My very first triathlon coach was a great guy who had come from the equestrian world. He was slight, strong and young. Most of the athletes he coached were collegiate men and women who were also very fit, lean and strong. When they weren’t training they were drinking beer, studying and sleeping late.
Every fall he would give us October “off” with no formal training. He would suggest I “stay active and have fun.” No formal training, sit on the couch, do all the things I had deprived myself of for the last 9 months.
He also encouraged us to eat whatever we wanted and to put on at least 10 pounds over the holidays. He actually gave us all donuts for a gift! Did this guy have any idea how much harder I would have to work than my college-aged team members in the spring to drop those 10+ pounds? Clearly not!
The thought of intentionally putting on 10 pounds was horrifying. It was never going to be “just stop eating donuts” and the weight would come off. Not on this body!
Plus my form of deprivation was very different from most of the team. I looked forward to late nights of red wine, gourmet cheeses and delicious fresh bread, “sleep in Sundays” and popcorn during the Broncos games. Not donuts and cheap beer like the young bucks.
Since those fantastical days of young bucks and donuts I pay close attention to how my coaches work to understand my goals and unique needs at that moment.
I once had a coach who would give me a 3-hour ride in the middle of the week when I told him well in advance that I would be traveling that week. Nothing worse than knowing you are wasting your money on a training program you can’t possibly implement.
When I started doing triathlons I was mid-30’s and I should have been able to tell my coach what I needed and how I felt…but I couldn’t. Sometimes I didn’t know how to articulate what I needed and sometimes I assumed he knew better. As I age my needs change regularly based on my availability, career, injuries, family and more…just like yours do.
It is up to you to tell your coach what you think you need and want. It is up to your coach to help you make sense of it all and help you set realistic goals. What we need in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond can be very different but it isn’t always easy to explain it to a coach; especially if your coach hasn’t been there yet.
Often, as new athletes, we can’t put our finger on what it is we need and sometimes we might be embarrassed to discuss what we need. As we age we tend to think we know more than maybe we do and we are more than happy to share our insights with everyone.
I NEED MORE recovery than I used to. There, I said it! It kills me that 3 days back-to-back kick my butt and I need more recovery time than I used to but if I don’t take that time I am compromising all the work I put in that week.
And We Have Careers, Not Jobs
As our careers develop and require more attention or travel it can be exhausting to get up at 4:00 am for a half-assed workout in a crappy hotel gym when what we really should have done was enjoyed 2 more hours sleep to make the day much more tolerable. In our 20’s we worked for people who made the decisions and as we age it is likely that stress comes with big career moves and as much as working out makes us feel better, we need to be realistic about what we can get done in a day. A high-energy 30-minute workout in your hotel room can be much better than a 4:00 am 90 minute slog on a lousy treadmill!
We don’t always appreciate the stress we are under when making decisions about kids and college or parents and long-term care. These financial and emotional situations can suck the energy right out of us and it never occurs to us that the reason our bike workout felt awful is because all our energy was spent somewhere else that day. It’s not that you are terribly out of shape…you need to revisit where you are and what you can handle during those stressful times. Would a 30-minute workout sweat fest or a walk around the building rev your engine for the next meeting rather than a Snickers Bar while staring at the workouts you aren’t getting done that week?
As we age our needs evolve, our time fluxes, resources ebb and flow and our priorities change. This is no secret. The secret is how to find a coach who understands you when you show up. One size does not fit all.