So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gurus, Gimmicks, Or Good Ol' One-Foot-In-Front-Of-The-Other Running

Someone asked on the local running club bulletin board the other day if there were any coaches in the area who worked within a particular running program, because his (insert program name here) running needed work. Well, I knew what the program name had to do with outside the realm of running, but little I did what any curious coach-type would do...a brief search on the internet. It did not surprise me much the program had a website, a book, & a couple of DVDs to offer the masses.
I'd be a bald-faced liar if I said I wouldn't do the same thing - market what (little) I've learned by selling a couple of training e-manuals, how-to e-guides, leading weekend web-based seminars, pay-for-video feeds, & so on (electronic coaching is much less expensive than postage & handling, right?). If you do it right you make a couple of bucks & ride the gravy train for as long as possible. When the train barely makes the last stop because you've run out of "coal," however, it's time to write a new(er) manual & re-market yourself. I looked briefly at the program's focus, it's underlying philosophy, & then saw the opportunity to become a program-certified coach posted on the front of the website. In many cases - this comes from the mouth of a person with a coaching certification - 85 cents & a coaching certificate will get you a cup of coffee at Denny's, if you can get the waitresses attention.

A great deal of what coaches learn which are of genuine value does not come as the result of a two-day or three-day sit-down or semi-hands-on seminar. It comes from a lot of trial and error. Even certified coaches can have a case of the stoopid, especially when it comes to their own training. Coaching doesn't occur in a vacuum, it includes observing how well or poorly an athlete reacts to a training plan, from asking questions of other coaches, & from doing a little bit of solitary research.
If you take the time to purchase the manuals from program coaches, make certain your b.s. detector is turned on. An essay by Steve Myrland, posted on, titled Guru-ism and the Decline of Coaching, speaks volumes on this argument. Just because the manual was published doesn't mean the publishing company has a clue about exercise science, coaching, or what is going to make you a better athlete. It means someone at the publishing company thought, 'gee, we haven't put out a (insert sport here) training book in (insert time frame here).' Obviously, something different about the book (mental aspect, democratizing aspect, financial aspect, & so on) caught their attention.

Frankly, I have seen few books which were heavier on science/research than they were on fluff, because most athletes don't want to purchase a 700-page tome like Lore of Running, which includes training plans & the physiological research supporting them. At least one of the plans Timothy Noakes outlines within the book has developed an entire cult of personality behind it, & somehow manages to dodge one of the great little unspoken secrets (according to a coaching friend of mine); the number who injure themselves as a result of using the plan. It's not because the plan is bad, mind you, nor the personality behind it. It has more to do with a simple violation of the basic rules of exercise physiology:
Induce stress as tolerated, then rest/recover.
Increase stress in very small increments over time.
Repeat until desired outcome is achieved.

But, nobody questions the message, or the messenger. Nobody asks where the messenger learned the message they proclaim, nor do they realize things do change over time. In essence, there will be a second, third, or fourth (perhaps later!) edition of the "flavor of the week." There's the joy of being a 'good ol', one-foot-in-front-of-the-other' on the one hand, & 'keeping an eye on the latest & greatest' on the other hand kind of person. Borrow from the smart persons, because they tend to borrow from the smart persons around them, rather than state their revelation came ex nihilo (just suddenly came to them!).

So, thanks, Bob, Dale, Jack, Jerry, Mihaly, Tim, Pat...I'm glad you guys are smart.

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