Do You Need A Coach, And If So How Do You Find A Good One?


Hi folks,

The author in his garden with his old flute. Not been played since 1975. Photo by Deborah Young.

I am a highly motivated person, but on a dark winters morning, when it is raining, I’m tired and stiff and in my warm bed, do I really want to go on that early morning ride, jump in the pool, or wade through cold water on muddy trails? Or would I like to stay in the warm and have a nice hot cup of tea? Easy to answer, which is why I need a coach, whether I need to exercise for better health or undertake Ironman training. How am I going to explain to my coach that I had tea instead of training? So out of bed and off I go. After morning exercise breakfast tastes so good and you feel so alive. OK! Best to have a coach, but how to choose one. That is where my old days as an amateur flautist come in (not quite like Quantz, the ‘mighty flute player,’ but passable from time to time).

As an enthusiastic amateur flautist in my twenties and early thirties I was always seeking out teachers. I rapidly discovered that the best flautists do not necessarily make the best teachers. They listen, frown, play it for you, you fail to imitate them adequately, they frown even more. They just cannot understand your problem, because the phrase that you are struggling with was a breeze for them when they were six or seven years old. Then you go to a less able player, and they say “you know, I struggled with those few bars for years, but in the end I solved the problem by carrying out the following set of exercises.” Then you spend months practicing double thirds, or some such acrobatic tricks, return to the piece and lo and behold, your teacher smiles, and says “Well done, keep up the exercises and you’ll get it right. I know you will!” Progress is being made, as opposed to the downward spiral of collapsing self-esteem.

You must find the right teacher for you, or in the case of training the right coach. You have to be ready for your coach, and as you improve more advanced coaches will be prepared to take you on based on your track record. You have to earn your coach. I don’t care where you are in your exercise plan, this maxim still applies.

Mall Walking is a good place to start, and you meet interesting people. From:

For instance, let’s say you are 70-years old and want to start getting in shape for the first time in your life in the dead of winter. I would recommend that you first consider body-awareness, which is addressed many times in this blog. Then move on to mall walking, a perfect place to begin the process of exercise. Go to the mall, start walking when and where everyone else does, watch for people who are where you are in terms of ability, and talk to them. You’ve found your first coach. Then as you progress you will need to walk with fitter people (but don’t make it a race), and finally you’ll graduate to hiking or whatever sport, even marathons, that you have in your sights. You can even join a Mall Walking club to get you started.

For people interested in competing in short or long races, a coach becomes increasingly critical as you progress in terms of distance and intensity of effort. Your coach will design your season, help you to fix technique issues, but most importantly your coach will guide you in such a way as to keep you injury free. Finding the right coach is not easy, and requires that you network with your peers, in Malls or Marathons, it doesn’t matter. You need to select a coach with as much effort as you should to choose a doctor. Your health and thus your life may depend upon these choices.

You can also find coaching resources on the web. Here are some key qualities of a good coach listed in an article by Elizabeth Quinn of Sports Medicine.

  1. Knows the sport.
  2. Seeks out new information.
  3. Is a motivator.
  4. Knows the athlete.
  5. Is an effective communicator.
  6. Is a good listener.
  7. Is disciplined.
  8. Leads by example.
  9. Displays commitment. I would add:
  10. Is actively participating in my sport at a competitive level above mine.
  11. Is rarely injured.
  12. Understands the Chez Ollie on training ability and the need for increased recovery time.
  13. Understands the risks associated with my abdominal aortic aneurysm, and the stent that prevents it from rupturing.

If you have a health challenge, be it a cardiac stent or bypass, Chez Ollie or any other specific ailment, make sure your coach understands and is interested in your condition. I have provided a number of links to support groups for such conditions under the ‘Useful Links‘ tab of this blog. Such sites have forums in which you might post questions concerning finding the right coach for you. It could make all the difference in the long run.

I have had some great coaches, for which I am very grateful.

-k Your Medical Mind

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.