Insights from Southend AC’s ‘couch to 5k’ beginners group – blog 1

Haven’t blogged for a week or 2, so thought I’d share some thoughts with you from my recent coaching exploits.

So we’re coming to the end of our latest ‘Couch-2-5K’ beginners group at Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club. Over the next couple of blogs, I’ll share with you some of the things that I have learned from leading it over the last 7 weeks!

Confidence – is often something we take for granted – especially when we’re in a familiar environment. Change the situation, and it often needs to be nurtured. I am always amazed how tangible this is as we see the nervous beginners blossom into enthusiastic athletes.

Teamwork – many see running as a ‘solo’ sport – they’re wrong – running is all about teamwork. Each of the athletes in the beginners group have their own strengths and challenges. What impresses me is how quickly the group members pick this up. They actively support and encourage each other to overcome their weaknesses.

Measurement – generally speaking time and distance are constant – a minute is a minute, a mile a mile – and if you run a mile faster this week than last – you’d be happy to see that as improvement.  It’s actually a lot more complicated than that as you add in factors like Vo2 max, cadence, incline, the different energy systems we have to fuel running, training loads and cycles etc – but it is easy to overcomplicate things when people are starting o%name %titleut.  However, it is crucial for people working really hard to see and feel it’s paying off – and all the effort and pain is not in vain. We always start and finish the programme with a bleep test. This provides us with a baseline we can measure performance consistently against – and prove improvement at the end of the cycle. We have other measures – the final one being the 5k time trial – but all of the athletes have started to think about their own performances – intrinsic feedback and each other’s.

Training – the goal for the group is to complete a non-stop 5km time trial by the end of week 8. The programme starts with fun-based, interactive activities – to keep people moving. This changes to more specific run / walk activities mid-way through. In the final weeks, the intensity of training increases.  By building on marginal gains week by week, the group has excelled. One of the most common things we hear is ‘I could never have done that a few weeks ago’ – as each week they break new ground in what they achieve.

What’s always illuminating in these times of reflection is how much cross over there is between business and performance coaching. Take the scenarios above and place them in a work environment, it’s clear that the skills and disciplines are transferable. So to be a better leader at work – become a volunteer coach!

In my next blog I’ll share a few more of my thoughts – once the course is completed…and I’ll also try and include some feedback from the athletes taking part!

I’ll also write a final blog highlighting the positive business benefits of applying the lessons I’ve learned to work!

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