunities, training partners, community outreach…the list is lengthy. I cannot put a price tag on the blessings my family and I have received through this new outlet. I have heard athletes jokingly say, “coaching is cheaper than therapy.” I will repeat that without the sarcasm, because honestly, I have done both. Hands down for me, having a coach is exponentially better than therapy. I am NOT discounting a real need for psychotherapy at times in peoples lives (I have a masters degree in counseling and practiced for several years as a therapist before having kids). I am just saying for me, at this point in my life, not being in therapy but having a successful coaching relationship is working. And, it is cheaper. I call that winning.
If you feel like you may want to take the leap and hire a coach, but have been on the fence, know that it is way more than having a plan in training peaks laid out for you. I will say again that I am blessed with an exceptional coaching relationship, however, I think that should be the norm. Unfortunately, I believe there are a lot of not so great coaches out there with their owns agendas. Take your time and find the right one for you. Trust your gut, you will know pretty quickly if you can work well with someone. Along with my coach, I also feel I get the privy of accessing her team of coaches. The folks at ATC/Energy Lab are just a fun, easy knowledgeable group that enjoy helping athletes be their best. They are generous with information and time. Additionally, they have welcomed my stubborn and challenging attitude. My “whys?” regarding training always get answered fully and with a depth that helps me learn. Take it from this mule, don’t let stubbornness get in the way. Let it work for you.