Coaching the Coach

I have received intermittent coaching throughout my athletic life, mainly as a kid at harriers. I coached myself into cycling and used various resources, such as British Cycling, UK athletics, or Jack Daniels, to create my program. I usually tried out different theories on myself. Some worked, some did not (seeing if the reverse 80/20 principle is effective did not). Having developed myself as a coach in Dubai, it was time for me to take on a coach. In this article, I want to speak candidly about being coached as a coach and how this has made me contemplate thoughts that I have had about my coaching style. 

** Update: So far, I love it. I now understand what people mean by ‘everyone needs a coach for anything they want to do well’ ** 

Why didn’t I get a coach earlier? I don’t know to be honest. I’ve always known that I’m good at following instructions, and the structure allows my mind to be more focused and creative in sport and life. I suppose I didn’t know what I wanted, especially in Dubai, and up until this point in my life, I’ve been pretty good at getting the best out of myself, by myself. The other aspect was that financially it wasn’t high on my list. Creating a business and reputation was. 

In one of our 1-1 meetings, Tom Walker said, “You need a coach; get a coach.” I didn’t act on it straight away, and I probably spent about five months pondering. I reached out to a couple of coaches and chatted away about the goals. The exciting thing, I now realise, was that I started to see similar processes to some of my current athletes. When there isn’t a ‘why’ that drives you, pinpointing your ambition is far more difficult. What about just getting fitter? Yeah, sure, but how will that motivate you when you’re a bit tired or having a bad day. Having a goal gives you that vision of what it will look like and why you are where you are now? 

After much musing, five months worth, I found my ‘why.’ It probably didn’t really take me five months of musing, but I found myself in a position of clarity, and the goals became clear. I’d forgotten and downplayed my drive to win competitions during my travels. Now I’m ready to be the best I can possibly be.

My goals? I want to be 310 watts on the bike at 58.5kg and 32 minutes over 10km running. There you go, now the rest is easy. Rob Jones (tanned Rob) put me in touch with his coach, we had a chat, and he was straight up with no BS. Then we began. The key message, it all starts with you and what you want to do. 

What I’ve learned

The plandon’t overthink, do. 
“It’s a beautiful formula,” he says (in a franglish way). He says, I do. Simple. I haven’t tried to change anything or think about what he is doing. I am simply an athlete, who has a job, a wife, currently two dogs, and a social life. When I take a step back and look at it, I’m the same type of person as those I coach. This has reminded me, coaching is an art, but on paper, it looks simple. The plan is the application of good science. It doesn’t have to be outrageously complex. It’s the other hats you wear that make a huge difference as a coach.

The feedbacknot a babysitter 
I think I’ve sent two texts about training. The rest is done via TP, and to be honest, it isn’t that extensive. It suits my feedback needs: ‘good/could be better/sort your shit out.’ 

But it made me think, how am I giving feedback to my athletes? Each person is different, so I tailor it to make it the most valuable for my athletes. The answer to this is that everybody is different and what they value depends on their personality. I tailor my coaching feedback to suit the needs of each athlete to best serve them in the way they need. 

The logisticshells whiskers there’s a lot to do 
The actual realisation of “Oh s**t, I’ve got to do all this, where am I going to fit it in?” For me, it’s pretty easy. My office is a laptop, Smith Street, Al Qudra, or various running destinations, so adapting my work/life/training balance is relatively uncomplicated. I block it out in my diary, and there you go, done. The rest and recovery on my side take more thought and planning. Again it resonated with me that my athletes aren’t so lucky. Covid-19 gave us an unprecedented amount of control over our time. Still, now the world is easing back into office life, and I now have a greater appreciation of the amount of stress fitting in a 30 minute Run Strong, for example, can cause. Honestly, my appreciation for the dedication of my athletes to their goals makes me so happy. I also think that a coach can help map out how to balance life and adapt to last-minute changes. At Innerfight Endurance, I believe we are this kind of extra mile coaches.

The what-ifs, you signed up to this, you own it.
Everyone has their own goals, but niggling doubts are bound to creep in. “What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail?” I have these thoughts as well. I always have. I don’t think you’re human if you don’t. It’s how you deal with them that makes the difference. I find myself falling back to the process, one session, one day, or one week at a time. To think beyond this is writing a future that is not set. I trust the process. Therefore I commit to it. Success is in the doing. 

So what have I learned? Coach or not, we’re all the same. We all go through the same shit. Strip it back, and we’re just humans trying to get better at life. Having a coach is bringing me one step closer to achieving this. Simple.

Connect with Rob Foster:
Instagram: re_foster
Email: rf@innerfight.com