I wrote this article because I really want to coach people who are coachable. I am passionate about helping people become the very best they can be.
Lately I’ve been fielding questions questions about my coaching career, namely around if I’m still passionate about coaching. Throughout the years 2008 through to 2014, Aeromax – a group of professional and age group athletes – had what many would call a purple patch. Thus, when I shut down the local squad in 2014 many could not understand why I would take this action, when on paper it was so successful. So, to be clear after two years, I thought I would share why and give people a clearer picture of where Aeromax Coaching stands today.
During the time when Aeromax was thriving with pro athletes, on a personal level there was a constant thorn in my side. That thorn was the knowledge that what I was doing on a personal level was incomplete. In 2014 the thorn became a tree branch, and I knew intuitively that it was time for me to move on. In the following 14 months, I started Sportssupports, an idea that had been burning a hole in my brain for 4 years. As a coach, I knew that coaching was incomplete without a holistic approach. I also knew that I’d never be able to bring a holistic approach to a squad of pro athletes and a pumping business that had me working 7 days a week, unless I slowed it down and did some serious work.
Now, when asked if I’m as passionate as I used to be, the easy answer is NO, I am not. I am far more passionate, centred and grounded, minus the anxiety, and have far more clarity. In my own opinion, I am a far better coach than I have ever been before. This has come through setting myself some personal boundaries for coaching, the main premise being that I will treat each athlete like a whole human, minus any bullshit. I admit it is hard to sell pure honesty these days in a world where the quick buck is king. Sportssupports is not an instead of, as some people have come to view it. In my mind and heart it is the ultimate addition to my coaching career. An addition that some athletes will choose to combine with my coaching, and others will choose to complement their work with another coach. Both doors are open.
I have learnt far more about athletes studying ego psychology than I would have studying exercise physiology, because athletes are human beings, not human doings. For me personally, it has been the best education a coach could possibly have received, but it is confronting for athletes to accept that their success begins and ends with themselves.
With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my views gained during the journey of an athlete, 30 years of racing, coaching and education rolled into a page. Hopefully for the benefit of athletes interested in being the absolute best they can be.
Athletes in general are as polarised as any other sub group. We tend to follow the moves of those further up the ladder. We are impressed by information and glamour, and spend endless hours researching the opinions of others, seeking out more information because that must be how we achieve success.
So, here is a critical piece of advice. Seeking this endless information and profile, which in a nutshell is simply noise, will take us into reverse, and there we will stay until we move inwards and begin own our personal athletic journey.
While ever we defer our journey to someone else, we are stalled. Coaches, nutritionists and support is fantastic, but the second that we make someone else responsible for our journey, we are in reverse. Take note of this as it is key. It is probably my biggest learning as a coach. It can cost you valuable years, and ultimately we become aware of this fact in time, regardless. Accept it now if you are serious.
MOVE TOWARDS INJURY AND SICKNESS
If we are in resistance, we are stuck fast to the spot. I can’t tell you how many athletes I have seen stuck in injury and sickness because they will not accept it in themselves. The second you start accepting an injury as part of your reality, you begin the healing journey. I can’t emphasise this enough.
LISTEN, REALLY LISTEN
No one else on this planet is you, no one else can know your experience. Why do we find this so hard to accept? If I had one single piece of advice that I could share, this would be it.
Why? Simply because your development, your empowerment, and your direct learning experience all come from within, not without. No lesson will be learnt until you “feel it.” The quickest way for you to develop as an athlete is to listen to your own internal signals and to become intuitive with it. If you follow any program without your own intuition, you will end up broken. What works for one will not work for another. The 12 eggs against a wall idea is not coaching, that is a numbers game which brings success to one and disaster to 11. Yet time and time again athletes will subject themselves to the 12 eggs theory in the slim hope that they will be the one.
Take your own lickings, they are essential to your growth. You will learn far more by writing down what when wrong, than looking for answers in another training theory. Own the mistakes, see them as essential to your development, and for God’s sake learn because then you won’t repeat them. Once we go into projection over a bad race we lose the lesson, and start looking for answers outside of ourselves. We look at blogs and pro athlete training diaries that don’t want you to know that you are the key to your own door. There’s no money for others in you having your own answers.
