Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Would you hire your own internal coach?

What does your brain tell you when you are training or racing? What does this internal coach say to you? Would you hire that coach, pay him/her money to say those things to you? Or is it a destructive voice, one to silence, to fire?

You train your body, are you training your mind?

I do most of my training and obviously all of my racing alone, so the coach I spend the most time with is ME. While I have a generally positive outlook, I have had to do some work on my own internal coach and have become aware of an evolution, a maturation, through the last four years.

Things have broken down at times. I can clearly remember several training runs, a swim, and a race where my thoughts turned toxic, bringing a torrent of pessimism and self-doubt. Last fall was my most recent episode. I finished a moderately long marathon training run in tears because I was off pace for a tempo section -- a pace that I (not my Coach) had set and defined as "success".  What scared me more than being a little slower than I wanted, was how I reacted and the flood of negativity that my own head was capable of producing. I fired off a text message of disproportionate despair to my Coach and was left with a feeling of defeat that stayed with me for days. After that, I decided that I could not let my thoughts get away from me like that ever again. It's too damaging and costly.

Now,  as I train and race, I spend as much time checking in on my internal dialog as I do checking in on my form, effort, and technique. A great antidote to negativity is gratitude. I might "grump" here and there but I remain keenly aware that I am fortunate to swim/bike/run. My history of injuries means I don't take these opportunities for granted.

I am enjoying the sport more than ever and I know the key to longevity is maintaining positivity, fun and playfulness. I cling to that and avoid threats to it. For instance, people react differently to pre-race stress and I gravitate to those whose pre-race chatter reflects confidence, good-natured competitiveness, and maybe even some bravado. The down-trodden and defeatist attitude is not beneficial for anyone and I won't engage in that kind of discussion. Sadly, it seems women are more prone to that.

I have a great role model in Coach Jim as he provides honest feedback and perspective and puts a quick stop to counter-productive dialog.  Similarly, my internal coach has learned to set high standards and demand effort, but she's honest, patient, encouraging, positive....and just a little silly.

I would hire my own "internal coach." Would you?


  1. Blogger teased me with a dysfunctional link for a while. I have been really interested in what lay beyond the title. Great read! My internal coach is a little moody but she gets better all the time. This past weekend was far more of a mental success than anything else. The biggest contributor to the good race and workouts was a lack of mental interference; shutting down the negative thoughts. I finally got out of my own way! So you see, this is a very timely post and certainly worth the wait!

  2. AND.... ROCK IT this weekend!! I can't wait for the race report!

  3. what a great topic! I never quite thought about it that way. My own internal coach kept me from quitting on the last mile today. We have a pretty good ME/COACH relationship. As my mileage improves and get longer, I'll be mindful to pimp slap any negative coaching that creeps up.

  4. Great post. Thank you for directing me to it. I love that you put this internal dialogue into the framework of coach/athlete. I'm a U of Michigan alumni/fan. The team had a crushing defeat against Alabama last night. This is what the coach said afterwards.. ‎"It was a tough loss. It was a deflating loss. It should sting, but at the end of the day, you can't let Alabama beat you twice. You have to learn from it. Watch the film & make your corrections to get ready for Air Force next week." Love the "can't let Alabama beat you twice" part. Really resonated with me today. And thanks for the subscribe tips.