Trust – the Fourth Key Ingredient

Believe in what you are doing and put your trust in it


By Liam Dolan

To be a world-class athlete it is generally agreed that you need a combination of three key ingredients – talent, drive and commitment. And all in large doses.

However, from my coaching and competitive experience I am beginning to believe that ‘trust’ is a fourth key ingredient. By this I mean trust, confidence and belief in the training programme that has been developed through the reciprocal relationship between coach and athlete.

I began considering this recently when thinking about one of the most successful athletes I know. He went from being a hard-living, overweight, middle-age person to a multiple Kona qualifier and Ironman age-group winner. I think he had buckets of talent, drive and commitment but, in addition, he had huge belief in his approach to training – he trusted that it would work. Over the years I have noticed this trait in many successful athletes.

This athlete is in complete contrast to another one I coached – one typical of the doubting breed that lack this trust and belief.

Too often, I see athletes given a perfectly formed training plan and off they go. Then, next month’s glossy magazine comes out with a feature on ‘How to Blast the Bike’ or ‘How to PR your Run’, and our doubter starts to think: “That’s the training I need for success”.

Or, he goes for a training session with the winner of last month’s big race, starts asking questions about this star’s training, and thinks that’s the way to go.

Then, two weeks later, ‘Mrs. Ironman 2014’ blogs about her training schedule and he starts switching to that. And worse, he doesn’t tell his coach about the change in plan!

This doubting athlete has contradicted himself so many times over the years that I lost count. He kept chopping and changing and doing things which, six months previously, he swore blind he would never do. He never gave any plan trust or time. But, I was always impressed by his utter conviction that the new way was the only way to do it!

I don’t coach him anymore, but I’m sure he is still seeking that elusive, magic training programme.

When I talk about trust and belief, I’m not talking about arrogance – thinking you are the cat’s pyjamas and going to crush the opposition. Nor am I talking about blind conformity to a plan made out by a coach.

Training and performance is as much art as it is science. No one has written the absolute perfect training plan. You and your coach plan your training around your life, your commitments, your history and your ability.

The plan then needs complete buy-in from both parties. Sure, it will probably need to be changed and modified as the training progress. Some athletes respond to massive amounts of volume with little intensity, while others thrive on small amounts of flat-out training.

It’s the athlete’s responsibility to provide the feedback to the coach in order to make these judgements and necessary changes. But, it shouldn’t be changed just because you see another successful athlete’s way to do it, because that athlete isn’t you. So, if you have a good coach, your training plan is the best training plan in the world, for you.

You have a lot invested in the training process: time, equipment and compromises. It also brings stresses, mental and physical. The last thing you need, in addition, is to be plagued with doubts about your training approach. These are just another stressor in your life and I have yet to meet a person who feels that they are lacking stresses.

So, believe in what you are doing and put your trust in it. It’s like a day at the races: you pick your horse, you put your money on it, and you cheer it on until it crosses the line.

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