The only state that wins in this seeking is confusion, a deeper and deeper state of confusion that will exhaust you and empty your pockets. This is where taking advice as gospel can lead you astray and here’s a personal example. For my third Kona I had trained incredibly well, and was in fantastic shape for the race. I took the advice of a very high-profile world champion athlete, who advised to load on magnesium pre race. At the time I had no idea how sensitive my body was to this sort of tampering. I cramped before the swim ended, and before 20 kms into the bike a medic pulled me from the course after taking my blood pressure, which was sky high. I learnt one almighty lesson, and copped the dressing down of the century from the head medic back in Kona. I sorely needed this dressing down, and was embarrassed but grateful. I realised right then and there that the only answers I could use were of my own experience, and that my experience was not that of the world champion. To try and emulate him was worse than stupidity, it was dangerous.
A group can be damaging to athletes. There can be a lot of ego surrounding a group, often with an undercurrent of seething passive darkness, that is hidden beneath a vail of fragile niceties. One can feel that dark energy, not exactly sure what they are feeling, other than to know it is present. I spent years on the coalface watching this in play. I have seen it in clubs, and I saw it daily in our group dynamic, and it can be damn uncomfortable. Why is this so?
You are their mirror and they are yours! What you dislike in them is also in you, what they dislike in you is also in them. The insecurities you feel in them are also felt in yourself. It is a fact and it’s a very uncomfortable fact. However, this knowledge can set you free of judging your training partners and group. At the core level we are all similar, and that knowledge can bring compassion. In a group setting compassion is a fantastic thing because it leads to support. Mutual respect and support is what makes a group successful, ego is not.
We can only learn from an internal focus loop. We must feel it though the body, not think it. It is essentially unthinkable. Form only comes through intuitive feeling. This also includes what I would refer to as intuitive nutrition. So many athletes I have witnessed follow a race day food plan into oblivion. You must research and trial what works for you on pure intuition, what is acceptable for my body may and probably is not acceptable in yours. This seems so obvious but is so often missed, and is such a critical learning. Again: listen, don’t just read.
Use some of the time spent reading and listening to the podcasts of others, to stop and listen to the signals of your own bodies direct experiences. They are the most powerful insights you can get. There’s no sales pitch and no bullshit in those personal insights. Why not start to plug into your own internal podcasts that are free and far more informative. The more you practise with these insights, the more clarity you will gain. This is no different to training the physical body for fitness.
This way, the information that you do read and listen to becomes food for thought and consideration, not gospel or confusion. You can then trial and use that information for personal growth, without the disappointment of believing in it and then having it not work out, because someone sold it to you. Just because you pay for a service does not mean it’s going to work. If you pin your hopes on that idea it’s just another form of outside projection.
START AGAIN AND AGAIN , OVER AND OVER AGAIN
This is very simple, with every session start again. Each time you finish a session, leave it there. By doing this you will have the mental energy to be completely present when you are physically in it. Advancements occur when you are fully present in the process. Think of it as a reset, the only time that ever matters is now. Don’t drag your training around in your head, it’s too heavy and completely unproductive.
Stay grounded and keep out of bullshit talk. Sharpen your race day intuition by staying quiet in the mind. You can’t bullshit yourself. If you talk bullshit to others, your inner being will know it as not true.
If you feel you are weak in an area, then harden up and accept it. Don’t turn away from it so you have a crutch to lean on. Move directly towards that weakness with as much self-acceptance as you can muster, and work with it. Moving towards your weakness is the only way forward. Otherwise you are stuck in the same weakness forever, it remains your crutch; your excuse; your get out of jail free card. Your inner being will know you are using it for a crutch, and even after your athletic career is over you will ruminate on it. Any professional or age grouper really looking for the zenith should really take note of this one.
Your pace, your way always! Be ruthless with this. Forget anyone else exists, they are not YOU. Don’t let someone else dictate your pace or your workout, or you may as well stay in front of the TV. When a coach sets a session, complete that session as closely as you possibly can do within your own space. Unless you do this, you will be short changing yourself and create doubt. The problem with doubt is, that it very quickly turns into fear and this fear strikes us moving into and on race day. Value yourself enough to trust in your own journey. Don’t get sidetracked by others.
WILL AND DESIRE
If you are doing athletic sport for a profile it will be or become hollow. It’s not strong enough motivation to keep you going. True motivation lies in desire and pure will; anything else is weak. Access it whenever you can, feel the will in your gut. This is true internal fire and a fire that does not go out.
What is the definition of coaching? To my mind it is teaching, if you can’t take the lesson and apply it to your own experience, then I have failed as a coach. The coach is there to hold up a mirror so you can see what you need to see but if you ignore that mirror and go looking for answers or options outside of yourself, in that moment development stops and confusion begins. I know that you understand what I am talking about. If our job is done correctly, and if the athlete desires, they should eventually be able to take the reins of their own preps .
I am still here, more passionate and motivated than ever before, and I hope you are too.