Coach Tip Tuesday: Put on Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

Posted On:
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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The interior cabin of an aircraft.  The passengers are blurred and the camera is looking down the center aisle toward a flight attendant.

Another seven revolutions of the planet, and here we are on another Coach Tip Tuesday!

As many of you probably know, I spend a fair amount of time on airplanes.  It’s gotten to the point that I can recite the language that airline personnel use when making announcements in the boarding area, as the plane is taxiing, and as we are getting ready to arrive.  (Side story: This past weekend I was seated in an exit row for two of my flights, and you are required to verbally acknowledge that you are seated in that row as you scan your boarding pass.  At this point, I just tell the boarding agent “I am willing and able to help the crew in the event of an emergency” before I scan mine so that they don’t have to bother asking me, and they “dinged” me because I had one word wrong - I should have said “assist,” not “help” per the verbiage that they use.)  

Anyway, my flights over the last few weeks got me to thinking.  Most of us who have ever flown on an airplane probably know that we are instructed to don our own oxygen masks before assisting others in the event that the masks drop due to a decrease in cabin pressure.  This idea ensuring your own wellbeing is the crux of self-care; it is a crucial thing to do if you are going to help others.  It is so vitally important that it is discussed as it pertains to potentially life-threatening situations (such as this one - the loss of cabin pressure on an aircraft).

I talk about self-care A LOT with the athletes who I work with.  It’s a huge component of endurance training, and honestly, it’s one that is easily overlooked if we are not careful.  Athletes are usually very driven people, who always want to do more.  Sometimes this “more” comes at the sacrifice of other things in their lives - sleep, time with friends or loved ones, etc.  For busy age-group athletes who manage more pieces of their lives than just being an athlete, it can feel “selfish” to dedicate a piece of every day to do a workout or something that contributes to the athlete’s overall goals of health and wellness.  I’ve worked with so many athletes who feel guilty that a workout takes them away from their families.  I’ve also worked with athletes who feel that work is always a higher priority than workouts are.

While there are certainly times in every athlete’s life when family, work, or other priorities will take precedence over workouts or training, the reality is this, my friends: You cannot and will not be your best self in work, your family, or your personal life if you are not taking care of you first.  The same principle that we are taught on airplanes applies to our daily lives.  We must take care of ourselves before assisting others if we are going to be the best we can be at assisting others and filling those other important roles in our lives.

So this week’s Coach Tip is this: Realize that it is okay (VERY okay) for you to carve time each day for you. It doesn’t have to be a TON of time, but even 15-30 minutes per day of doing something that brings you joy can go a LONG way. As we head into the holiday season, it’s going to be VERY tempting to skip this important self-care opportunity in favor of other activities that are a “better use of time” or are “more productive.” It is VERY productive and a VERY effective use of time to take care of yourself. You will be a better spouse, parent, colleague, friend, etc. if you take care of you. Even if you don’t get in the “full” workout, doing something is very often better than doing nothing.

So, rather than feeling guilty about workouts or listing them as the first thing to go as you embark on this busy season, I encourage you to prioritize them (and therefore prioritize YOURSELVES). You are WORTH IT, my friends. :)


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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