Catching up with Coach Andrew Simmons and Health Care Worker Dani Mead

Last Month, Lifelong Endurance and the American Trail Running Association (ATRA) staged a trail runner essay contest where the winner was awarded a free 90-day coaching package. Medical intensive care unit nurse Dani Mead (pictured below) from Aurora, Colorado, was the recipient of the package. In this article, Lifelong Endurance Coach Andrew Simmons catches up with Dani to talk about how her training is progressing.

ICU Nurse Gets a Coach

First Month Recap
Dani has had a great first month of training – she has executed on her workouts, challenged herself with strength workouts, and done many things that pushed her out of her routine and comfort zone. My approach in working with Dani is to regularly give her something that’s just one tick more than she’s done the last few weeks prior – this could simply be an additional mile of a long run, a speed workout instead of hills, or just challenge her to conserve early so she can pick up her pace at the end of her long run.

Dani was kind enough to drive across Denver and meet me for coffee one day to talk training and get to know one another better. I shared with her that as a coach, my coaching style is a “dialogue not a dictatorship.” We talked about where she was struggling with some scheduling issues and managing the fatigue of working third shift. If there was one major take away on how to manage this fatigue is to set out on a run by starting with a walk. If she feels good she should pick it up and complete her schedule run, if that walk feels hard or the stress feels overwhelming, we agreed that she should shoot for 30 minutes of activity and call it a day.

By connecting together, we built a mutual trust and discussed that when she has tough days, she should text me and we can define how to move her training forward. We both left with the understanding that even on the days it might be hard to get out the door, you should always try lacing up and see where the first 5 minutes take you!

Steady Progress
Athletes that are new to Zone 2 Training or are just building back up after time off should expect a slow build the first few weeks as the body adapts. Dani continues to build her fitness (blue line in the image below) and has managed her fatigue by implementing cross-training on her bike.

Coach Data

A few questions for Dani
After this first month was over, I sent Dani a few questions to understand more about how her experience was going. I believe it’s important to understand where my athletes are succeed but also hone in on what anxieties or struggles they may have about their training. A big thanks to Dani for being vulnerable and sharing her training experience.

[Andrew] Have you noticed changes by having a coach versus a static training plan?
[Dani] I’ve already seen major changes in my training and in my body. I can’t express how helpful it has been to have a coach to support me along my journey. Andrew checks in with me consistently to discuss my progress and address any challenges that I’ve faced in my training. Our phone calls have been helpful and they motivate me to step up my game and challenge myself. It’s so easy to fall into a rut, but having a personal coach keeps me on track with my goals and gives me that healthy push I so desperately need. My body is starting to feel stronger and I feel like I’m slowly building up my endurance. I’ve definitely had some tough training days in the past month, but I’ve managed to adjust my mindset and I’ve focused on creating more time to focus on self-care.

[Andrew] Does TrainingPeaks help you see your progress?
[Dani] TrainingPeaks keeps me on track and on schedule. I really struggled with consistency before starting this training program. I used to only run on days that I felt “good”, which made it impossible to stay on track and complete my weekly mileage. TrainingPeaks allows me to see the plan for the coming weeks and keeps me accountable for completing each workout. I work the night shift at the hospital, so my schedule gets a little wacky and I often feel exhausted. If it weren’t for this program, I don’t think there’s any way I could get myself out the door to complete every workout. Now that I’m about a month into the program, my body is adapting and I feel like I’m more mentally prepared for the workouts each week.

[Andrew] What anxieties did you have in this first month?
[Dani] I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about the future increases in weekly mileage. I know the workouts will be harder and I’ll be facing them in the summer heat. Next month’s goal: explore new trails and incorporate more strength training. I’m excited to see where the next month of training will take my running and my endurance!

Lifelong Endurance is an American Trail Running Association corporate member.

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