Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Now that I am officially a retired athlete and focused squarely on coaching, I plan to put up a steady flow of incredible content on the blog.  My goal is to increase my digital footprint, drive market share, and establish myself as an expert in the field.  I hope to become a household name in the endurance world, be able to double (or triple!) my coaching fees, and make Kona my second home.  Apparently as a 'high level' coach that's what I'm supposed to shoot for and I'm up to the challenge!
My staff analyzing data and setting our business plan...
Just kidding, I really love this stuff and just like talking about it.  Since I'm basically a hermit in real life, the next best thing is to post online and hope someone reads.  I am actively referring athletes to other coaches and don't want to increase my 'business' so I can maintain my daily flexibility.  I have no ulterior motives here other than to hopefully start some dialogue,  potentially help someone, and have some fun... which leads me to post #1 of my retired life:

This is the first winter where I'm not actively planning for my next season.  Usually, I have a period of 'freedom' and rest followed by jumping into a built out plan that is carefully crafted from start to finish.  First as a swimmer then as a triathlete, I've always craved structure and needed to feel like I was on a carefully curated path to success.  Many of the athletes I work with are the same and who could blame them?  Why waste time on unfocused workouts or worse, pay for a coach to tell you to "do what you want"?  Early season races are right around the corner and they are going to be benchmarks to future performances, so we need to get focused fast!  We have access to a ton of data and whats the point in having it if we're not going to use it?  My answer is that at a certain point, the numbers only take you so far.  If you want to get to the next level, learn how to compete and have fun.  Simple.

Perhaps the best athletic weekend of my life... Having Fun!
At the end of last year, I wasn't having fun.  I enjoyed the challenge of racing and training has always been an outlet for me, but I increasingly saw it as my job.  I was knee-deep in data and metrics for both myself and my athletes and started seeing everything as black and white numbers instead of the reality of athletic performance.  My results were okay, but not great and something was missing.  Talk to any athlete who has raced at a high level and they will tell stories about both 'magical days' and days when they didn't have 'it'.  The best athletes have an innate balance between the drive to win and enjoyment of what they do.  When everything is in sync, they 'flow' and everything seems easy. When that balance is missing, the 'magical days' become fewer and further between regardless of how good their data looks.  Looking back, the way I was chasing those 'magic days' was exactly the reason why they weren't happening!  You see this happen when athletes start to feel pressure or stop enjoying the thrill of competition. (Any frustrated chronic Kona chasers reading this???)  Some are able to push through due to genetic talent or some other fluke, but even if they can they generally end up hating their previous sports or regretting their career sometime down the road.  

Data Doesn't Lie... Having fun!
As I re-center and focus on having fun with training, I have been shocked just how far out of balance I had become.  If you're reading this, please ask your significant other about your balance... Ashley had been telling me for a while but I didn't want to listen... I may have a slight Zwift addiction and may have forgotten how to run, but I am enjoying the benefits of having fun.  There are no goals in my future other than crushing some Swim/Run races, but honestly I'm more motivated to train now than I have been in the past few years.  I've seen the phenomenon in my athletes as well with a few  embracing the reduced structure.  Some of the best even (gasp) decided to not train when they are tired and are reaping the benefits when they lay it on the line in the next session.  When they are engaged and having fun the numbers start to look pretty nice even though we aren't hanging on to every data point.  Of course, having a solid training plan matters and having a knowledgeable, objective coach is important if you want to improve and reach new levels.  And yes, we'll get serious in the coming weeks and months with a good bit of structure and feedback.  But when we do, I'll be bringing in a newly-found (remembered) awareness about what it takes to succeed.  I'm going to stay knee deep in data but I'm also going to make sure I'm paying attention to what really matters.