Coaching is a Joy

I was too knackered to run tonight. Seven and a bit hours in the car and three early starts after three late nights will do that to a chap. I got back from Halifax in plenty of time to get changed and have a warm up to loosen off my legs and stretch before the session of K Reps and Kettlebells I had planned for the half marathon training group. However, I sat in the car fighting the weight in my eyelids and thought “Fuck it.” Luckily, my training partner and chum asked for a hill session in the morning so I thought I would give my limited energies to the athletes tonight and coach properly.

Coaching is a joy and a refuge for the tired athlete. Instead of a wasted evening jogging round a track for the sake of it, I can help other athletes achieve their goals. I set them off for a warm up and laid out a speed ladder, a couple of kettlebells, some resistance bands and a med ball while they ran and loosened up a bit. We ran through a warm up routine including some dynamic whole-body stretching and squats just to wake up the glutes and then I sent them off to the other side of the track to start their first 1k rep.

The track was busy with fizzing speedsters this evening. Another group was down doing 400m reps and they were flying, all of them. The youngsters have the Cambridgeshire Schools Cross Country Championships on Saturday so their session was shorter and slightly less intense than the multiple reps the adults were running.

My group was not moving as quickly but they were still working hard. I watched them pass the finish line on each lap, giving a cue here and there or just encouraging as best I could. “Keep working! Close that gap! Arms!” I noticed one of the athletes wasn’t moving well. I thought she might be having a problem or carrying an injury but when I asked her, she said she was fine. I asked her if she knew that she wasn’t moving equally on each side and she didn’t.

I have found that it’s difficult to think about what your legs do. It’s easy to look down and watch them instead of just running. Instead, I suggested she think about positive arm drive and getting her legs so follow the arm movement and balance out that way. When she came past on her next rep, she was moving much more freely. I asked her at the end of the rep and she said her shoulders were aching a bit but otherwise, nothing was untoward. Small intervention, big result. We’ll watch again next and keep on until her shoulders no longer ache and her stride is balanced on each side. It might take a few weeks but it should work over time.

I get a lot of satisfaction from coaching. It’s not just writing training plans and shouting. It’s a collaboration and exploration with an athlete or group of athletes. There have been weeks and months sometimes when I have lacked all motivation to run but I have seldom not wanted to coach. It’s almost always been a source of joy for me. The athletes I coach each week work hard. I want to give them my best because that’s what they give me and I want to thank them publicly for that.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re brilliant. Thank you.

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