I Need A Pissing Contest – Why I’m Going To Get Coaching

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I’m pulling the trigger and getting some coaching this year.

I’ve been quasi-diagnosed with ODD by some lesser-known psychologists, but I’m actually pretty coachable. The way I look at it, if I’m paying someone (or committing my time even) for coaching, I’m going to be all-in and do what they ask of me. Even if that’s at odds with the way I’m used to doing things.

People who know me may read that and think I’m delusional for saying it, but I’m a slave to a training schedule. I do what it says. Most of the time anyway. And I trust it–sometimes to a fault. That’s what it means to be coachable–trusting the coach and doing what they say to do. No questions.

But I can read the research and follow a schedule on my own. That’s part of the reason I’ve never sought out any coaching for triathlon. Well, that, and I’m cheap.

I don’t need a coach to motivate me to do something I love, right? And I’m pretty hard on myself during training. I know how to dig down deep and get more from my body than it wants to give.

I’m a “pusher”.

At least I thought I was before last year. But 2012’s results have me a little worried that is no longer the case.

Let me back up…

When I first started training to run distance in 2003, I’d been playing rugby pretty much continually for 10 years. A lot of rugby training translates to endurance sports, so it was really easy transition for me. I already had pretty good endurance and strength base, with an especially strong core.

Yes,there are muscles under there.

In that 10 years, I’d never let my fitness go either, and I was used to a rigorous training schedule. There were off-seasons in rugby, but that was a lot like recovery periods for endurance training, and I always kept up my maintenance training during those times as well.

I’m not claiming I was ever the fittest guy on the team, but I was often the fittest guy over 200 pounds.

But more importantly, I had built up a gritty mentality. All of our squad training and most of my training outside was done with the same group of guys or a subset of them. That meant you always had someone watching, even if there wasn’t a coach around. There was always someone there to see you quit. There was always someone who would know if you were bagging it during a sprint. There was always a guy in the weight room who could lift more and would push you to lift more. Everyone had little injuries and hurts at all times, and there was always someone hurt worse than you who was still playing.

It made for a very testosterone driven atmosphere. That was a good thing. I’m not saying that it motivated everyone to push themselves to their limits, and I’m not claiming I always did either. I had my share of lazy days. But that atmosphere and the fact that not everyone was lazy on the same days kept the bar set at a pretty high level at all times. You knew the days you didn’t reach that expectation, just like you knew which guys didn’t care if they ever reached it.

And some of us never wanted to be “that guy”.

So you pushed. You didn’t have a choice.

That was the mentality I had when I started training for endurance sports, and for the next 3 years. Even when I went through periods of what I like to call “taper-training“, where I was really lazy, I could always show up on race day and find some push.

Fast-forward to January 2012. I decided to get back into training for long distances. I decided to kick it off with a 70.3, but I wasn’t really happy with those results. So I decided to do a marathon to try to fix what was ailing my run. And I wasn’t happy with those results either.

I stuck with the schedule for both of these events, and I was really happy with my effort level during training. So why didn’t I get the results I wanted?

I’m not one to beat myself up over that kind of stuff for long. But I have realized there’s a problem that goes beyond the fact that I’m getting older. Injuries and heat aren’t going to cut it for long term excuses either–those are just a fact of racing that everyone has to deal with. So the last few weeks I’ve been doing some reflection, and I think I know what may have happened. It all began at the beginning.

Here’s what my starting point looked like in 2012:

I hadn’t done anything more than an Olympic distance tri since 2006. 10k was the furthest I’d run. I was living in a house with 4 women. Granted, three of them were under 5 years old, but still, it’s pretty much a testosterone-free zone.

I was living in a new town, not actively playing rugby. So I didn’t have an expectation there to meet, and I didn’t even have the peer pressure of being around guys I used to train with and the pissing contests that were involved in everything they do (rugby, running, lifting, eating, drinking, skirt-chasing, etc.).

That, I think, is the real problem in a nutshell...I haven’t been living in a perpetual pissing contest.

And I like pissing contests. I need pissing contests.

I wasn’t coming into training in couch-potato shape or anything like that. I don’t think fitness is the problem at all. I think I may have forgotten what it’s like to push. I mean really push. I think it’s something I may have unlearned. I mean, I think I’m pushing during training, but how can I tell if I really am?

So that’s where coaching comes in. A coach can see what you’re doing from the outside and test you, make you run that one extra interval. A coach can throw you a surprise workout that an 18 week schedule can’t. A coach can disrupt everything. A good coach will do all of these things.

Hopefully, a coach can help me reset my definition of what “push” means.

So I’m starting a triathlon specific swim clinic at the gym on Tuesday. I’m hoping everything about my swim gets torn apart and rebuilt. I’m in a good situation to do that–my cardio is fine, so I can handle long workouts, but I haven’t been swimming enough lately to have my horrible habits burned into my muscle memory in the way they would have been if I was coming off a training plan.

I’m planning on a running coach for February and beyond too. I’m hoping to maybe fix some mechanics, and definitely fix my head.

If I’m completely wrong, and I don’t get pushed that much, at least I’ll get some information I didn’t have before, meet some training partners, get some new workouts, and a new source of accountability.

But I’m pretty sure I’m right about the pushing thing.

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