Discipline, Consistency, Freedom – Coaching Values.

Setting coaching values is the easy part. Ensuring you actually coach them is another story.

Last week I mentioned a tough, one-time-only session(s) that our EC athletes adopted over the holidays. Part of the plan for those sessions was to help athletes understand that there is more to give than what they think – the well is deeper, sometimes you just can’t see because your own bullshit is holding you back.

Another objective set by the EC Coaches was the sheer discipline involved in taking on a monumental challenge. 

Really, this is no different to racing your first “big race”, or even deciding to correctly approach an injury. It takes discipline to rise to the challenge, even if you don’t think you will “make it”. The first step on that path requires the discipline involved in even considering the first step. It’s too easy to take the soft route, but the soft course doesn’t serve you well in the harsh environment of endurance sports.

Remember, endurance sports is about developing the ability to tolerate that which makes you uncomfortable, in a sustainable approach. That takes discipline. The first of the coaching values at EC.

But a one-off flurry of discipline isn’t going to take you all the way to Kona or help you bust that hour barrier. Discipline on its own is simply not enough. It is only the starting point. But you need more than just than a single snippet of focus and determination. You need repetition. 

Repetition is just showing up on Monday, then showing up on Tuesday, and every other day of the week. Then when that week is over, you show up on Monday again. We do this, day-in, day-out until we reach our targets. That repetition – that consistency – builds resiliency on top of that discipline (it also takes discipline to repeatedly show up).

The two – discipline and consistency – are not mutually exclusive. You need to employ both on a daily basis to really drill into your habit and routine, creating a deep pattern to help push you forward. Discipline helps shape the space for consistency, and consistency through repetition helps shape the space for further discipline.

After communication (more on this next week), consistency is the linchpin to any successful athlete. You can nail that one “crucial” session (I say that because really all sessions are crucial – especially the recovery ones) once, but then if you never do that session again, you have missed a vital opportunity to develop athletically.We have to layer the consistency, week in week out until we become unconsciously competent with the session. Meaning you can hit targets, efforts, whatever – without conscious thought; it just happens. That is the end goal of all coaching or programming: for an athlete to master their skill sets by becoming unconsciously competent at their sport. Thats coaching value number 2.

Most athletes are stuck somewhere between being consciously incompetent (they do know what they don’t know, but don’t know what to do about it) and consciously competent (they do know what they don’t know, and are beginning to work on it). 

A great example is an athlete who knows that they have things to work on with their swimming, but they don’t know what exactly they need to do. So they start to seek counsel from their coach, who identify the key areas (almost always for non-elite triathletes it is body position) and sets them on a path towards improvement. That path requires a lot of conscious effort.

The sweet spot is when that athlete, through the required discipline and consistency, layers that awareness and training to the point where they can swim with good strong body position, holding good strong pace, but it takes no conscious effort (i.e. they don’t have to constantly think about their body position in the water – it has become instinctive and natural). This is where I want them to get to, the state embodying these coaching values.

Why is this so important?

Because that state creates freedom, you no longer need to focus so intently on the finer skills of your sport, you can just “do”. That doesn’t mean the sport becomes easy; you still have to push (this again requires more discipline), it just becomes more manageable. 

It allows you a sense of freedom because you have reached a place where things will flow smoothly for you; less effort is required to hit the same levels of output as before.

Doing something that challenges you, that makes you grow, is hard; it takes discipline just to turn up and put yourself into that uncomfortable environment. It takes even more discipline to figure out what you don’t know, then search for the appropriate knowledge and begin layering your discipline with consistency. You keep layering and assessing until everything clicks and your reach that state of freedom.

It sounds idealistic, but it is by no means possible to reach that sweet spot. Of course, just getting started on that path requires discipline…