Me?? A Coach? - Guest blog by Liz Butler
At the beginning of 2016 the seemingly ludicrous notion of entering an Ironman crossed my mind, and before I knew it, I’d made a date with Bussleton!
It's baffling and embarrassing in equal measure to now admit that I'm really not sure what I had in mind with regard to training when I entered. I must have envisioned some kind of progression over the year, as I did enter Cairns 70.3 at the same time, but beyond that, who knows?! I knew I could run a bit as I'd done a few marathons over the years. I knew I could ride a bike in some regard as I'd just done a Smiddy ride from Brisbane to Townsville; and, despite being a Pom, I don’t drown in a pool. Surely I just had to do lots more of all three, right?!
One thing that would never ever have entered my head was to get a coach. In my mind that was only for the pros and young scary hard-bodied types who (rightly) take themselves very very seriously! For a not-quite- so-young, nearly 50-year-old, with more of a hard-worn body, a more than full time job and complete inability to take myself seriously, to get a coach implied ludicrous notions of grandeur and crazy misplaced pretentions!
The universe obviously had a different plan though, when the son of a beautiful friend of mine offered to coach me! Incredibly that chap happened to be T-zero’s very own Rich!
Rich could not have been more lovely, or despite his incredible sporting CV, no less intimidating when I first spoke to him. Nonetheless I was still balking at the idea of ME having a coach, so much so that I only signed up for 2 months to start with. As well as the vague unease that I might be a strange kind of pro bono case for Rich, otherwise why would HE coach ME, I’m sure I actually asked him if he needed a crazy old lady for his coaching portfolio!
It seemed such a frivolous expense too. It took some work colleagues to remind me that a) even though I’m not ‘serious’, these dubious sporting endeavours really are my thing so why wouldn’t I pay someone to give me advice and keep me safe and well and b) the going rate for a PT is apparently $80 PER HOUR - and Rich would be tolerating my madness (their words!) pretty much 24/7!
Ironically now, all of those meandering crazy internal dialogues that nearly persuaded me that I wasn’t good enough and someone like me didn't need a coach, I now see are some of the very reasons getting a coach was a brilliant idea and signing up to t zero specifically was one of the best decisions I ever made.
My personal aim with Bussleton was to get to and be smiling at the start….and the finish! In speaking to Rich there was simply no doubt in his mind that that was completely achievable. The positivity and confidence was infectious!
In my first couple of weeks under t-zero guidance, I’d look at all those as yet uncoloured boxes on training peaks with a sense of bafflement as to how I was going to manage it all, but I did. It really is amazing how quickly following a program becomes a way of life.
I work more than full time in a pretty demanding role, so I was sure that I would struggle to fit all the training around this. However, my being honest with Rich from the start, amazingly meant this turned out to be mostly completely manageable. He knew I could never do more than a couple of hours before work and would struggle to commit to squads. In the end, the only change I made was to move my usual work start time to 9am whenever I could. Ironically what ended up happening was that committing to the training actually helped me attain a better work / life balance, which mercifully has endured. When I’m ninety-five years old (aim long as Rich would say) I’m pretty sure I won’t remember working those 10hour days, but there’s no question that I will remember completing my first ironman and the amazing friends I made along the way!
Being ‘on program’ is undoubtedly a challenge because you definitely do a lot of training and there definitely are sessions you’d probably rather go to the dentist than choose to complete! Really and truly though it’s no more than I might have aspired to do but that perfect combination of conscience / coach looking over your shoulder and the knowledge that someone else thinks that you can manage that session no matter what’s gone before, means you actually do the session!
It’s also amazing how much time is freed up by not fannying around / agonising / debating and bargaining with yourself about what training to do. If it’s in training peaks, you just do it!!
From what I can see, what t-zero do unbelievably well, is they work to get to know you as an individual. They can judge, often before you, when you’re getting fatigued mentally or physically and need a break. They really work with your own individual resources with regard to time, base line fitness, other commitments and as time goes by they really get to know how you tick and use that to help you achieve whatever goals you have set.
I was totally convinced in the early days that Rich thought I really didn’t take things seriously enough at all. I just couldn’t help using my training peaks feedback as an outlet for my comic genius!
It didn’t take too long however before I realized that Rich totally got me!
