UNcoached vs. SELF-coached

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In the past, I've considered myself to be "self-coached." For the 8 weeks leading up to the TC 10 Mile (which was 10 days ago) I worked with coach Jen Harrison. Now that I'm training "on my own" again, I realize that in my pre-Jen days, I was NOT "self-coached." I was "uncoached." And there's a big difference.

Let me explain.

Here are a few thoughts from my "pre-Jen" days:

- In the past, if I were going for a hard tempo run, my thoughts while running were "just go fast."

- Intervals on the track were just to be "hard." No specific time goals, just "hard."

- If I was headed out for a 35 mile long ride, I could be part way in when I'd say "I'm going pretty fast, and I'm a little short on time - I'll turn this into a 20 mile hard tempo ride."

- If I wasn't holding a fast speed on the bike, I might say, "Oh, you can stay out here for another 30 minutes to an hour - ease up a bit and call this a 'long ride.'"


Those things made me UNCOACHED, not SELF-COACHED.

If I were self-coached, I'd be saying something like "Today's ride will be a tempo ride. You'll WU for 5 miles. Then sustain an average pace of XXmph for 25 miles which will include 4 x 5:00 all-out efforts. Then ease it home for a final 10 miles." I would NOT veer from that plan mid-workout.

If I were self-coached, I'd be saying something like "Hit the track for 4x1600. Start at 5:45 and drop 5-10 seconds for each interval. Last one is ALL OUT and fastest by 10 seconds or more. Stretch well afterwards."

If you are SELF-COACHED, take a good look at how you train yourself. I bet more than 50% of you out there will find holes where you are just UNCOACHED. I'm not trying to be an ass - I'm not trying to say "You're all FOOLS and I've got this ALL FIGURED OUT!" You read my blog - you know that I'm full of shit and have NOTHING figured out. ;) I'm just trying to highlight the fact that all of us self-coached people could probably be better coaches for ourselves. And I'm a prime example.

This idea of me previously being UNcoached instead of SELF-coached popped into my head on Monday evening during my first long run since the 10 mile (and my first workout with any effort since I stopped working with Jen). I started by being SOOOO proud of myself. In the past, I'd just go out and run 9 miles hard. That led me to some major over-training issues a year ago, even though I was only running 15-22 miles per week. So I was going to do this run RIGHT: I was thinking like Jen, and I told myself "WU for 2 miles, HARD for 5, and CD for 2." That was NEVER something I'd do on my own in the past. I thought Jen would be proud.

Super! I was being my own coach! Right?........

No. Not quite. When I hit those "hard" 5 miles, I had not previously defined what "hard" was going to be. Was I to build and keep getting faster? Was I to maintain sub-6s? Sub-5:50s? Just run "hard" and see what the times are? I NEEDED TO DEFINE THIS AHEAD OF TIME, NOT DURING THE WORKOUT.

So during that workout, I just ran "hard," and felt a little lost as to what I was doing. I realized I REALLY need to better define my workouts to be able to get the most out of them. I ended up running WU miles of 7:59 and 7:44, followed by "hard" miles of 6:10, 6:01, 6:18, 6:20, and 5:45. That super fast last mile is "old Steve" coming out to play. That's me taking it TOO easy in the middle for fear that I won't have enough left in the end. (Remind you of this post?) I CAN'T revert back to that. On hard runs, I need to define my pace in those middle miles to get the most out of the workout.

So here's my plan:

I need to WRITE DOWN my workout plans ahead of time. I think I'll work backwards from whatever races I plan on doing and define what I want to do (roughly) each week. I'll try to well define the 2-3 months before next year's "A" races. Then, before each week begins, I'll nail down the specifics for each workout.

Note: I won't be THIS structured on ALL of my workouts. I don't want to burn myself out. For my run tomorrow, I'll just do an easy-ish medium distance run. So don't think I'm going TOTALLY "Type A" on my training. Many of the thoughts above will be for workouts a few weeks before a race - NOT for everyday winter training.


