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Hey hey!! It’s Coach Tip Tuesday!!
This week’s tip is something I’ve written articles on in the past, but it’s a good one to go over at this point in the season when so many people are training for goal races.
Here it is: the only training you should be worrying about is your own.
Read it again: the only training you should be worrying about is your own.
I have seen this time and time and time again over the years. Athletes train for races, and perhaps even sign up for the same races as their friends. And then, along the way, they pay a lot (and I mean A LOT) of attention to what other people are doing in their training. Then, they make assumptions based on what they perceive about other people’s training, and those assumptions usually are not productive or beneficial for that athlete. Instead, they feel poorly about themselves or their own training, and this negatively impacts what they *are* doing for themselves.
Social media (especially fitness social media such as Strava or Garmin Connect), a constant stream of bombarding notifications via every electronic device possible (i.e. phones, smartwatches, etc.), and an increasingly connected digital world has made it really, really “easy” to mind anyone’s business but your own.
I always challenge the athletes who I work with to focus exclusively on themselves and not pay attention to what others are doing, even if those other athletes are doing the same exact event as them. For the record, I do think that there are beneficial uses for fitness social media (such as using routes that others ride or run for your own or genuinely offering positive encouragement to others). However, I’ve found that race-specific social media groups tend to create a lot of “mass anxiety,” which is where one person’s anxiety about a particular thing (water temperature tends to be a big culprit here) becomes anxiety that other athletes take on their own. This often happens about things that the athlete wasn’t even concerned or anxious about in the first place, so it’s extremely, extremely counterproductive. Additionally, I’ve seen platforms like Strava be used as comparison games, where people analyze the stats of another athlete and compare them to themselves. If someone is training faster than them, more than them, or they perceive the athlete to be doing “better” than them, this often results in a lot of negative self-talk.
The majority of athletes out there are just like you and me: people who manage full-time jobs, families, and lives while including sport in the mix. These are not people who have a ton of spare time. I always want athletes to be investing their time and their energy into the things that are going to be the most productive and generate the highest probability of success. Looking at someone else’s highlight reel or analyzing results from another athlete without having a complete understanding of it is *not* productive or the best use of an athlete’s precious disposable time.
In an ideal world, athletes would only use a training log that they and/or their coach can see (Final Surge is an excellent option for this and is FREE for athletes). Training logs are WONDERFUL and I do believe in recording information, data, and making notes about each workout. If an athlete won’t limit their digital mediums to just an online training account that is visible to just them, then at a bare minimum, I recommend that athletes set their Strava accounts to private and either refuse all friend requests or severely limit who they are linked to. I also recommend that athletes cease participating in and engagement with all race-related social media groups in the final four weeks before a race (the time period when mass anxiety really does get to an all-time high.
As someone who constantly pays attention (very close attention, for that matter) to other people’s training, this might sound hypocritical to be dishing out advise that none of you do what I do on a daily basis. But, there is a difference. It is my full-time job to look at athlete data, analyze it, and help athletes reach their best. I honestly think that one of the reasons I’m extremely effective at my job is because I have the ability to look at other people’s data and not instantly compare it to my own. I give it a very unbiased look, and that is what is best for the athletes who I work with. I coach many, many athletes who are stronger and faster than me. And guess what?? I am OVERJOYED that they are, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me feel worse about my own athletic abilities. In fact, I would propose the viewpoint that that makes me exactly the right personality to be a coach, as my personal ego doesn’t get in the way of me helping athletes reach their very best, even if it means that they become “better” than me. I want them to be THEIR best - no matter what. And while there certainly are others out there like me (and several of them are coaches), the vast majority of athletes do, in my experience, let comparison be the thief of joy.
So, my friends. The only training you should be worrying about is your own. Limit your exposure to other people’s data, posts, and information, especially if you find that it is making you feel less-than-stellar about the work you are doing for yourself. Focus on YOU - the only thing you actually have control of anyway - and that complete focus and intentionality will lead you to great things. You win at the things you focus on, and I want you to win. Focus on YOU!!