I'm 53 days away from my 7th Ironman and feeling fresh after finishing Ironman #6
just three weeks ago in Lake Placid.
I value my health and I love my active lifestyle. I love setting goals and working hard for them. But I also know a lot about the human body and I do not try to push my body more than it is capable of handling in one season or one year.
My immune system and bones are strong, my brain is sharp, I sleep great, I have a wonderful appetite and my energy is on a constant high level. I don't want these things to go away just because I am training for an Ironman.
As a coach, I help a lot of individuals reach or move closer to their goals. One thing I have learned in my personal competitive sports history is recognizing that results do not happen quickly. Sure, you can take an athlete with great fitness and give them a structured plan and the body will likely adapt for great results. But then the athlete can only maintain that high for so long until she/he refuses to rest or slow down until injury or burnout occurs. As for the individual who is new to a sport or has a journey ahead in terms of improving fitness, what's the rush to be like others now when you can be who you aspire to be by working hard and being patient?
Karel has guided me through my last few years of triathlon training and I continue to find myself improving throughout each season. I have learned a lot about myself, I have reached new levels with my fitness and I have overcome a lot of obstacles. As a coach to others, I also recognize that I also need a coach.
As I aspire to reach my own goals with my career and races, I apply my skills, knowledge and experience to my daily choices to hopefully encourage optimal performances in my life. I can use a similar skill set and education to help others which I do so through my business.
I was once told that athletes need coaches to tell them when to rest. Athletes love to train and if they are feeling crunched with an upcoming race, they likely will do more than is needed. Athletes doubt themselves, compare themselves to others, they don't trust themselves, they put too much pressure on themselves, they sweat the small stuff, they don't plan for the important things and they create unrealistic expectations. But on the flip side, athletes can strengthen their confidence, compete among those who are slightly better and trust themselves all while reaching new limits that were never once thought possible.....that is, if they have someone in their life who is able to provide clear, realistic and truthful feedback and genuine guidance to reach both short and long terms goals.
I'm lucky in that I am married to my coach. I suppose we have a very long term coaching/athlete relationship. I question his motives at times and complain about silly things but I also thank him for seeing the bigger picture. In 2012 I had one of my best seasons by winning two races - Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon
and Branson 70.3
all thanks to Karel's "long-term" plan.
After finishing the 2011 Ironman World Championship
Karel decided that after 3 Ironmans (2009, 2010, 2011), I needed a year break from Ironman's and to work on my speed. Now this was something that excited me but the thought of not doing an Ironman made me sad. I love the journey that the IM takes me on BUT I remembered the bigger picture of what my "coach" was wanting me to achieve.
As someone who doesn't race a lot (Ironman Lake Placid was my only triathlon in a year and only race since last October) and enjoys the pressure of making races count after sticking to a periodized training plan, I want to be sure that my training allows me to be the best athlete I can be every season but also contributes to me being healthy enough to function well in life. .....for triathlons do not pay the bills.
In 7 years of racing as an age group triathlete, alongside balancing continuing education (RD credential) and advancing my career/business, I maintain good health without sickness or setbacks. Sure, I get my hip/back issues that take me out of running but I am not forced to stop my life or the things that bring me happiness just like training for an Ironman. I have never been burnt out from triathlons and I have no stress fractures or broken bones to my name. I am not on any medications (even NSAIDs), I don't have a general physician (aside from OBGYN) to see in the case that I would get sick (for I haven't in the past 5-6 years). I feel all-around normal in society although I do admit that I my exercise routine is specific to performance and not to burning calories for health purposes.
Regardless of your fitness status, your personal goals or lifestyle habits, it is likely that when the going gets tough or you feel a setback, you will give up and look for another option. I see this many times with diet fads/dieting and races. People love to move from one approach to another without figuring out the issue and dedicating themselves to another go around with a few tweaks in a similar approach.
Having a coach allows you to better solve problems, to build better skills, to learn to recognize your weaknesses and strengths and to build confidence. A coach tells you what you need to change but also applauds what you are doing well. As a society, people love to be reactive. Always getting upset at the after math instead of being proactive and preventing mistakes from happening well before they happen. A coach allows an athlete to set him/herself up for success in an environment that bring success.
And most importantly, a coach is not perfect and neither are you. Whether a coach is working on mental skills, nutrition or training, the coach understands that like anything in life, the more mistakes you make, the closer you get to figuring out what works by processes of elimination. Maybe you can't afford mistakes but a coach is an outside expert looking in and may reduce the number of mistakes that you could make alone, thus allowing you to achieve success sooner than if you try to dabble at things on your own.
A coach sees things in you that you can not see. A coach only wants the best for you but they also know that the process can not be rushed. A coach may or may not be patient depending on his/her philosophy or approach, but in my experience, I know that patience does pay off and is a valuable skill for both individual and coach.
Do you want to get results faster?
Do you want to stay motivated?
Do you want a long term plan instead of a quick fix?
Do you want to learn better life-long skills?
Do you want to prevent setbacks?
Do you want to reach a higher level of success?
Do you want someone to give you feedback on strengths and weaknesses?
Do you want to maintain balance in life?
What's the point of reaching your short and long term goals if you are not enjoying the process of becoming the best you can be?
In our society, we have a lot of experts. Many have long lists of credentials with years of experience and others are passionate human beings who relate well to others. When it comes to looking for the right coach for you, the person with 15 credentials may be no better than the one who is compassionate and can identify with what you are feeling.
So, if you were diagnosed with cancer, I'd like to think that you'd seek out the best oncologist available to help you with your disease and not google info on the internet to try to solve your issues all alone. As a Clinical RD, I see new diagnosis of cancer patients very frequently and I know that those who are willing to fight want a good team to keep them going.
So what makes you an expert to train yourself for a triathlon, lose weight from January 1st to January 31st and maintain that lifestyle for the next 10 years, manage the negative thoughts in your head that occur during stressful and anxious situations and figure out the best strategy for managing life?
Because we are not stubborn when it comes to using professionals (and the best ones out there) for issues involving our health, why would you consider consulting forums, the internet and books to solve your personal struggles, concerns, questions and issues in life when it comes to reaching your personal goals. If you have personal goals, there is someone out there, whether it is a RD, career mentor, MD, life coach, psychologist, exercise physiologist or certified athletic coach (triathlete/runner) to help you reach your goals.
Whether you are changing careers, wanting to cross a finish line or change your diet/body composition, you don't have to do it alone. Just like the cancer specialist who is passionate about researching treatments options to help the person with a rare cancer, there is a coach out there for you that is educated and excited to help you reach your goals.
As I finish this blog, I want to conclude that there are many great coaches out there in all areas of life. Do your research and find one that works for you. Many people out there, like myself, studied a subject/area specifically through education (and ongoing education) to better understand it and to better serve the public as a "specialist" in a certain area. Also, there are many great coaches out there with loads of experience and will be just fine to meet your personal needs as well.
The idea is to find a coach that really cares about you on a professional and personal level. Work with someone that believes in you, that you can trust and communicate well with all day, any day. And most importantly, remember that having a coach is a long term investment. Do not expect someone to have magical powers and solve every concern you have in a few months. The best results are made in years. However, to keep you motivated, remember that the transformation happens daily and is noticeable over time.
True success is found by people who refuse to give up no matter what comes in their way. Successful people have setbacks but they always find a way to make progress. Because goals aren't achieved by doing everything quickly or doing nothing yesterday, enjoy your life and be sure you have someone special to enjoy it with you.