Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Athlete mentality versus coaching mentality...

My training partner is an amazing person, incredible athlete and a very knowledgable fitness coach and training partner. There is a difference in your mindset between being a coach and being an athlete. I think when you are in your athlete mindset you lose some common sense and want to push through and be tough. Nothing can stop you or you'll be a "wuss," as she puts it. Especially at her level, where she is at the top of the field in her sport. As a coach you are looking from the outside at the bigger picture and have a clearer view of things.

She injured herself yesterday...and it became obvious to me how clear my view as her coach was from hers as an elite athlete. During the workout she said, "I have been feeling run down, like I might be catching something." Hmmmm, should she be working out? She assured me that, "She knows her body better than anyone and she is fine." I let it slide, thinking "She's right, she knows her body", forgetting that she actually hasn't had a day completely off in 9 days because her athlete, do or die, mentality told her to go out and run 8 miles on her day off. Since when does running 8 miles = recovery? That's how she justified it to me- "It was an 8 mile recovery run." Interesting....

We continued through the workout and low and behold... during her last set of squats her back tightened up and she strained it. Her athlete mentality kicked in again...First she told me she wanted to finish the workout which included sprints at the track. Thank goodness, some of her common sense kicked in and she decided that wouldn't be smart. Then after she took some pain killers and the inflammation started to go down she said she was going to get a run in later...what?!?!?! This again is the "athlete, no common sense, suck it up- you wuss" mentality that is why every athlete needs a coach. And later that evening she called to say she would be fine to train tomorrow- "Nope you are taking the day off!"

Now I have been writing her training program and have even included regeneration workouts twice a week with foam rolling and stretching. She has been following my program religiously and has been a joy to work with because she follows everything to the "T" and the results have been showing. Just last week she said to me, "I just want to let you know my body feels better than it ever has. Your training program is working great. Thank you." Her training has been all coming together, she is running sub 7 min/miles which was one of the goals of the program, she has improved on her bike which also one of the goals and her swimming has maintained if not gotten a little better. She has had energy and has felt great to give it her all every single workout.

She is on track to win this half ironman.

So, obviously I take it personally when she gets injured to try to figure out what went wrong with the program- how could I have kept this from happening? As a coach the last thing you ever want is for one of your athletes to get injured. And I naturally start to take blame and want to fix the situation and figure out why it happened.

Then I remember again the 8 mile "recovery" run. So at this point of her getting injured she has trained straight through for 9 days and actually hasn't followed the program I wrote. Deep breathe...I feel a little better...we also had two very hard days of training this past weekend after her supposed "day off" and I am sure by this point her body is ready for a break. Guess what? Since she didn't give her body a break...her body decided to take one and now she will take a day off completely.

Lesson learned- Hopefully she learned that she needs a day off once a week. When I write a training plan, the days off are scheduled on there just as purposely as any workout. They are just as important to the big picture. I also learned that my view is more clear than I thought and I should listen to my instincts as a coach and tell her to stop training as soon as the first sign shows up. I admire her "athlete do or die mentality" but at this point in can do more harm than good.