Are you a Planner or Intuitive Type Coach? – Science of Running

Models of Training That Make You Fast – Science of Running


            Writers of
fiction are often separated into two categories: planners and pantsers.
Planners take the time to prepare a deep outline, mapping out each ebb and flow
of the plot. On the other hand, pantsers, short for ‘flying by the seat of
their pants’, have a rough idea of the story and where it will end, but instead
of mapping it all out, they let the writing take them on a journey.

tend to let the characters drive the ship. Because they are dealing with them
in the present moment when writing, they have to imagine how each character
would react to whatever situation they find themselves in them. Planners on the
other hand, often utilize characters as mechanisms to advance the plot. They
know exactly where the destination is and what stops along the way they are
going to make, the characters become the vehicles. One style isn’t necessarily
better or worse than the other, they simply have different strengths and
weaknesses. Are the characters or story what’s most important?

            When it
comes to coaching, we can see the same dichotomy. Planners outline training to
an extreme. Mapping out not only what types of workouts they are going to do
for months, but the individual workouts themselves. Planning coaches rely more
on theory, placing an emphasis on the details of the workouts and what they should so. On the opposite side, our
version of a pantser, would be someone like Mihali Igloi who while he tended to
have an idea of the workout, looked for the athletes personal reaction to the
first few repeats to decide what the workout would be. Coaches on this end of
the spectrum tend to wait and see, letting the athletes response drive the

            Just like in writing, both sides have their benefits and drawbacks. Of course like any classification system, this isn’t an either/or situation. There are shades of grey between the two spectrums where most of us live. But it’s worth taking the time to consider whether you are emphasizing planning or reacting. I’m a planner by nature, so I combat this natural inclination by setting limits for myself. I take a broad approach to planning a season. Allowing myself to make a rough map out of what training an athlete will need and how I’m going to progress it. But I don’t write individual workouts until a week or so before they will be done. And I try to remind myself that those workouts are written in pencil.

We all have our biases and probably refer one side of the spectrum to the other. But as a coach, it’s important to cultivate the ability to utilize both viewpoints. Challenge yourself to map out training for weeks or months to understand the big picture and how training interconnects. At the same time, challenge yourself to use your intuitive skills, watching and listening to your athletes, and letting that drive the ship. By possessing both skill sets, it enables you to lean to the left or right on our plan vs. intuitive continuum. Giving our athletes a better chance at continual improvement.

Steve Magness is the author of the new book The Passion Paradox. You can sign up for his weekly newsletter using the form below.


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