Coach Tip Tuesday: Coach Tip Tuesday Turns THREE!!
Photo Description: A photo of a Garmin Forerunner 920XT GPS watch with a run summary that shows a run that was finished at 7.91 total miles.
For the 156th time in a row, it is Coach Tip Tuesday!! Yep, that’s right folks; this week marks the THIRD anniversary of Coach Tip Tuesday!!
Many of you might remember that Coach Tip Tuesday was born in 2017 out of my sadness over the sudden death of my friend and mentor, Coach Brendan Jackson. The very first Coach Tip Tuesday I ever wrote was a post in tribute to him, sharing one of his many coaching philosophies (which we affectionately called “Brendan-isms”). Now, each year on the anniversary of Coach Tip Tuesday’s inception, I share a different Brendan-ism to honor his memory and all of the wonderful things he taught me.
This year, I want to share his view on something that I KNOW many of you out there think about: exact distance numbers on your GPS devices during workouts.
So, please raise your hand if you are this person: you get to the end of your planned workout or planned route for your workout, see that your watch says “4.87” for distance, and then decide that you HAVE to keep going until your watch says at least 5.00 miles?? Have you run back and forth in front of your house to get that distance?? Have you run extra laps around the parking lot where your car is??
This is something that Brendan had a VERY set opinion about. He felt very strongly that aiming for exact distances in training like that was not a best practice of training, and anyone who ever worked with him or coached with him definitely heard that from him. Many, many folks didn’t understand why he felt this way until he asked the following question:
“If you were running a marathon, and your Garmin said 25.8 miles when you crossed the finish line, would you keep running past the finish line until your Garmin said 26.2 miles, or would you finish right there and declare the race to be over since you had run the course and crossed the finish line prescribed by the race??”
He knew that the answer for 95% of you out there is this: You would not run the extra distance past a finish line just to make your GPS device file “perfect.” And so, he encouraged the athletes he coached to practice like they were going to play: without giving a darn if the workout wasn’t *exactly* a particular distance.
This comes up a lot for me and the athletes I coach since I do coach on duration more often than I write workouts based on distance. I choose to do this for a lot of reasons (the top reasons are 1) It’s a much more controlled, safe way to build volume since one minute is always one minute, but the length of time it takes to travel a mile can vary DRASTICALLY and 2) It’s much easier for busy people to plan for duration due to the aforementioned reasons in #1)), but one of the big reasons is a mental skills training reason: I want to help people “let go” of that notion that only mileage or exact metrics like that matter.
Brendan believed in all of this so much that he would deliberately write durations and distances into his plans that, by most peoples’ accounts, seemed bizarre: 27-minute swims, 5.28-mile runs, and 56-minute bike rides. While I haven’t taken that approach in my coaching work, I do understand what he was seeking to accomplish and I do employ this philosophy in my own way: to show people that the numbers associated with training are one piece of the puzzle, but that they are just that: ONE piece. Not the ENTIRE puzzle.
I’ve said it before (and so did Brendan :) ): GPS devices and technology in sport are so wonderful in so many ways. But even for all of the wonderful things they can bring into sport, they can be VERY big limiters in many ways if they start to overpower the essence of what training and racing truly is: pushing one’s limits, aiming for goals, and training the body. The body gets trained if you go for a swim, bike, or run, regardless of whether or not you have a GPS watch on your wrist.
The next time you are out for a ride, run, swim, or activity of choice, know this: it is VERY OKAY if you don’t hit an exact distance or a very precise time in your training. The main thing is that you went out there and got the workout in. At the end of the day, your body doesn’t know if you went exactly 5.00 miles or 4.87 miles. It DOES know what effort you put forth, and it builds on that. Training the mind to “let go” is a great skill that not only builds mental strength, but also translates to effective racing, where the metrics of the race are out of your control. As I often say, doing the tough thing is often not what we think of as “tough;” it’s very often the thing that is mentally hard for us to do or that we don’t want to do. So, embrace the mentally tough part of letting go of having to hit “perfect” distances in training and do the thing you don’t want to do. It’s wonderful and liberating, I promise!! Who knows?? You might even learn to love it. :)