Coach Tip Tuesday: What You Can Do vs. What You Need to Do

Posted On:
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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And just like that, it’s time for Coach Tip Tuesday again!!

As many of you know, I coach a group strength training class for Fleet Feet Syracuse on Monday nights.  Last night, I was talking to a few of the athletes in the program about some trends I have observed as a coach, and it inspired this week’s Coach Tip Tuesday:

What you can do and what you need to do are two different things.

ALL of us, and I do mean ALL of us, have things in our wheelhouse that are our go-tos, our “easy” things, or the things that we prefer to do in training.  Sometimes, it just so happens that the “easy” things are also the things that we prefer to do.  (This is not always the case; I am personally an example of this as swimming is my best event in triathlon and it’s definitely my least favorite thing to do.)  If you’re a strong runner training for a running event, it might seem tempting to run all of your training runs hard.  If you’re a strong runner training for a triathlon, it might seem tempting to make a majority of your workouts runs and to keep the swimming and biking at a minimum.

Almost all of the athletes who I encounter are interested in sticking around in the endurance sports world for the long haul.  Sure, the shape of this world might shift over time (i.e. an athlete might focus on running for a few years, triathlon for a few years, and then endurance mountain biking for a few other years), but generally speaking, athletes want to be active in some way for the majority of their lives, and they would prefer to do so un-injured.  The secret to making this dream a reality is to recognize early that what you CAN do and what you NEED to do are actually two drastically different things.

Being a strong, healthy, well-rounded athlete means that you’re doing the things that aren’t as attractive to you.  Things like strength training, balanced training schedules (read: not overdoing any one thing), incorporating recovery modalities, taking time for recovery itself, and balanced nutrition are all examples of the things that I see athletes discarding in favor of the things they prefer/want to do.

This came up last night in the context of strength training for endurance athletes.  I have heard so many athletes tell me that they can’t come to the strength class I teach because they need to get their other training in, or because they need to get miles in.  I’ve also watched athletes not take time off when they should (either for physical or mental reasons, or both).  If I’ve learned one thing over the years it’s this: more is not better; better is better.  The things that we shy away from, find unattractive, or find difficult are generally the things that will help us the most and help us unlock our own potential.  Casting these things aside in favor of something that we prefer to do will keep us stuck in a rut where we are unable to make gains.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.  What you can do and what you need to do are two different things.  Realize and acknowledge this, and you will find the “secret” to tapping your untapped potential. :)


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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