Training with a coach
Part 1: why not (?)

29 July 2021

Prologue to a series of posts about my training. Why I have never had a coach, and why I decided to change that.

It has been a year since I posted anything here, so it was about time to write about something. This topic was on my to-do list for a while now, but... life happens. Somewhat atypical of me, this will be rather short, just a warm-up for part 2, 3 ... and maybe 4.

The basic idea is to cover my "journey" about training with a coach, which I've been doing (more-or-less) for a while now. I thought, that this could be interesting for someone who also thinks about getting a bit more serious. Or not. In this post I try to summarize, why I never intended to do so before, and why I changed my mind last November. Here we go...

This is definitely not my cup of tea...

I have never ever had a doubt about whether it is good to have a coach or not. It is, 100%. Still, for years, I've avoided this, and these were my reasons / excuses / misconceptions in (a kind of) chronological order.

#1 Only professional athletes have/need coaches

For a long-long time, I had no idea that mortal beings like me can have personal trainers. In my mind that always coupled with professional athletes, olympic games, and whatnot. You have to be a part of an official club/association, which have these people around to give instructions.

#2 Ain't nobody got time money for that!

Ok, personal coaches are available, but this whole thing must be a rich people's game. Running is supposed to be one of the cheapest sports, why spend a lot on a non-essential thing?

#3 Running = reward and not assignment

When I go out running, my goal is to enjoy it, have a chat with friends, have an adventure exploring an unknown city, have fun, or just to relax. What definitely doesn't come to mind is having a task, following instructions, stressing about exercises. If I see a wild animal, a beautiful flower, nice scenery, I want to stop and take a photo of it. If I'm thirsty and find an open pub, I'm gonna have my beer. I have enough "duties" in my work, why bring all this to my hobby as well?

#4 I don't give a damn about improving

I know I have much more potential. I know I could run a 100 miler or a sub 3 hour marathon. I know if I want to do that, I have to train cleverly. I know that ad-hoc funrunning will not bring me there, my performance plateaued years ago. I know... but here is the thing: I don't care. I don't want to be better, faster, stronger. I'm happy with what I can do now. Again, I have to strive to be better in my job, why taint fun-hours with that?

#5 Friends/Fun over plans

My coach gives me a serious interval workout, but my beginner friend is hesitating to go out for a short run alone, which would barely bring my HR above 130 bpm? You bet I ditch the workout.

I'm instructed to have a rest day, but my friends invite me for an awesome trail funrun which happens to be 30+ km with plenty of ascent? Screw supercompensation, I'm in!

#6 Crazy race-calendar

Ok, let's plan the trip to my marathon in Lithuania. I have a 3 day layover in Eindhoven, cool, I've never been there, is there anything to do in those days? Oh, look, a marathon in Utrecht! Registration sent. Phew, I'm glad I don't have a boss coach, she would definitely not allow me to have a long race every weekend...

#7 I respect the coach

To get a bit serious again, I try to be a respectful and diligent padavan. Being an educator/lecturer/supervisor myself, I don't want my coach to feel like she is wasting her time because I'm not doing my part. It doesn't matter that I pay my fee anyway, it is still disrespectful. I know that situation from the other side of the table very well, and although I have never had a coach in running before, I was 23 when I enrolled to a music school, and had these thoughts sorted out then.

So, as long as I'm not taking things seriously and doing my part, I'll not sign up with a coach even if I were to win the lottery, no matter how much I like her ruffled hair.

Let's just do the opposite of what I said. #yolo or what, idk, I'm old

After all the counter arguments above, I may seem a bit hypocritical or dishonest, considering that I am actually following the training plan written by coach. Moreover, if you read further, it will may seem that I'm even propagating this. Let me make this absolutely clear: I have no intension to convince anybody to do the same in this post or the follow-ups. I'm just sharing my reasoning, which may resonate with you.

So what happened? After all this resistance, what is the secret reason for giving in? Drumroll... she is:

And they lived happily ever after. THE END.

Well, it is true, that my interest in proper training increased a lot, when Zsuzsi told me that she started working as a coach full time, but unfortunately this is not fairy tale, so reality is less enchanting. Anyhow, here we go:

Coaches became more and more available in recent years. There are professionals, who do consulting as a side-job, there are solo freelancers, and there are companies that specifically target this market. Even in a small country, like Hungary with less than 10 million people, the running market matured enough for this segment to be viable, not just organizing races or selling shoes. So I was obviously exposed to the fact, that not only professionals can have advisors. Issue #1 is no more.

There was a time, when I would not have been able to afford a coach. Luckily, prices went down thanks to technology and competition in the market. My financial status got a lot better, so it is not an issue anymore to pay $35 or so each month. Issue #2 is not a problem (at least for now).

What happened next? Oh, wait, I remember, a global pandemic did. It changed many-many things in our lives, but two things are relevant now:

  • Races got cancelled. This meant that for the foreseeable future, I will probably not have such crazy stuffed calendars. Issue #6 "solved".
  • Come togethers were prohibited / unadvised. So, no running with friends for a while either. Issue #5 puff!
These two together also meant, that I have no good reason (lazy excuse) not to take things seriously if I start training. Issue #7, which was the main blocking reason, simply gone.

So, strangely enough, in a ying-yang way of things, COVID brought me the best circumstances to try this thing out. I was always interested, curious, played with the idea, but the reasons above (and my laziness) always tilted the scale unequivocally in the favor of doing things as always. Even when Zsuzsi became a coach. Being absolutely direct, what I realized last year was this: Thanks to the pandemic, I can try this experience with minimal (additional) sacrifices in my life. I also have the money now, a friend as a coach, I'm curious how it will turn out, so why not?. I'll not have a better chance with a "lower cost of entry", now is the time.

So, last November, I contacted Zsuzsi at Plandurance and started training with her.

Hey, wait a minute, what about Issues #3 and #4?! Well, stay tuned for Part 2.