Last Updated on March 31, 2018 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
When I decided a few weeks ago that I was ready to start running again, I simultaneously decided to hand over full control of my training (and all of the planning and stressing that goes with it) to someone else.
But not just anyone.
I’ve trained as an athlete under running coaches in the past, and both times, it didn’t quite work out for me. Not at any fault of the coach mind you (“It’s not you, it’s me” said in my best George Costanza voice). The added stress of having to check in with someone daily brought out the “people pleaser” side of me that, while seemingly a positive characteristic trait, is actually a flaw that causes me a ridiculous amount of unnecessary anxiety. The self-imposed stress that would accompany a missed or not-quite-as-prescribed workout was out of this world, and both times ended up ruining my love for running. The irony is not lost on me that I am a running coach myself, and I expect my athletes to check in with me on a regular basis, and at least attempt to do what I ask of them.
Yet still, when I realized what a huge toll my running was taking on me, I decided that I had to find a way to temporarily let go of the logistics while still being able to hold myself accountable to my training.
So I hired my husband.
Geoff is also an RRCA certified running coach, and has been an endurance athlete *almost* longer than I’ve been alive. He’s also a long time personal trainer, and while my credentials and education look much better on paper, his knowledge and experience far outweighs mine. And while we may bicker about training methods and techniques, at the end of the day I trust him.
The pros of being coached by your spouse include the fact that they know your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and can push you out of your comfort zone on a much more visceral level. There is an unspoken level of trust as well as understanding.
The cons of being coached by your spouse include the fact that you can’t ever weasel your way out of a workout. Add in the fact that your coach who happens to be your spouse is also your running partner? Now you’re definitely not getting out of the hard stuff.
And so, that is how my last few weeks have been going. Coach husband and I have an understanding that he will stop and take instagram photos for me during recovery runs, if I’ll shut up and put the hammer down during the prescribed hard stuff.
Today, Coach Husband prescribed a 14 mile long run with a 3 mile surge towards the end. Originally the workout was prescribed by pace as a road workout. Because I am the customer after all, I told him I really didn’t want to run on the pavement, and insisted on hitting something softer. Besides, we had recently been introduced to a hidden gem (gem if you like flat, monotonous, Hell Hole Hundred type of dirt road) where we can put in dozens upon dozens of practically undisturbed, dirt miles. He conceded (it truly wasn’t a hard sell), said we could train by HR zone instead (efforts are harder on sand) and we headed out for our run.
The first 8 miles were lovely, though certainly not easy. I am fatigued from the very first step. The nature of my job means that sometimes I end up doing more physical activity than my training plan would normally call for. In this case, I ended up last minute subbing for three back to back group exercise classes (HIIT plyometrics, spin, and step) on Friday morning, which is normally my rest day. My legs are tired. But my heart rate remains where it should, showing that the effort I’m feeling is simply fatigued legs, and nothing more.
We run past a lot of nothing. Rumor is, there are a lot of bears in this particular area (yes, we are still in Myrtle Beach). Three nights earlier we had joined a bunch of local mountain bikers for a ride through this preserve, and more than a couple of them had bear bells on their bikes. On this particular day, however, neither one of us remembered our bear bells.
Who am I kidding, we don’t own bear bells. This is Myrtle Beach. I was not prepared for this.
But I digress. Lacking bear bells, Geoff sporadically and enthusiastically yells “DING” loudly at varying intervals. This is almost immediately followed by my laughter. The combination of the “DING” and the giggles will surely keep the bears away. Right? Right.
We run and we run. We run through thick sugar sand that is almost as slippery as snow. We run past still smoldering controlled burn sites. I spend my time ignoring my tired legs by playing “whose footprint is that?” Racoon? Opossum? Deer? Boar? BEAR?
And then the surge began. Lactate threshold = kind of a suck fest for this girl, whose “happy pace” is well within the casual “I can carry on a full conversation here” aerobic zone. People think I’m joking when I say I’d rather run 50 miles instead of a 5K…but I mean it. Everything in my being does not want to go there, but we go.
Because I have big goals this year.
Because physically, I can…even if my brain is protesting.
Because there are people who would give anything to be able to enjoy a run like this.
Because my coach is literally by my side, suffering every second of this same workout.
I think about all of the reasons I have such a love/hate relationship with this sort of suffering (and there’s enough of them for an entire post of it’s own). I think about how glancing at the distance on my GPS throws me out of the mental “zone” every damn time. I realize that even THINKING about glancing at the watch throws me out of the zone. I think about how hard it can be to push yourself during training, when there aren’t other athletes around to race or a finish line to race to. I think about how grateful I am that Geoff is there to push me, because if he wasn’t, I can almost 100% guarantee I would have skipped the faster, soul and lung sucking surge.
Sometimes, even coaches need coaches. Sometimes it’s OK to admit that even though you are pretty good at helping other people reach their fitness and running goals, you might need help reaching your own.
The three mile surge finally ends, I slow down to catch my breath, and look over to smile lovingly at Coach Husband. He responds by saying that “maybe we should run the last mile hard, too”.
I tell him he’s f*@#ing nuts, and I don’t have to do what he says.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.