Posted On:
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Coaching & Training is Like a Puzzle

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And here it is: Coach Tip Tuesday!!

There is A LOT of information out there about training and racing endurance sports.  I see this especially manifested when people ask questions about training and racing in public forums (such as Facebook groups).  Inevitably, the thread of responses that follows is lengthy and diverse.

Weeding through all of those responses and picking out what is relevant, what is good advice, and what is poor advice is very tricky (if not impossible) for the average athlete.  I know that it took many years of experience as an athlete and a lot of experience coaching to finally feel very, very comfortable making solid recommendations to others and to be able to tell when something isn’t good advice. 

My biggest takeaway over the years is that coaching and training is like a puzzle.  The biggest difference is that an endurance sport is not a puzzle with a single solution.  It’s more like Tetris; there are *many* solutions that yield a completed “endurance sport puzzle,” and as such, it’s very important for each person to find the solution that works best for them.

Another analogy for this is that it’s like a trip.  You know the destination, but how you will be traveling to get there isn’t set in stone.  Maybe you fly in an airplane.  Maybe you will take any combination of roads in an automobile to get there.  Perhaps you will take a boat.  Maybe, just maybe, you will walk there or ride a bicycle.  What is the common thread with all of these??  They get you there - to your intended destination.

When I work with athletes, I seek to meet them where they are and help them navigate the best path for *them* to reach *their* goals.  If they have friends who are doing the same goal event as them, I do not worry about what their friends are doing training-wise as they prepare for that same goal event.  I am not concerned about what others have done before them.  I take a look at where the athlete is at, what their particular history is, what their strengths and areas for improvement are, draw from my knowledge and experience, and I design a specific plan for the athlete around all of that.

Many, many athletes who I have worked with over the years have expressed distress that they are not doing what others are doing.  I see this all the time in my work at Fleet Feet Syracuse as well; people do not understand why a particular shoe works so well for their friend or family member, but not for them.  The reality is this: each individual person is just that - an inditvitual.  They are unique.  They are not their friends or even their family.  They are THEM.

I know it’s tempting to want to fall into the crowd and be just like everyone else.  The reality is that you are not like everyone else.  Dr. Seuss nailed it (he had a way of doing that :) ): “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  Following someone else’s plan that works great for them might yield satisfactory results, but it will not yield the results that are the very best for you.

Find YOUR puzzle solution.  Not your friend’s.  Not your brother’s.  Not your colleague’s.  If you are unsure what your solution looks like, a good coach can help you in your quest and walk alongside you as you learn what works for you, what doesn’t, and what yields the results that you are seeking.  In essence, they will help you design your puzzle solution.  Embrace your YOU and embrace your marvelous completed puzzle. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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