Now that the holidays are upon us, many are turning their attention to gift giving.  For some, this time (Wait…you didn’t know you were supposed to get your coach a gift? You know, that person you email and call all the time.  The person that devotes their profession to helping you meet YOUR goals.  Tell me you co-worker didn’t get a gift before your coach)
of year brings anxiety as you search for that perfect gift.  For others, it brings a great deal of happiness.  As a coach, I will make your job easy.  Here are SIX gifts you can give your coach this coming year. 
For added fun, I have provided real life information for how they play out and sometimes what goes through my head

1.  Better Communication of Scheduling Issues

In 2016, communicate better with your coach.  This generally means communicating conflicts in your schedule well ahead of time and not at the last moment.  If you know work is sending you to a conference, let your coach know….they can build your schedule appropriately.

Real life example:

  • Email on a Tuesday morning.  “Hey coach, forgot to tell you that I am at the beach this week so I probably won’t do any training.”  (coach thought:  Glad I took the time to plan out your week already only for you to tell me  you weren’t going to do anything.  And who can’t train at the beach.  You really can’t run a few times?  There is a giant body of water there too.)

The proper way to handle this:

  • Email a few weeks in advance.  “Hey coach, I will be at the beach August 3-7.  Is it possible to enjoy some downtime that week with the family.  I don’t mind running and maybe a few swims.”  (coach thought:  sure this will be a recovery week.  i will throw together a mini-cycle to stress him prior to leaving and then he can recover that week on the beach). 

Or consider this approach

  • Email a few weeks in advance.  “Coach…work is sending me across the country again.  I fly out on Nov 30 at 1 pm and get back Dec 3 at 9:30 am.  I can probably run each day but I doubt I will have time to get to the pool.  However, I don’t mind training before I fly out and plan to take the afternoon of the 3rd off.  Maybe I can ride then?”  (coach thought:  I love this guy.  He completes me.)

 

2.  Do workouts as prescribed

This one sounds simple enough but it seems to be difficult for some athletes to grasp.  When a coach plans your week it is designed around your strengths, limitations, goals and ability.  So when you go off the reservation a bit, it can throw a wrench into things.  First, it is possible that you put too much stress on the system and it will negatively impact the next few works.  Second, your coach might not have a clue of what you did.  Third, now what? 

Consider this file from an athlete.  The workout was a tempo run 10 x 2′ @ 10k pace with a 1′ recovery jog.  This is the file I received:

That looks nothing like the prescribed workout.  That looks like 4×400 at 3k speed followed by 3×800 where the athlete held on for dear life.  What was the goal of the workout?  What was the athlete trying to accomplish.  (coach thought:   ….what the #!$^ is this?).  It took a little back and forth for the athlete to at least come clean with me.  And not surprisingly, this athlete missed a few workouts in the subsequent days. 

3.  Wear your equipment

If you spent the money on nice equipment, then use it.  Better yet, if you are training by HR or power, then I expect you to use it nearly all the time.  I am sometimes baffled when athletes just up and decide to drop their equipment in the middle of the season.  Here is a file from an athlete a few years back that decided to abandon his HRM a few weeks before his IM.

Do you know what that file shows me?  NOTHING.  (grrrrr….why did he do this).  I see elevation, speed and cadence.  So at a minimum I know how far, fast and long he rode.  Did the athlete complete the workout as prescribed?  I don’t know.  Did he go too hard?  I don’t know.  This was a key workout for the athlete and I can’t do any analysis or give any feedback on a 70 mile ride. 

4.  Lap Intervals

One of the most important elements of coaching is creating processes with an emphasis on efficiency.  And athletes can help the coach achieve this through one simple step:  pressing the lap button during an interval.  When the data is uploaded into Training Peaks a coach does a number of things with it.  At a minimum the coach looks to see how close the athlete performed the precscribed workout.  For instance, if an athlete had a target of 7:45 pace for 20′ at a 165-168 HR and completed the workout with a pace of 7:48 and 164 HR, they get an easy pass.

