Coach Tip Tuesday: Don't Be Afraid of Learning New Things
Here we are, together again for Coach Tip Tuesday!!
When people ask me what my job entails, it always requires a bit of an explanation. (I can tell you - quite definitively - that very few people understand what “Endurance Coach” means when I answer the question, “What’s your job??”) So while the explanation isn’t a simple one-word answer, there is something that I ALWAYS include in that description:
I help athletes learn more about their sport, and therefore, about themselves.
Yes, at its core, being an endurance coach means that I am cultivating relationships and teaching. It’s absolutely why I love what I do so much, as it is what makes it so much fun.
I remember when I was new to endurance sports. I was fascinated by EVERYTHING about it. And my first coach - Karen Allen-Turner - taught me SO much about swimming, biking, and running. Some of what she taught me was absorbed faster than other things (it took me 4.5 years to get the memo on proper fueling and hydration), but she helped me learn too many things to count.
I also remember when I got my first Garmin and I was learning about it, how to interpret the data, and how to use all of the available features on the device. And then I remember learning what a pull buoy was and how to do drills effectively in the pool. I remember learning how to change a flat tire and how to climb hills with strength on the bike. I learned that it’s possible to go for a run after a bike ride and not feel like absolute garbage. I learned to take the time to do the little things, because the little things add up to be big things.
But while I learned all of these things (and more!!) over the years, one of the biggest lessons I learned was this:
I had to be open to and unafraid of learning. I had to get past the mental hurdle of “that feels too hard because I don’t understand it or know how to do it.” I had to be willing to invest the time into learning something new, and I had to be okay with absolutely sucking at something, to the point of doing it “wrong” until I could learn to do it “right.”
I laughingly tell the story of how I got into endurance sports in the first place: I wanted to look like the models in Self Magazine, so I joined Fleet Feet Syracuse’s 5K running program. Yes, seriously. That was my first “why.” And as an introvert (a bunch of you are sitting out there shaking your heads or having a laugh, but I truly am an introvert….I’ve just gotten very excellent at hiding it ;) ), it was really scary for me to go into something brand-new with people I hadn’t ever met before in my life to do something I had exactly zero proficiency at. I had to start, just where I was, as a beginner, and learn from there.
And so I did. That choice - to be unafraid of learning something new - changed my life. I learned the ins and outs of endurance sports, and then learned so much about myself as a result. I learned that dead freaking last in a race doesn’t translate to dead freaking last for myself. I learned that I was capable of doing things that appeared to be and were exceptionally hard. I learned that I could work steadily toward a big goal over a long time, navigate setbacks and disappointments, and still end up with a personal accomplishment that I was proud of.
And as I grew, as I learned, I realized that I wanted to help others experience what I had experienced. So, I became a coach.
Now, my job is exactly that - to help each person I come across in this endurance sports space to achieve their goals and their true potential. It’s my job (and my passion) to help them develop the tools in their “athlete’s toolbelt” that will help them achieve success - no matter what their own personal definition of success is. This means helping athletes learn about ALL things related to their sport of choice - everything from what shoes to wear, what bike might be best for them, what strength exercises will help their niggles go away, what technology might be useful in their training (and how to use it), how to develop a solid race plan, and more.
In the midst of what can feel like a very scary and uncertain time, we have all been given a gift, of sorts. We’ve been given a moment of forced pause and reflection. While some things might be more chaotic than normal (I’m looking at you out there new homeschooling parents, healthcare workers, and critical infrastructure employees!!), we have also been given space to expand our preconceived notions of “normal.” And as such, we have been given an opportunity to once again learn something new, especially about ourselves.
If you find yourself with a pocket of time in the coming weeks, I encourage you to sit down and learn something new. Maybe you’ve had a new Garmin device for a year and never learned how to use some of its features. Maybe you’ve never tried changing a tire on your bicycle. Maybe you have heard about the benefits of regular stretching, but never implemented it as part of your routine. The list could go on and on, but you get the point. Be courageous and do something that you haven’t had the time or mental bandwidth to do prior to this time period. Don’t be afraid of learning something new or the time it will take to take on that task. Know that you will come out on the other side wiser and stronger for doing this for YOU. :)
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.