RFalkenrath 12:49 PM, October 13, 2010  

You've described my evolution through triathlons and training. At first I was just getting runs, rides and swims in. Then, I started having a purpose for the runs, rides and swims - and kind of figured it out right before the activity or during. Now, as I try to be more competitive in my age group, it's more what you call SELF-coached. Figuring out the week before, actually PLANNING a workout week and then DOING it. Didn't need a Coach for that one but it probably would have helped me realize this sooner.

Emily 1:35 PM, October 13, 2010  

I am defintiely UNcoached. My goal for next season is to progress to self coached, or, if I win the lottery full-fledged coached!

Tri-James 1:48 PM, October 13, 2010  

My Master’s Swim coach said that most triathletes just get in the water and swim for 20 minutes and call it a workout. He said – That is not a workout.

What he does not realize is that is the way most people train for everything – swimming, biking, running, lifting, etc.

Most people are not training - they are exercising.

Teresa Brenneke 2:15 PM, October 13, 2010  

Being a coach I am very bias...but, Steve you make great points. The advise I give anyone who is self coached, is that you need to put the plan down on paper, and not just one workout, but a few weeks worth of training. You need to step back and look at the overall plan, is it too much, too little, too much intensity, or too much easy stuff, etc.

Yes, this is work! That is why some are willing to pay for someone else to do their thinking.

Good luck!!

Unknown 3:06 PM, October 13, 2010  

this is SO spot on. ugh. haha

Emily W 3:41 PM, October 13, 2010  

Have you ever tried the Smart Coach on Runnersworld.com? It's great for creating somewhat personalized training plans for running events. I usually use BT for triathlon plans, but like the Smart Coach for winter races. And they do leave room for cross-training or adding to the plan as you go.

Beth 3:42 PM, October 13, 2010  

What good insight! I could never do it without a coach!! I think it's possible, but as you've seen, you really have to write yourself a SPECIFIC plan just as a coach would and stick with it! Good luck Steve!

Anonymous,  4:41 PM, October 13, 2010  

Valid point. I have tried to self coach myself the last few years. The problem is that my "coach" (me) changes the plan in midst of the workout at times (because I'm tired, or I forgot the intended pace, etc.). Yeah-maybe not such a great idea.

misszippy 6:29 PM, October 13, 2010  

Hitting the nail on the head. Planning your workouts each week is key (as is sticking to them!).

Unknown 7:43 PM, October 13, 2010  

I was UNcoached instead of SelfCoached as well, thats why I hired a Coach this year for the 2011 season

Joel 10:22 PM, October 13, 2010  

Steve - great post. I think most of us that aren't coached are UNcoached rather than SELF coached, no matter what we think. I've been working through how to PR a half mary this fall, and your post helped me realized how UNcoached I am. >sigh<

Chad 12:25 PM, October 14, 2010  

Steve, I couldn't agree more.

Other than following a program from a book for an upcoming marathon, I'm uncoached.

I can't tell you the last time I did a speed workout.

Part of the problem is that I just like to go out and run. And part of the problem is that I can't justify spending any more money on this hobby than I already do.

vibram 6:23 PM, October 14, 2010  

That was great!Good luck on your plans, may you achieve all of it!

CoachLiz 7:09 PM, October 14, 2010  

Good lightbulb moment Steve!

I am surprised at the look on people's faces when I tell them that I have a coach and he has been my coach for the last 5 1/2 years. "But you are a coach." They tell me. That's right, I am but I need someone else to look at my performances, injuries, progression/stagnation, and goals to set up the best plan for me. Sure I could do it, but I would cave to my weaknesses. My coach keeps me honest. Sure I have paid him a truck load of money over the years, but he has been worth every penny of it.

Without him I would have never made it to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I would not have had some super Ironman races. I would not have ran a PR and knocked of 14+ minutes off my marathon time on a HILLY course in Seattle. I would not have had some podium finishes at some local races. I owe it all to him. Thanks Coach Woofie!

Brandon 9:44 PM, October 14, 2010  

both of us at Team Baby Dinosaur are definitely "uncoached" and can refocus our attitude, thanks to your insight Steve. :-)

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