Have a Little Faith (In Coaching)

Coach G Taking Splits

Earlier this week Ginger with a J posted about faith and running. Today I’d like to talk about a different kind of faith: having faith in your coach and your training plan.

Last year was a tough one for me. I had a couple of good races, but most of the year was spent dealing with burnout and injury. As I struggled through 2011 there were many variables that resulted in my eventual breakdown. Many of which were mental. A worrier and over thinker by nature I let myself get the best of me. A major issue was that I wanted control of this one thing in my life: running. I mostly listened to my coach and followed his program, but all along there was this side of me that had doubts.ย  Some small and some big doubts and I let others influence those doubts and they grew as I faced injuries and struggled with workouts. By fall I was convinced that I needed to be in charge of myself and that I needed a break from coaching.

It turns out I did need that, but not because the program didn’t work, but because the way I was approaching the program didn’t work.

The lesson I have learned from last years debacle is that if I am going to be coached I need to cede control and have faith in my coach and his program. I think this is a hard thing to do for many competitive runners. We all took different paths to get to our current level of fitness, and the truth is there is no one method that works for everyone. It’s a science, but it isn’t rocket science, and therein lies the faith and trust issue.

Image via sheknows.com

Every runner I know has an opinion. Some friends think I should take more recovery. Some think my tempos are too slow while others think we have too many hard days. Some want you to race every weekend while others want you to train away. When you are feeling overwhelmed or rundown it is really tempting to listen to others and question your training. But the truth is there are many paths to success in running and having gone from a 3:16 marathoner to a 2:49 marathoner under Glenn’s training I should have realized something outside the training was going wrong. Good training can’t get you to the goal if you have outside stressors complicating recovery and faith.

Whether you have a coach or you are following an online program having faith in the program is key for success. Most running accomplishments don’t occur from a 12-18 week training block. It takes a minimum of 3 years to see real success from training and training with the bigger picture in mind for 3+ years is tough for this instant gratification minded society. Sometimes a change is needed but I am here to tell you that being committed to a long term program and open to all the ebbs and flows and ups and downs of that program is key to long term running success. Salty was right when she said getting faster is simple, but it’s not easy!

Image via rasingfigureskaters.com

It isn’t easy. But I have let go of the steering wheel and I am putting my faith in my coach and his program. And this leaves this control freak open to controlling other areas of my life that needed attention! It’s a win win situation. (Just don’t tell my coach, I don’t want him to know I will finally listen when he says no now ;))

How about you Salty Readers? Has your faith in training wavered lately? Do you live for the day to day training thrills or are you committed to the longer term success of a consistent program?

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A gal on a mission to save Cuyahoga County streams one storm water facility at a time. An ex runner of many facets including marathons, pacing, ultras and more. Chronic left side issues have me cycling more than running these days but I'm attempting to get back to my running roots.

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  1. It is SO hard to turn over the reigns on training. The first time I tried it 2 years ago, I completely failed and I never had faith in my training. You can guess how my race resulted. This season was my second attempt with a coach and the first few weeks I was riddled with doubt. But I stuck to it and had faith in the plan. Now that I am almost done with my 23 week training program, I am so glad I did! My coach took me out of my comfort zone – something I needed both mentally and physically. That said, I think it is also key to fully communicate with your coach so s/he can make the right adjustments for you when needed. While schedules are great, they are not static. You have to work together and trust in the advice you are given. Good luck with this next season!

  2. My post today is a different spin on this topic. I haven’t been able to put in more than a training block or two before getting pregnant…again! Hopefully when I’m done with all this baby-making I can see this 3 year theory finally play out for me. Oh do I dream of running some big PRs. Someday!

  3. Communication is most certainly key and that is an area I struggle with. My coach and I were friends first and so sometimes it is hard to hear criticism from a friend, even knowing he only wants to help. As runners I think we have a tendency to hide a lot of little issues because we don’t think they are a big deal, those issues spiral and it is hard to “come clean.” I most certainly tend to try and wish away little twinges and pain in hopes that I can continue training and that bit me hard last year. I forget that my coach only knows about those pains if I tell him about them. He’s not a mind reader, that’s for sure ๐Ÿ™‚ It is most certainly a learning process and I am nowhere near perfection, I have my days where I definitely want to take the reins still!

  4. Well…since Salty is the only coach I’ve ever had I don’t know that I can weigh in too heavily on this topic, but I do know that, when I felt like the plan was too aggressive for my non-running life to handle I snuck around taking it easier at first (easy to do from 400 miles away). Utimately though I caved and told her how I felt and she helped me see I could take a more flexible approach without sacrificing too much training. I felt so silly for being nervous to talk to her about it! ‘Cause isn’t that a coach’s job, to help you get over the hurdles that prevent you from good training?

    1. Hardcore runners DO NOT CHANGE THEIR SCHEDULE! EVER! I think working training around a crazy schedule is my coaching expertise! I love the challenge. It’s kinda like schedule tetris.

  5. Hi, I came across this website for the first time last week, and have really enjoyed reading the articles from all the different bloggers, so thank you (all) for the information and entertainment! After reading the article about having faith in your coach, I feel the need to ask for some advice, please. I’ve run 7 marathons, and have used a few different training programs to prepare for them, but my times have not really improved much. I was kind of resigned to the fact that I’m stuck at a certain speed, but your article made me think about looking for a running coach. Does having a coach, versus just following a training program, make a big difference? And would it be all right to start with an on-line coach (more economical…), or would you strongly suggest finding a live coach to watch me run? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    1. Hi! This is a great question. If you can find a live coach in your area with a good reputation and who you click with that’s the way to go. The more a coach knows you the better that coach will be able to address your strengths and weaknesses as a runner. That being said, those hands-on coaches are hard to find. An online coach can be very helpful too and there are lots and lots of great ones out there. They run the gambit in experience and their involvement in your training. You can have someone simply write you a training plan to someone talking on the phone with you once a week about how things are going and tweaking your training accordingly. It just depends.

      As for whether a coach is worth it I would say it depends on you. I really like being coached because I over think. By ceding control to the coach I can focus on running and not meta-running stuff. Plus, my coach really pushes me a lot harder than I would push myself and helps me with my confidence issues a lot. But some people do very well using training plans or self-coaching. It sounds like you could stand to change things up so I would suggest giving a coach a try! If you have any more questions feel free to ask away! Thanks!!!