3. Teamwork makes the dream work
This is the biggest lesson – no matter who you are or how you are training, working together with your coaches will help you to take your performance to the next level.
Making the time to speak directly with your coach will help them to understand you better, and also help you contribute to your program, which can be highly motivational. It allows you to take ownership and responsibility, and ultimately this can lead to better results.
When working with Paralympians, it’s safe to say most of the time they know their bodies better than their coaches. This means, when it comes to making a program for them, working together is essential if you want the best outcome.
You could be in the same boat – ultimately you know your body better than anyone else. Your coach needs to ask you the right questions so they provide you with the best possible training plan.
You may also have important knowledge that your coach doesn’t yet know. For example, some exercises might always cause you pain or irritation – this is important to share with the coach who can make the necessary adjustments.
In practice, this means sitting together and discussing the goals of the athlete and the coach, before getting into the nitty-gritty of exercise selection and adjustment. During the discussion, the athlete might describe preferred exercises, or methods they’ve tried before and how they perceive their training. The coach is then able to match this to the physical adaptation they are looking to achieve, and together you can make a training program where the sum is greater than the individual parts.
This works particularly well with increasingly experienced athletes, who have a good perception of their body and their training. With experienced athletes, these planning sessions can become more of a negotiation than anything else. This was particularly clear during our preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. In this instance, I sat with some athletes to negotiate the volume, load, and exercises in the sessions. The athletes wanted to do more, and it was my job to hit the sweet spot between optimal physical and optimal mental preparation.
With time, these discussions allow the athlete to get skilled-up and educated enough to have more and more influence on their program; ultimately the coach becomes a consultant, and both athlete and coach work together as a team to achieve their shared goals.
So if you want to get the best out of yourself, you’ll need to get the best out of your coach too – it’s likely that together you will make a far more effective program than as individuals.