Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TTT: The Feedback Loop

Sooooo, I missed last weeks TTT but we're back in action today with a post I hope you all enjoy.  I probably should do a post on the pro’s and con’s to hiring coach and what to look for in a coach but for this point I am assuming you’ve chosen a coach and you’re rolling on a training plan.

Last year was the first year I had ever hired a coach.  When I signed up for the ironman I knew it was something that I wanted to consider but frankly I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to pay someone to write me a training plan.  What I’m here to say is that hiring a coach (provided you have picked a reputable coach and someone that matches your personality) is so much more than having someone write you a training plan.  My friend and teammate Maggie said it best when she said that having a coach is like always having someone in your corner.  When it’s a good match your coach will challenge you and push you to the limit all while being 100% in your corner, wanting you to succeed.  And, on the flip side, you will want to make your coach proud.

A good coach should be providing you feedback on most, if not all of your workouts.  Most of us in the multisport world use a training log online called training peaks; however, there are a lot of interactive forums out there.  For instance, with the folks I’m working with this year, I’ve set up google documents.  Google documents isn’t as pretty of a layout as TPs but it is 100% customizable, meaning you create your own layout.  Google docs are editable and have a comments function so it makes it a great, non TP option. Though, TP is the best for functionality and ease of writing and reading workouts, especially for multisport.

Okay back to feedback.  A coach can only give feedback on a workout that you have provided your data and comments on.  And, a note on data.  I can look at a Garmin link all day long but without some context as to why mile 1 was so different than mile 2 I can’t really provide effective feedback as your coach.  SO, athletes out there, most coaches would rather have a novel than a word. 

Setting up the feedback loop and setting expectations.  Some coaches are full time coaches (like mine) but most (aspiring coach me included) have other jobs and coaching is something they (I) do on the side.  This doesn’t mean that a full time coach is better than a non-full time coach it just means you need to set some expectations.  For me personally, I have told the folks I am working with that I am available by email (or by comment on their google spreadsheet) and I have made it clear (or at least I hope) that I will get back to them within 24-48 hours, for something more urgent they should text and I’ll get back to them as soon as I can.  This is important.  Find out when your coach is available for feedback and LOOK AHEAD at your schedule if you have questions, ask them early so you can be assured you’ll get the answer before that workout.  I personally am making time twice a week, usually Wednesdays and Saturday or Sunday, to look over what my athletes have put on their google doc.  Again, I can’t provide comments on a workout that doesn’t have data or a narrative. 

Be upfront with your coach about what you know your weaknesses are and about your abilities.  It wouldn’t be very helpful for me to tellCoach Jen, “hey I totally am a sprinter and can run sub 7 min miles and my 5k PR is 18 minutes.”  It also wouldn't be helpful for me to sandbag and say, “my endurance isn’t very good right now and I’m running 13 min miles.”  Be truthful and honest—remember your coach IS IN YOUR CORNER and wants you to succeed.

Feedback is such a crucial part of the coaching experience, I have a lot more to say on this topic but I feel like this post is already really long and disjointed so I think I’m going to leave with a few key highlights from this post, in case you got lost in my stream of consciousness:
  • Coaching is more than just a training plan.
  • Your coach is in YOUR CORNER
  • Be honest and upfront with your coach about your strengths/weaknesses
  • The more feedback from you the better your coach can assess and reassess your training
  • Make sure YOU are getting what YOU need from your coach, don’t be afraid to ask specific questions or specific feedback on a specific workout
  • Set expectations on timing and timelines for response/feedback