It seems like I have written about this before but I don’t find it in the archives. So I’ll talk about it at the risk of repeating myself.
I have found in nearly 30 years of coaching endurance athletes that there are three general types of athletes — artists, scientists and accountants.
Pros tend to be artist-athletes. They would rather not have to use heart rate monitors, power meters, accelerometers or GPS devices. A stopwatch is about as close as they get to using numbers when training. Just as with artists they don’t often think about how. You wouldn’t ask Michaelangelo why he put a bit of color in the corner of a painting. He’d answer with something such as, “It just felt like the thing to do.” Ask a pro how he makes a certain move and he may not be able to tell you exactly. “It feels like this,” he’d say. Pros can benefit from having a coach – someone who can analyze the details and make changes when needed.
Scientist-athletes like to analyze the numbers and then make changes to see what happens with performance. They conduct experiments with n=1 constantly. Their training is one endless scientific study. They love to share what they’ve learned with other scientist-athletes on blogs, message boards and in chat rooms. Their greatest need is to have a coach who can give their training a consistent direction and purpose.
Accountant-athletes simply love numbers. They have multiple devices on their handlebars. They wear a heart rate monitor and a GPS when running. And they look at all the numbers. Following the workout they download all the data and have a great time just looking at it — tables, graphs and charts. Beautiful numbers! They are usually very good at doing math in their heads while training to calculate average speeds and paces, grades, power-heart rate ratios, variability indices, and more. They are very good with numbers. But a coach could help this athlete make sense of the numbers and narrow it down to what is and isn’t important.
There are few athletes I’ve come across who are purely defined by one of these categories. Most have a strong tendency toward one of these categories, however.
As you might guess, I’m a scientist-athlete; I love to experiment to find what works and what doesn’t. That probably helps my coaching. But I try to nurture the artist in me to become a little stronger as an athlete. Because of this I like to talk with artist-athletes as they give me a fresh point of view. But sometimes they frustrate me when the topic becomes the least bit technical.
What’s your tendency?