Coach Tip Tuesday: The Last Thing to Grow on a Fruit Tree is Fruit
What a wonderful day! It’s Coach Tip Tuesday!
As a coach, one of the things I’m constantly working on with athletes is how to manage expectations. As an athlete, one of the things that took the longest for me to learn was how to manage expectations. I certainly don’t know everything, but after more than ten years in endurance sports, I can say that I’ve learned how to manage expectations and how to help athletes manage theirs.
Way back when - before I understood how the human body works, before I had any self-awareness what-so-ever, when I didn’t listen to my coach, and when I desired to look like the models in SELF Magazine and thought that was an attainable goal - I didn’t think anything of signing up for a race because someone else was doing it too or without considering what it would take to get there. As a result, my first years in endurance sports were dotted with very high highs (i.e. when I finished my first half marathon) and very low lows (when I finished DFL in my age group and almost DFL in the entire race at my first 70.3-distance triathlon).
The cool thing about being human is that we can (if we’re mindful and if we choose to) learn from our experiences. We can build upon the layers that we lay down, and we can build the foundations and walls of our “training house” to be stronger than what existed before.
Once I got my butt handed to me (many times), I realized that I wasn’t going to “win” accidentally. I’m a very average person who does not have any level of genetic superiority when it comes to athletics. If I wanted to be the best I could be in endurance sports and reach some lofty goals, I was going to have to do it on purpose. And that meant that it was going to take time and patience to do the leg work (pun intended) to get there.
Right around 2013, I got my head put on straight. I realized that while shortcuts to goals DO exist, they come with incredibly high risks, and I wasn’t willing to take those risks anymore. I started listening to my coach more than the 50% of the time that I had been. Like anything in life, if you want to be successful at something, talk to and listen to people who have been successful. My coach had been successfully coaching endurance athletes for 20+ years at the time. I had not been. To think that I knew better than her was simultaneously naïve and arrogant. So, I started listening.
I started fueling my body better. I stopped eating ice cream by the half gallon-ful and transitioned to the diet/lifestyle I currently lead (which does still include sweets, just not in such vast quantities ;) ). I started really focusing on the objectives of my workouts and started doing the workouts as planned, not the workouts that I wanted to be doing.
And so, SEVEN seasons after I started in endurance sports, I had my strongest season ever. I reached all of my goals and set many personal best times. I recovered well from my races and was able to maintain consistent training without training-imposed injuries. But it took SEVEN seasons.
All of this taught me this: it takes time and patience to get where you really want to go. And so, now that I’m a coach, this is something that I constantly talk to athletes about. Like me, many athletes want the goals that they want NOW. It takes a lot of restraint to accept that it might take longer than we want to reach our full potential and to be smart about navigating the path to get there. I’m fortunate enough to have many athletes who I work with who have chosen to work with me for many years. By committing to sticking to a process for that long, they start to see their work pay off, and that’s ultimately what we both want - for them to reach their goals and be proud of their accomplishments.
So, if you’re frustrated that you’re not where your friends are or because you’ve sustained a minor setback, bear this in mind:
"If you feel like giving up because you are not seeing results, remember this: the last thing to grow on a fruit tree is the fruit."
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.