One evening I had taken a tumble out running and mentioned in my feedback that I had therefore taken it easy on the way home. Big brother really is watching you, as Rich immediately sent a text to check I was OK. I replied that all was well, although all plans to wear a miniskirt at the weekend had been scuppered by my purple knees, but let there be no panic as I’d still be OK to wear a boob tube by Tuesday! The SMS from Rich a few days later wishing me “happy boob tube Tuesday” was when I realized he was totally on to how my particular brand of madness worked!
Since the start of my time being coached by tzero 18months ago, sure there’s been days when I’d really rather have stayed in bed, but despite cumulatively doing (for me) a monumental amount of training, thanks to Rich’s skills, I manage to stay totally well, I don’t get injured, I function completely normally at work and in all other areas of my life.
T zero has many incredible talented committed athletes on its books that are super competitive and deservedly do incredibly well. But it also has many ‘regular’ people like me who want to do as well as they can with whatever resources they have at their disposal. Our goals are just as enormous and fantastic for us as someone aiming for a world championship.
I'm sure if I had just run, ridden and swum more, I might have got through Busso in some regard: but would I have been totally stoked with how I went on the day; still be employed; not have sustained any injuries; and still had a few non-sporty friends?! I doubt it.
As a footnote, I’m not sure whether I should admit that in describing Rich to other people, I still actually refer to him as “the guy that coaches me”. Still haven’t quite progressed to “my coach” but all these things are a journey, right?!?
Comparison - The thief of joy
How many times do you catch yourself making comparisons? These comparisons can be of you physically and someone else you are training with or racing, a pro or even the athlete you used to be. It can be a comparison of times, efforts, what food someone else is eating, what new gear they have or what podcasts they listen to. I have fallen into this trap on far too many occasions across my sporting and professional career and it is only recently that I have been able to see the damage that it does mentally and how it can cast future doubt on your abilities. In essence comparing yourself to anyone else really steals your joy and hope.
Back in the day when I was a handy cricketer, we played NSW constantly in the national final and lost 7 years in a row, it meant that Queensland only ever had one or two Australian representatives and it was safe to say mentally they had the edge over all of us. We got a new coach and we all bemoaned to him that it did not matter how hard we trained as they were so much better across all cricketing disciplines. Our coach listened and watched us all get caught up in the dreaded comparison of the NSW girls. When it came time to go to the nationals we had trained well and were physically ready. We saw the NSW girls warming up and our coach stopped and said “wow is that NSW? Here I was thinking they were some amazing machines but it turns out they are just girls like all of you”. The switch was flicked in all of us and we instantaneously removed them from the pedestal we had them on and looked upon them as equals. We went on to win the nationals that year and for the next 5 straight and we managed to get 6 Queenslanders in the Australian team and literally changed our mindsets with one simple comment.
I have recently fallen back into the trap of comparing myself to the athlete I was before my two accidents earlier this year. I find myself looking at the ‘Monique before Busso’, or the ‘Monique before IMNZ’ when looking at fitness levels, weight, physical conditioning and splits. What this comparison does is makes me depressed to think that I was at one point and now I am at another. What I need to do, and have been working hard on, is being the best version of the Monique today and striving to get a bit better each day not only physically but mentally. If you suffer from a bit of comparison here are the top 3 reasons why you need to stop comparing yourself to others.
1. It’s damaging your sense of self.
Research indicates that comparing self to others can breed envy, low self-esteem, confidence and depression as well as dinting our ability to trust others.
2. What you are comparing against is inaccurate information.
Generally what we seen in others is an edited version of themselves. Have a look on social media to see people only post great things in their lives, not the mundane dramas that we all endure. The next time you are doing a comparison of someone else stop yourself and ponder if it is really fair to compare when you don’t have all the information to make an informed opinion.
3. It doesn’t actually help you accomplish your goals
Ruminating about others and how awesome they are is really time consuming and ineffective. When you are self-admonishing it decreases your motivation and decreases goal completion. Think about when you are doing laps in the pool and someone flies past you and you think you are not good enough and lose motivation. The truth is you don’t know what training that person is doing and where they are in their training. Getting upset and frustrated can derail the entire session and make you lose confidence by thinking someone else is better than you. You are better off dedicating your time and energy to your own goals and values.
If comparing is how you evaluate your worth in this world, you will always be losing. You will never reach a point where you are better than others in every way and really why would that be a goal? Instead of trying to be as good as or better than others, focus your energy on being the best version of yourself and working hard towards your goals and your targets!
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