Coach Vigil’s Concepts for Success

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When you read the works of the best coaches, they all seem to begin with a general set of core concepts that runners need to either understand or possess in order to be successful. It is these concepts that all training starts and then gets specific from there. By that I mean, regardless of whether it is a 5k runner or a marathoner, the training would begin with these ideals and then the specific training would be developed. The following are Dr. (coach) Joe Vigil’s from his book “Road to the Top.” Admittedly, this particular writing is referencing his work with college-age men for decades, but he also worked with top marathoners (Deena Kastor when she won her Olympic Medal in Greece). I recognize that most people reading this won’t consider themselves top-level athletes, but you can always think like one. A lot of these can be adapted to the working stiff’s life too. I would even say these don’t even have to be running specific- they can be work/career, family, business-specific with a few tweaks in verbiage. If anything, let’s get you thinking about your training and maybe even life philosophy a little bit! 

1. The body will adapt to a gradual and progressive load. If a new stimulus is added it must be within the athlete’s capabilities. If so, the athlete will see adaptations and ultimately performance. This is not to say that everyone will adapt at the same rate to the same stimuli, so an athlete must focus on their own training and not what someone else is doing. 

2. The body does not just adapt, it overcompensates. If the stimulus of the training load is sufficient it causes fatigue and takes the person below the “baseline”. The response is to not only return to baseline but to go beyond that to allow for future stimulus to be tolerated better. Given this, an athlete is very rarely ever to completely tap their physical resources.

3. The body needs time to adapt and recover. Yes, you need stimulus, but in order for overcompensation to occur, you need to manage the workload through volume and intensity, and frequency of the workload. This should be viewed at a micro and a micro level. Everything from recovery intervals to the frequency of workouts, to recovery between segments. 

4. Poses Great Determination. Ability to push their body during training and racing that are beyond their comfort levels. “To enjoy training is not really an appropriate phrase; to gain satisfaction or fulfillment from training is more appropriate.”

5. Develop patience. Success in distance running is not achieved overnight and many of these athletes have been competing for 16-18 years before reaching their full potential. Be prepared for the “long haul”

6. Develop belief. You must believe that you will be successful in the sport. Have an unshatterable belief in yourself. Have an unshakeable belief in your coach. Have an unshatterable belief in your philosophy of life. 

7. Develop discipline. You must have a plan for your daily living. A maintained plan for a long time yields results. On the other hand, expect things to happen and that crisis will disrupt your plans- you just can’t allow it to be your long-term excuse. 

8. Develop intelligence. Crystallized- knows what it takes to be successful and then develops the cunning to do it. Fluid is to actually carry out the plan. Many know what to do, they just don’t. Marathon pacing is a great example. 

9. Develop the proper training environment

9a. Time: you have to fit a block of time for your training into your day. 

9b. Background support: parents, spouses, siblings, friends

9c. Facilities- having places to train is key, or imagination to find solutions to training. 

9d. Coaching

– thoughtful and imaginative

– A tutor initially, then a partner

– Communicate his knowledge and experience with athletes

– Become a team and share in all aspects of training and proper direction for living.

– Assess and determine an athlete’s potential

– Inspire and motivate and lead an athlete in training and racing 

– Never use an athlete to further their own reputation

– Be absolutely honest 

– Athletes must respect coach’s experience and judgment. The coach must respect the athlete’s ability and determination

– Must get along well. 

– Be a good guide, philosopher, and friend

– Enthusiastic and easy to talk to

– A good coach can stimulate an athlete and vice versa 

9e. Training partners are an asset, but sometimes can be antagonistic. What do you think he means by this? 

Must you possess all of these concepts? In some capacity, I think so, if you are looking to be a student of the sport and become the best you can be. It’s hard though. I think quite a few people get hung up on number six- Belief. From my experience, a lot of people just don’t have a high belief in themselves, and it shows in their training. The other one is coaching. Most people don’t have a coach for one reason or another. I know a personal coach isn’t on the table for many, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to get into a group with some sort of mentor. At the very least, get engaged with groups like our LHR community and have some sort of running mentor(s) in your life. So what do you think? Where do you struggle? Where do you strive on this list? Can you accept and maintain these concepts? 

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