As a coach, it is my responsibility to gather as much information about my runners as I can, craft a training plan for each athlete, adjust for training progressions, and finesse their efforts so as to help them reach their goals, but at a rate that doesn’t lead them into injury. That is much easier to describe than it is to execute, in part, because every runner has a complex array of forces acting with them and against them. For some, the stresses of work and poor sleep can affect training performance. For others it might be an unrecognized muscular imbalance. And the list continues, from different rates of recovery to varying mental states to worn out shoes, etc. All these factors can affect how one progresses and how each workout may feel, and sometimes it’s a lot of questioning and amateur detective work to determine what is working and what isn’t.

As a coach, I try to consider all the variables that affect each runner and adjust training to compensate for the various issues, which can mean cutting back mileage, changing workouts, altering paces, etc., but when it comes down to it, the runner always knows best. That is to say, even if an athlete hasn’t determined what exactly is causing them difficulty, they will always know how they feel before, during and after a run. It is that direct knowledge that will ultimately dictate how they need to execute a run, and it is important the coach is made aware of this feedback so as to maximize training progressions and avoid injury.

As a runner myself, I’ve made the mistake of overrunning when I’ve gambled against how I felt, coming off an extended period of non-running and then launching into a 10 miler without concern, only to be left hobbling the very next day. I should know better by now, and I do, but knowing and executing are two different actions.

The dynamic with individual athletes is contrasting what is on their training plan and how their body feels on the day. The runner feels compelled to complete what the coach has given, but their body may be telling them it isn’t the wisest decision. Of course, there is always a psychological barrier to overcome in training, where a runner doesn’t FEEL like running, but that might be more about motivation and not a physical concern. What we are talking about is comparing what is on one’s training calendar with a very real physical concern, such as excessively sore muscles, unexpected fatigue, or any number of other issues. It is these physical concerns that should be relayed to the coach, so more specific adjustments can be made.

A coach is a knowledgable guide in helping individual runners determine how best to reach their goals, but a training plan is never cut in stone, and must be continuously adjusted according to the physical state of each runner. A coach can guess how a runner might feel during each training period, but the runner is always going to know best how they feel day to day, and that will always determine the final workout for the day.

Scott Spitz

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