Friday, March 07, 2008

Building a pyramid

It's week 5 of the season, and everyone is looking absolutely amazing.

Last night at track, we did a pyramid workout. This is a great component to add the build phase of a running program, and very valuable for beginners just learning the pacing associated with different rates of exertion.

This week I was paired up with Barney and we were responsible for coaching the Age group. A little background: our team has about 100 people on it, of very different fitness levels. For each sport, we encourage them to seed themselves into different groups based on their ability--beginner, intermediate, advanced and/or slow, medium, and fast. There are three racing divisions in the sport of triathlon: Age (where the masses are sorted by their age), Elite (super-fast amateurs with day jobs AND sponsors), and Pro (triathlon IS their day job). Hence, our three groupings are Age, Elite, and Pro.

Anyway, our Agers did a 200/400/600/400/200 pyramid, with the expectation that they would be running harder (read: more out of breath) as the pyramid progressed.

I have not worked much with the Agers on the track. It takes patience, because coaching Age groupers means spending a lot of time explaining, encouraging, reassuring, and reiterating. In short, it takes more, well, coaching. This is a challenge for me at times, because I work with individual clients all day long who require a lot of teaching and cueing, because it's what they pay me for. I love coaching the Pros because they know what they're doing; I can rattle off the workout, recoveries, and intensity--and they get it the first time. They know the terminology. They keep track of their own splits; I just have to call them out. Once they're off on a set I can just sit back and watch what the human body can do, which I love.

Coaching Agers, though, is rewarding in so many different ways. Often Agers didn't even know that they could run around the track once, much less that they could make a mile without stopping. Agers ask me the best, most probing questions about my training knowledge. Agers make me a better coach, and by trying my patience, a better person.

Becoming a better athlete is like building a pyramid. You have to have all the basic elements, a base, in place--tissue and joint integrity, and aerobic foundation, decent strength, and decisiveness before you can see steady improvement.

Becoming a better coach is the same. I need to be reminded occasionally of what it was like just starting out. I have to prove myself, TO myself, over and over again.

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