The session isn't important...
...it's you that matters!
As a coach and teacher I love questions, they're the fuel for learning, development and progression. When I'm in the classroom I know that if there are no questions then I need to modify my approach as engaged and interested learners ask questions. Exactly the same principle applied with my coaching, my athletes know I'm always asking questions and asking for questions.
As a coach a question I'm often asked is "what session should I be doing to..." and I think it often suggests that the athlete is seeing the jigsaw pieces, not the picture. The irony is that I like answering the question, it's interesting, it's easy to engage with the person that asked, there's lots of variables to consider and, most of the time, everyone walks away from the question happy. But the problem is I think I'd be doing a better job as a coach/mentor by responding with a different question. Back in school I studied psychology and the Stimulus-Organism-Response model as a framework through which it was possible to understand how a specific stimulus (shouting for example) can elicit a range of responses from people nearby (fear, surprise, aggression, anger) because the response depended on how the organism (person) processed the stimulus. The way the person responded depends on a such a wide range of variables that not just would different people respond in different ways but the same person would respond in different ways if the experiment was reproduced.
The same model can be a helpful way to look at developing and executing a training plan. The stimulus (the training session) can have a variety or responses ranging from the hoped for positive adaptation to a negative response of illness, injury or deep fatigue. While prescribing the right type of session is important what matters just as much is the organism that receives the stress, the athlete that does the session. How are they feeling? What is their fatigue level? Have they just argued with their child, boss or partner? Ultimately, are they ready and able to move forward physically and mentally?
I'd argue that putting the organism at the centre of the plan is crucial to being a successful athlete and to being a successful coach. It's why one of the core values at Real Endurance Coaching is 'athlete-centred coaching'.
So, what's the point? I'd argue that most athletes need to be more deeply aware of the importance of themselves in the process, not just what sessions they think are needed to improve their threshold or reduce their CSS, but instead what are the things that make them different from their friends or competitors. Step back from the training other people are doing, and even the training on your plan, and ask 'what will make me better today''?
I'll be talking more on this idea at a free symposium on Wednesday the 9th of Jan, 2019 in Hereford, UK. If you're interested you can register for free here.