Posted On:
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: The Space Between

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A view of two pairs of feet as seen through the space between stairs on a staircase. We can see part of these people that are beyond the stairs, but not all of them. This is very similar to how many athletes feel in the “in between” phase of training from their base phases and before their main build phases of training - often at the end of winter and before the spring/summer seasons. They can see a bit of where they are, but it is hard for them to see the entire “picture.”

Another Tuesday, another Coach Tip!

This week’s theme pays homage to one of my favorite musical artists: The Dave Matthews Band.  Get excited - we’re going to talk about The Space Between.  

While this tip references the song (which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorites) by The Dave Matthews Band , The Space Between that I’m talking about this week is the space in between training cycles.  Even more specifically, I’m talking about the space between Base Training and Build/Peak Phases, which, for many athletes around the world, lines up temporally with the end of winter and the beginning of spring/summer.

Every week, I ask each and every athlete who is on Performance Coaching with me if they would like to schedule a call with me to talk about their training, their lives, their racing - really, whatever they want to talk about. Some athletes take me up on this, but many of them don’t. And that’s okay! The point of my offer is to gently remind them that I am here if they want/need me. That being said, after so many years of coaching full-time, I’ve observed an interesting trend: I see a significant increase in requests for calls in the final week of February and the first week of March.

Why the sudden increase in call request volume?  Why do I hear from athletes during this time period who literally never, ever want to talk on the phone at any other time of the year?  It’s quite simple really: at this point in the Northern Hemisphere (which is where more than 95% of my athletes live), this is the transition point between seasons.  It’s deep enough in the winter season that they’ve been training indoors a lot for many months, and it’s still far enough from spring/summer that they have a decent amount of time left indoors before they can go outdoors.

What does this timing have to do with anything?  Well, when training indoors, it can be very challenging (if not impossible) for athletes to gauge “where” they are in their training.  In my role as their coach, my job is to pour over and analyze their data (both “real” data and subjective data).  As such, it’s easy (relatively speaking) for me to gauge where they are relative to the progress that they should be making to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.  I know exactly where they are all the time.

But this isn’t the full-time job of the athletes who I coach.  And they haven’t observed the trends that can be seen by someone whose job it IS to analyze the data of many unique and individual athletes all year long.  So when athletes are indoors literally pedaling to nowhere, indoors running like a hamster on a wheel to nowhere, and swimming like a ping pong ball between two walls 25 meters apart, it sure can be hard for them to understand how that translates to the specificity of what they will be called to do in a racing scenario later in the year.  

And so, each year, most athletes (if not all) reach The Space Between.  They come up to this time period, and self-doubt starts to creep in.  They wonder if they are working “hard enough.”  They wonder if they are “doing enough.”  They wonder if they are where they “should be.”  They wonder if they are on the right path to achieve the goals that they hold nearest and dearest to them.

As I’ve talked about in the past, almost every athlete I’ve ever worked with knows how to work hard. They actually thrive on doing hard work; it’s what makes endurance sports attractive to them. As a result, it’s “easy” for them to fall into this place of wondering if they are not working hard enough.

So every year, athletes reach out to me for this reassurance that they are on track.  To check-in and see what tweaks need to be made.  And 90% of the time, I am able to tell them that they are EXACTLY on track and that the work they are putting in now is precisely what they need to be doing and that staying the course will serve them well down the road.

That delayed gratification of waiting out the end of the winter season is very hard, but this check-in with me (and my honest feedback) usually seems to help bridge The Space Between for the athletes I work with.

So this week, I want to encourage all of you out there who may be feeling unsure or lost right now: You are not alone.  It might be immensely helpful for you to check-in with an accountability buddy or your coach if you work with one.  Connections like this with our trusted guides/friends can be immensely comforting and reassuring when thoughts are swirling like a tumultuous soup in our brains.

The Space Between is very real, and it comes each year, at least once a year. But trust yourselves and know that each workout you complete and each step you take is leading you to where you want to go. :)

About

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 laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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