Confessions of a First-time Coach

Today, I demonstrated some core exercises for my running group, and some of the group tried them along with me. I’ve been a little nervous about this presentation all week, for a number of reasons (aside from the typical mild stage fright).

I started focusing more on core strength and the way it affects my running during last season. As I did more research, the organizer of our group asked me if I’d share some of what I was learning with the group. I did a really basic seminar, giving some explanations from the research I’d done, then demonstrating four simple core exercises that were easy to modify for beginners or for more advanced individuals  One of our runners, who is much more solid than me (both in core strength and in running speed!) chimed in with some of her personal variations to make the exercises even more challenging, and the whole seminar seemed to go over really well.

As we were gearing up for the 2012 season, the group organizer asked if I would consider being the “Core Coach” for the season—helping maintain that focus on the core throughout the season, writing some articles and tips, sharing my research and helping people find answers to their questions. I said yes without any real hesitation – I knew that being responsible to the group would help motivate me and keep me more disciplined with my own workouts. I also knew that I would learn what it means to be a coach as I go – and I hoped that enthusiasm and diligence would make up for a general lack of experience.

However, not all things go as planned. After having a great winter of training, developing both my strength and speed, this year has included injury and a recurring mystery illness that has knocked me down a number of times (no, I will not be discussing details here, or in comments). I am definitely feeling the effects of all the doctor-mandated downtime; even when I’m not actively ill, I simply don’t feel as strong. I haven’t gained any weight, but I’ve lost speed and have definitely lost some of the definition I was just beginning to see, and my clothing fits differently than it did last year—my waistline has changed from the lack of hard-hitting core workouts. I’m struggling with motivation this year; it feels like every time I start seeing progress, I get knocked down again and have to rest and take it easy.

I have never been skinny, and never will be – it’s not even a goal. I don’t even want to be one of the super-cut people baring six-pack abs (at least in part because I will always be too modest to bare much of anything!)– I just want to be solid, and want that confidence in my body that I have been developing for the past couple of years. Right now, I feel like my body has become a somewhat untrustworthy partner, and I view it with some measure of suspicion and apprehension—what’s going to go wrong next?

I wanted to come into this core demonstration with strength and confidence, not worrying about how long I can hold plank in front of 50 people, or wondering if they’re all looking at my poochy midsection and mentally dismissing everything I say, since I certainly don’t look the part of a Core Coach.

I said to a friend on Friday, “I’ve got my information down. I have my outline. I think I’m just going to have to fake the “strength and confidence” part.”

Of course, one of the things I failed to plan for was the buoying effect of the group. One of the reasons I’m a part of this group for the third year in a row is the way the group comes together, supporting everyone’s efforts. It’s a very engaged group of people, quick to cheer each other’s accomplishments, share motivation and encourage others. Once you’re around them, you can’t help but feel a little more confident and ready to go.

Overall, I think the core demonstration went well. I ran through it twice, since some people had to leave early and couldn’t wait for those runners and walkers who were still out on the course. There was good participation, and some good questions and suggestions for challenges and variations.

I posted descriptions of the exercises I reviewed in a Google document, which you can check out here.

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