Thinking of hiring a coach? You may get more than what you pay for…
Last year I hired a coach for the sole reason (pun intended) to provide structure to my love for running. I had worked with a running coach before, but jogged away from structured training, focusing on running adventures, minimal pressures, and building experiences in the trails and mountains. I was hesitant to return to structured running, as I personally do not mix well with external pressures. I put enough pressure on myself, and needed someone to help alleviate that, while focusing on improving what I love doing – running, adventuring, and exploring the wilderness. Sometimes my love for adventuring resulted in burnout out and even over-training. I wanted to avoid burning out, while continuing to foster my love for adventuring in the wilderness. I called it the ‘Tory don’t burn out Program.’ When I heard about a running coach who focused on play and puppies, I thought I had come across my coaching soulmate (or solemate).
I often view running as a metaphor for life itself. Running teaches me lessons about myself and helps me navigate the world. Working with a coach over the last year, these lessons have become even bigger and more significant. My improvements and increased strength in running have echoed into all areas of my life.
1. The B word
When I began working with my coach, he said, “All I ask of you is that you believe in yourself.” At the time, this didn’t seem like a big task. I thought I believed in myself. I thought that I knew what believing in myself meant, and that I believed in myself as a person and as a runner. Over the last year, my running has provided me opportunities to analyze what ‘believing in myself’ really means. I have learned how to believe in myself even more, and dissected the areas of my life where belief was lacking. The one thing he asked of me, has taught me more about my running and my life than any other workout, training block, or race. My running journey with my coach over the past year has taught me what the B word actually means and feels like.
2. What really matters
My hesitations for working with a coach again included the assumption that there would be too much emphasis on numbers and data. I soon realized that structured running did not necessarily coincide with numbers and data. Putting unnecessary pressure on myself was a waste of energy. Whenever my coach sensed that I was getting caught up in numbers, distance, or pace, he reminded me that none of it really matters. My fun attitude toward running was supported and encouraged. I was relieved to learn that I could improve without being stressed and caught up in numbers that did not matter. Life can be hard enough, and running doesn’t need to be.
3. Operation Zoom Out
This wasn’t just about someone writing a program for me. I had written programs for myself, and for others. I knew what I needed to do to get stronger and faster. This was more about finding someone with whom I shared common values with about running and life. It became about another passionate runner looking at my running objectively; about sharing that process of pushing myself with someone who focussed on the reasons I love this sport; about someone, outside of myself reminding me to zoom out and look at the big picture. It has been about an experienced endurance athlete advocating for me throughout my journey as a runner.
4. Rainbows and Glitter
Life is messy. And running should be fun. Alleviating the task of creating my own running program has helped me organize my life. I now know exactly what my week looks like. I can better plan my adventures and play time with friends. I’m not second guessing every run, workout, or rest day. There is more space in my brain now to tackle other parts of my life. There is more room for rainbows and glitter.
5. The no BS Clause
Signing on with the right coach should include a signature on the ‘no BS clause.’ Having someone in your corner support your endurance goals is a gift I hope to never take for granted. Everyday I have the opportunity to bounce of ridiculous adventure ideas and goals to someone who supports me unconditionally. The odd day I even rant about something that has nothing to do running directly. The best and (sometimes the worst) thing about having a coach (or a good friend) is that they will call you on your crap. In training, and in life, there is no room for inauthentic or unnecessary stuff. A coach helps keep you honest, authentic, and bullshit-less. When my coach senses I am fooling myself, he will address it right away. An athlete I coach recently stated, “There’s no BS.”
6. Finding your Unicorns
Building an authentic, one on one relationship with a coach (and friend) can be priceless. It’s even more wonderful to connect with other like-minded runners and share your passion. In running we do many of our miles alone, in our own head, often struggling to get out the door. Connect with the other runners your coach works with, because chances are they are just as inspiring and hilarious as you are. Find your unicorns, your community, tribe, whatever you want to call it.
The experience with my coach has affected my life beyond getting stronger as a runner. The experience has helped me become stronger as a person. If you are considering a coach, my advice is to stay true to yourself and understand your personal reasons for why you want to work with one. There is no one size fits all. Be you, be your own advocate, and find someone who resonates with what you value in running and in life. Make the choice to trust that person, the process, and yourself to do the work (I mean ‘play’). And don’t forget to believe in yourself. The results may make you a stronger human – both physically and mentally.
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