By Dan Arnett
Owner/Head Coach – Endurance Concepts
USAT L2 Certified Coach

Over the last 8 years as a coach, I have learned to anticipate several questions during the first weeks of a new athletes training.  The first month of training is what I call the push-back phase.  This is where the athlete is not comfortable with the training for several reasons.  Usually about 2-3 weeks into the first month, I get the expected question.  It always starts with the same phrase: “This isn’t what I normally do.”

My answer:  “That’s right, it’s not.  That is one of the reasons you hired me.”  Too many athletes hire a coach yet are unwilling to change their current habits or training methods.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  Did you not seek guidance because what you were currently doing was not working or you wanted to improve upon what you were doing?   It’s this simple thought process that is sometimes lost in the forest.

We, as people, do not like change.  We like to discuss change.  We like to say how we are going to change.  But when it comes down to the time to change, it’s the biggest hurdle to jump over.  It takes faith and trust.  There is nothing magical about what your designated coach is proposing.  If they tell you there is, then run!  There is no magical secret to training.  But I digress.  There is simply one test that must be met when you decide to let this chosen person guide your training.  Can they explain why they are doing it?  No results are guaranteed, but the method must be understood and accepted by both parties.

If you are not confident that your coach knows what they are doing, then why are you spending your hard earned money paying them?  Also, if you do not believe in your coach and the change they are proposing why is the coach wasting their time on you?

Change takes time to accomplish.  You are doing yourself and your coach a disservice if you continually change how you are doing something. And it’s worse if you do it and don’t tell them.  Give the program time to work.  I’ve seen several athletes come to me after bouncing from coach to coach or program to program and wondering why nothing has improved.  Simple answer…time.  Some methods take more time than others, but that should be discussed and accepted from the beginning.

Training is ever evolving and the methods used to accomplish adaptations are changing as well.  A good coach evolves with the times and is constantly re-evaluating their methods.  That does not mean following fads.  Proper evolution is evidence based, not Guru based.  Simply put: Every ‘trend’ is not a new coaching method.  Evidence-based coaching means taking your observations in coaching and combining them with research in the field and coming to your own conclusion and implementing that.  It does not mean regurgitating what everyone else says blindly.  That’s what I call lazy coaching and unfortunately all too common in today’s “anyone can coach” environment.

In the end, ask the question WHY and listen to the explanation.  Coaching is a two-way street built on trust, feedback and competency.  Listen with an open mind, not with the typical “well that’s not what this coach, that coach, Tri magazine, etc” says.  If you don’t truly feel that the type of change your coach is proposing is for you, then continue to interview coaches.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because it’s not what you were doing before it won’t work.  Because what you were doing wasn’t working…remember?