Monday, December 29, 2008

Coaching myself to Coach

A few weeks ago I was approached with the idea that I would make a good women's cycling coach for those new to the sport. I was a little floored because I never considered such a thing - in my mind, I'm a very amateur cyclist and I still have a lot of work to do on myself. Somewhere in my mind, this means that I couldn't possibly coach others. Aren't coaches supposed to be accomplished at their sport? I've never completed a time trial or raced with the "good" cyclists. I don't ride a racing bike and there are plenty of women who have ridden much longer than I have...

I also think about my interactions with others. This week, I was told by a friend that I don't communicate well and that I needlessly micromanage things. I took a tough love approach with a friend who was whining about "being a drag" when she comes along for a ride - none of those things seem very "coachy" to me. I lack patience and I'm demanding. I believe anyone can be a cyclist, but you have to be willing to adopt a positive mental outlook and push yourself - just like any athlete in any other sport.

Despite all of this, I admit, I keep thinking about it. So, in typical "Cristy fashion", I must also consider what would make me a good coach - and not focus solely on my personal areas of weakness:
1) I've been there and done that. I get the whining - I don't like being a drag either. But whining doesn't improve outcomes. Refocusing someones whining can be great fuel for performance when it's used correctly. Sometimes, we just need someone who can be positive for us when we aren't being positive for ourselves. Being positive doesn't mean you have to be agreeable...
2) I think my friend is full of crap and I communicate just fine - matter of fact, If anything, I over communicate. There is nothing wrong with me - this one is just a miscommunication, not poor communication. (Thanks for that one Big Ring Betty...I can always count on you to have my back!)
3) I may not be the best, but I'm figuring out what propels you forward when you want to be a better cyclist. I've started to take this seriously and I believe it's starting to show. I also know women and I realize that many of them have a fear of failure, a lack of self-confidence that they can perform as well as man, and in many cases, a general tendency towards poor self/body image. All of these things can be improved through cycling - especially if you have the right person by your side to encourage you to push on and remind you of your goals.

For many women cycling is a confidence builder, a great way to improve body image and general health. When cycling at a somewhat strenuous pace, the heart rate maintained falls in the fat-burning threshold which quickly attacks the stubborn fatty areas that women hate the most: abs, thighs and buns. Another point of interest for us ladies is that cycling also serves as a great way to relieve stress. In the November issue of Bicycling magazine, I read that cycling can boost the amount of neurotransmitters which allow your neurons to more effectively communicate with one another. Dopamine, in particular, is released to spur behavior that is associated with "feel good" sort of activities, making them more appealing. Those who know me know that behavior is my forte - and I can tell you the release of dopamine feels good which in turn reinforces whatever activity we were doing when it was released. It's also the neurotransmitter associated with addiction, but I digress... It's kind of like finding a $500.00 bill when you clean under the sofa. It makes cleaning a little more rewarding and your body tends to want to repeat the task in search of reinforcement (in the case of cycling, a let down of all of those feel-good neurotransmitters that encourage a positive outlook and better self-confidence).

I also know a little about coaching - it's really the concept of leadership as it applies to athletics. If I learned anything from Noel Tichy in graduate school, it's that in order to move others, you must first examine yourself and develop your teachable point of view (aka - vision, with a little enticement). You have to believe in what you are doing and be willing to teach others by walking the walk. You do as you want others to do - and you teach them the merits along the way. You make it your goal to teach others to continue where you leave off and to grow to surpass you. For me, the latter part of this whole concept is what makes me push forward. The idea that my impact on others could improve women's cycling is reason enough for me to read the manual and take the exam - but more importantly - to teach these ladies what it feels like to accomplish their goals and watch as their bodies and mental outlook make a dramatic improvement. I believe I can do this and believing in myself is the first step in showing others that it's okay to believe too.

1 comment:

  1. I know you'll be a great coach. You already are.

    In the interest of overcommunicating, I have to say that I don't ride for any of the aforementioned reasons, but a little fitness never hurt anyone, right?

    Read that book and take the test, yo!