To do this, isn’t a complicated process but does have some limitations.  The coach must select the right amount of data; and since athletes are gifting #2 above, then this is easy.  However, situations occur where the athlete ends and interval on a hill or doesn’t start the next interval until a car passes.  This makes the time of the workout off schedule just a bit.  That is where the lap button comes into play.  It captures the interval in it’s entirity.

 
Can you identify the 3:00 interval above?  And with a simple click, Training Peaks will tell me that for 3:00 the athlete held an average pace of 7:48 and a HR of 164.  This saves me a great deal of time both when I review and when I look back on the data in the future. 

5.  Better Feedback

This is very similar to the first point made above, but worth an independent discussion.  Communication is the backbone of the coach-athlete relationship.  The more the coach knows, the better they can help the athlete.  When feedback is minimal, the coach operates on a lot of assumptions.  They assume everything is going well.  They assume the workout was completed without an issue.  But they are basically blind in the process.   Consider the following examples:

Bad Feedback:  Long run done.
Things I learned a few days later:  The athlete had a bad bike the next day and still felt wiped out on Monday.  I found out that the athlete went for a run at 4 pm when it was 97 degrees outside because they wanted to acclimate to the heat in case their race was hot. 

Bad Feedback:  Tough run
Things learned later:  The athlete completely fell apart on interval 4 out 6.  They were not able to sustain anywhere near target pace.  I learned that they went for a 8 mile hike before running that day. 

Bad Feedback:  Weeks of an athlete not recovering from runs, dealing with chronic injuries.
Things learned later:  The athlete fessed up that they were experimenting with fasting and trying to train in a state of ketosis. 

How to give feedback:  Tell the coach what happened in the run.  I encourage our athletes to give me feedback on the key workout.  I don’t need to know all the specifics of a 30 minute easy run.  But it would be helpful to know what happened during your long run.  Or how you felt during your intervals of a long ride. 

The more the coach knows, the more they can help you. 

6.  Respecting your Coaches Boundaries

Lastly, this is the best gift you can give your coach.  Your coach is human.  Often they have a life (or try).  Their entire life does not revolve around swim, bike, run and you.  I understand that my clients all keep different schedules and it doesn’t make sense to limit my office hours to a standard 9-5, though that would make my life much simpler.  And races happen on the weekend, so I need to have some availability.  As such, a coach can very much feel like they are on call 24/7/365.  And athletes have come to expect that for $200 a month.  I would like to know if there is another industry that works for that rate. 

Most coaches will deal, but do you see yourself in any of the following examples:

  • Athlete texts me on Fathers Day wanting to take the day off and wants me to update Training Peaks.  I hear back from them that evening when the schedule hasn’t been updated.  (No thought to me wanting to enjoy Fathers Day. )
  • Text at 9:30 pm about a workout as the athlete is about to get on the trainer (Training Peaks sent you this workout 24 hours ago, I am in bed). 
  • Text at 5:30 am after completing a test and wanting updated power numbers.  
  • Calling the coach when the athlete knows they are on vacation to talk about training.  
  • Calling the coach Sunday night because the athlete looked at the schedule and didn’t let the coach know there were conflicts in the coming week.  (oh boy, I get to work again on a Sunday night)
  • Calling the coach the morning of the race to find out when the race starts.  
  • Calling the coach before using Google (your Garmin came with an instruction manual).  

The bottom line is that coaching isn’t a concierge service but sometimes it feels that way.   This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t reach out to your coach for things but I firmly believe you should try to address the issue first and take ownership over the problem.  I used to tell my age group team that I don’t treat them any different than my children, but I expect more since they are adults. 

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Now if you are really looking for a gift for your coach, I have two simple recommendations.  First, a hand written thank you card.  Coaches put a lot into your training and you probably only see about 25% of the work they do.  A simple thank you is all most want.  If you want to spend money, a gift card to a coffee shop or restaurant (Moes, Subway, etc).  Coaches are often on the go and grab stuff when they can.