Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Couch-To-5K-And-Infinity-And-Beyond

Today and last Tuesday marked the first two weeks of a short, but exciting, coaching job for me.  I am leading a Couch-to-5K training group for the Austin office of a nation-wide, Fortune 500 company.

This company (which I am contractually not allowed to name until after the program ends...ooohhh, suspense and mystery) provides undeniably awesome fitness benefits and opportunities for its employees around the country, year-round.  Benefits include discounted entries to races of many distances, free training plans, group training sessions, a proprietary website with an internal forum for spreading motivation, experiences, and advice, and not least, the freedom and flexibility to incorporate all of this into their daily work schedule.  The Couch-to-5K program is just one side dish in the buffet, so to speak.  It almost makes me want to go back to working in an office!  Wait...
 
The Couch-to-5K program understandably targets walkers and newer runners, and includes weekly training sessions to provide guidance and motivation for these athletes.  My main part in all of this is to lead these group sessions.  However, due to the focus on new(-er)(-ish) athletes, I am also sounding board, question answerer, workout writer, stopwatch watcher, photograph taker (which I am contractually required to take, but also contractually not allowed to use on this blog) and cheerleader.  We (me and the "Fitness Advisers" in the other cities with Couch-to-5K groups) also lurk on the website and answer questions, provide encouragement, and generally raise morale.  IT IS SO FUN!

I have said somewhat directly on here before that I enjoy working with relative rookies because they bring fresh perspective, nerves, and enthusiasm to the routines of my own days and ways.  Hence, why I jumped at the chance to work with this group of Couch-to-5K-ers.  They remind me that there isn't a bigger picture until we draw one - and that it can be walk in the sun with friends to burn off dessert.

My goal is to give these athletes the tools to keep the fitness ball rolling, long after they leave me (or their current employer), and I structure our sessions to that end.

Names and Goals I want to learn (and know) everyone's names, and I want to know everyone's two goals - for this specific session and for the final race (on May 4).  I also want everyone else to know their fellow athletes' goals because sometimes peer pressure can be a positive thing.  The more they vocalize and share their goal, the more people there are who know they have it, and the more people there are who can help them achieve it.  Examples from today include "not have my shin splints act up during this workout" and "run/walk the whole race without feeling like I am going to die at the end."

Topic O' The Day I give a short (5-10 min) little talk on a topic that I consider a tool for long-term enjoyment of walking/running/exercise/sport.  The first one was the why, what, and hows of warm-up and cool-down.  To come are running form and drills, core strength, recovery considerations and techniques, and mental skills and tools.  Each week's topic has a component that is directly insertable into that week's training session, and will remain as part of the routine for subsequent training sessions.  For example, starting the week of the talk about running form, we will include a short drills and strides section after the workout (see below).

Workout It was no surprise that the group includes a wide variety of abilities and fitness levels.  Some run 3-5 days a week, some have never run.  So I construct workouts for each type.  For example, this week we had a increasingly serious runner who has lost 100 lbs(!) by running and using the elliptical, but he had never done intervals.  So I gave him a workout with beginner intervals just to get him thinking about changing pace on purpose, occasionally.  He had a great time!

The Extended Cool-down This last part will expand as I introduce activities to expand it: strides and drills, a mini core-workout, and bringing my The Stick, foam roller, and tennis balls so people can experiment with recovery tools.     

It's a lot for the time we have together.  In my dreams everyone knows exactly what comes next and can flow right into the strides, core, and recovery etc. as soon as they return from their workout.  However, with only 7 more weeks until the race signals the end to the program, I understand that most of those dreams with remain solidly right where they are - in my dreams.

But - using the words my contract does allow me to still use, but never pictures, no, never pictures - I will keep blogging about my little group's progress toward the 5K and beyond.

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