The “Old” In-Person System. Athletes who have trained with BC Endurance in the past are partial to doing workouts in face-to-face ability groups with their friends. That’s the old system and it worked well for many years.
In the old system, training occurred in ability groups of 5-15 athletes. An experienced group leader set the pace and followed a pre-set route. The athletes stayed behind, while the leader and his/her assistants led the group according to the director’s schedule and instructions.
In the old training system, athletes depended on the group for camaraderie, support and “show-up-for-your-friends” accountability. They developed friendships according to personal interest and emotional attraction. As long as everyone had the same pace-ability within a group, multiple, informal, and easy conversations were common, and the group hung together without breaking into ineffectual subgroups.
Nonetheless, discussions were usually limited to several people within earshot of one another, running side-by-side on city sidewalks. There was minimal opportunity for one-on-one teaching/coaching, as the primary knowledgeable person/teacher was usually not in the group. There may have been as many as twelve ability groups and a hundred people in one training meeting at a single location. The director (head-coach/teacher) usually had important duties elsewhere, looking out for diverse groups scattered along that day’s workout route.
Achieving standardized learning goals was, therefore, tricky, haphazard, and inconsistent, especially as it depended on the quality, knowledge, and experience of the group leader, as well as the overall program context and the openness of athletes to the learning process.
The New “Virtual” Workout System. Training occurs individually, with athletes setting their own pace according to the facilitator’s instructions. The facilitator is the new group leader, but his/her communications medium is a telephone conference call, instead of an in-person group.
In the new workout system, communication is global and immediate within a group, as everyone on the call can hear what others are saying. The facilitator works from a script of topics to cover within the flow of the workout. As long as he/she has the knowledge and presence necessary to hold the group’s attention, morale will be high and knowledge will be gained.
Wherever possible, athletes work as a team to delve into topics of mutual concern. Thus, listening is the main skill in the new training system. One person speaks at a time, and the facilitator models effective listening skills so others can eventually take responsibility for the inquiry. The attitude of wanting to learn from the experience of others enhances intimacy and in-depth understanding of our common concerns.
Thus, rather than a compendium of diverse, chit-chat conversations taking place in the context of a constantly reforming game of musical chairs (the old system), cellphone workouts are more like a podcast. During one series of workouts, for instance, a group discusses the effect of sleeping habits on their health and fitness. Later in the training, they delve into ways they can improve their health by eating more sensibly. In such a learning environment based on honest, scientific inquiry, the facilitator need not be the only source of knowledge. And the website becomes a vehicle for further in-depth communication at each of the five program levels.
The new medium also lends itself to silence. All facilitators introduce 2-minute periods of silence as a way to transition between discussion topics. But athletes are free to use the time for any mental purpose: reflecting on their day, planning their evening, focusing on what’s been said, or practicing new fitness skills as they exercise in real time during the workout.