Uncoachable

La, la, la, la. I can't hear you!!!
La, la, la, la. I can’t hear you!!!

“Maybe I should get a coach,” I mused as I perused the websites of several personal running coaches who all claimed that they could help me reach my goal.

My husband sighed. Then he said, “You don’t really want a coach. You want someone to validate the choices that you’ve made with your training. You need to tell the coach, ‘Listen, I’m paying you to tell me that every decision I made was the right one.'”

Yeah, my husband knows me.

I. Am. Uncoachable.

I hate it when someone tells me what to do. I’ve had coaches in the past. It always works out the same way. First I’m excited and eager to work with them. I’m fully compliant the first month. I do everything they say. Then I’m less compliant in the second month, but more or less on track. Finally in the third month, I’m checked out of the relationship.

As I scanned the promises of the running coaches I saw on the web, I carefully thought over my future goals and past training experiences. Each year I set out some goals that I wish to accomplish in the upcoming year. I don’t reach every goal by the end of the year, but is this really a problem a coach could fix? I don’t think so. I think if I achieved every goal I made, I’m not reaching high enough. While I don’t achieve every goal every training cycle, I do always make some progress and improve somehow through the training plans that I’ve either created for myself or adapted from Run Less, Run Faster.

There can be benefits to having a coach, including such positives as accountability, advice, and motivation, but I’m not in a place in my life right now where having a coach is right for me. A successful coaching relationship is much like having a good relationship with a therapist; you have to WANT to be in therapy or be coached and you have to trust your therapist or your coach. I’m having too much fun and making sufficient progress doing my own training plan and I know that in order for a coaching relationship to work, I need to cede control to a coach. Ceding that control? Well, I am just not ready to do that right now.

I haven’t ruled out getting one in the future, but for now I admit that I am and will remain uncoachable.

Have you had a coach or are you uncoachable too? 

I'm an academic, a runner, and a New York cliché. I write about the science of exercise, training, and the culture of running. My current goals are a sub-23:00 5K (achieved on 4/22/17 with 22:48) and a sub-1:45 HM (achieved on 10/1/17). Now what?

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10 comments

  1. At the beginning of this year, I hired my first coach after 9.5 years of running. I had been kicking around the idea of hiring a coach for some time … years, really, but I hadn’t found quite the right fit. I wanted to find someone who would understand my running background and goals — having started running in my early 20s and moving up quickly to the marathon, I’m not your standard post-collegiate runner. Nor am I quite the a “bucket list” type marathoner, either. Many people want to “just finish” their first marathon; I wanted to qualify for Boston (and did).

    It made — and still makes — me nervous. It’s a commitment. Not just because of the money, but because I’m putting it out there that I want to reach certain goals and I’m willing to take some serious steps to reach them. The idea of not reaching those goals is what makes me nervous — I don’t want to look like a fool for paying a coach and not getting there. But that means the pressure is on me. I have to do the work so I don’t look like a fool. And that’s the commitment.

    For me, a coach is a way to both put pressure on myself and take pressure off, if that makes sense. I don’t have to figure out the schedule. I just have to get up and do the work. But the pressure is on me to do the work. If I don’t do it, I can’t blame him if I’m not successful.

    My post: https://tgrunfit.com/2016/01/20/considering-a-coach/

    1. It totally makes sense. I get it and I feel that way too. I’m just not at the point where having a coach would be good for me because I’m not ready or willing to make that type of commitment.

  2. I love that you know yourself well enough to make this call and be good with it. No matter what plan we choose, or coach we hire, or training decisions we make, by owning those decisions and not second-guessing them we make ourselves open to success. And knowing your limits helps you not waste energy dithering back and forth about stuff that really doesn’t matter and do the best with what you have. Yeah!

  3. Oh, don’t worry – like you, I am essentially uncoachable. But I know I can’t do it without support, so for support I’ve accumulated a network of running friends around the country, and texting and emailing and calling is way cheaper than a coach. 🙂

    1. I have a friend who is just faster than me and that helps a lot of motivation and training. She’s fast enough to motivate me and pull me to go faster, but not so fast that it’s not possible to think that on a magical good day that I can pass her. Hahaha. She’s also more disciplined than me, so if I don’t feel like running, I think to myself, “What would [insert friend’s name] do?” and that gets me out the door most days.

  4. The idea of having a coach makes me anxious. I think it’s a control thing. I want to decide what’s right for me on any given day, and fear that doing workouts because someone else said so might ultimately lead to overtraining etc.

    Of course,this feeling may be based on a completely wrong understanding of the athlete coach relationship!

    1. I have the same concerns that you do. I feel the symptoms of overtraining much earlier than most people, so I worry that my concerns won’t be taken seriously.

  5. Glenn calls me uncoachable. He is possibly right. There are a list of things I am totally unwilling to do, and I’ll change schedules and instructions on my own. (or maybe it is he that can’t handle an athlete making decisions)

    So, what about seeking a consultant rather than a coach?