We rely too much on other people, or even worse, devices, to tell us how we are doing.
Part of my challenge as a running coach is actually to hand the power back to the athlete. No one knows your body better than you do. Our work is, in part, getting you to believe that.
One marathon cycle, I was working with an athlete, and their Garmin Watch told them they were "overtraining". Their Strava account said they were "getting fitter". They went and ran a considerable marathon PB. That’s the metric I was interested in.
I tell this to highlight the vast differences that exist. One algorithm was saying one thing. One algorithm was saying another. That’s all these scores are. They are guesses. Pretty good ones but still, a guess. Why put more weight on them instead of actually how you feel?
It’s so easy to need external validation for how we are doing. And it’s even easier to get that in the world we live in. Trusting yourself is something you need to learn to do.
Learning to trust yourself
How can an app or algorithm know how you feel better than you do?
Data is important. Take resting heart rate as an example. This is a great way to confirm how you are doing. If you feel a little run down and see your resting heart rate has jumped up a few beats, that data would certainly support how you are feeling.
Yet, just because your resting heart rate is elevated doesn’t mean you are under the weather. Perhaps you didn’t sleep well. Or were woken by a loud noise. Or as stressed about your day at work ahead. All these could be cause for a slight elevation and want to be considered first.
To start trusting yourself, you can seek reassurance for how you are doing. That’s where a coaching partner comes in, someone to help guide you.
From a coaching point of view
When I work with an athlete, I have the knowledge and skills to make them better runners. I can set training sessions, adjust schedules to take into account fatigue levels, and have expertise in the areas that support training. I also know what I don’t know and know where I can get that information from.
But the drive to do the sessions, to get faster, has to come from you. We support you, but it’s you that's doing the work.
You can’t just pay for a coach and expect the results to happen. We don’t do the running for you. You need to start to take responsibility.
I often put the question “how am I doing” back on the athlete. The athlete is the one that can answer that a whole lot better than I can. Maybe they need help in evaluating their training, and we can certainly do that together. Still, it’s also about broadening the lens that we evaluate training with. This might be looking at the numbers from a specific session. What’s been going on outside of running that might be having an impact?
My goal is to get the athlete to look inwards more rather than always outwards.
You are the expert on yourself and your body. Don’t just hand over the keys to someone or something else to tell you how you are doing.