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  • Writer's picturecoachmk

Breaking Down Bad Cues

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

If I had to break down what my job as Coach entails, it would look something like this:

  • 10% getting to know my athletes

  • 50% creating effective cues for MY athletes 

  • 20% telling my athletes to back off

  • 10% telling my athletes what to worry about

  • 5% telling my athletes it isn't worry time yet

  • 5% staying on top of developments in the sport/making training schedules

That thing you think you hired me to do is the least of what I do.  I wanted to take a moment today to discuss the second item on the list.

Cues are the little catchphrases and corrections that gently guide you towards the right result.  One of my signature cues is, "lock your cage".  This means 'draw the bottom of your shoulderblades towards each other".   Why? I discovered when I told my athletes to stand a little straighter or to engage their TVA, they would clench their tummies tightly and bow forward....the opposite of what I wanted.  So I worked out an effective cue that got the desired result. 

This is why I refuse to speak to nutritionists or dietitians who discuss calories.  Calorie counting is a bad cue that leads to DISASTROUS results.  F+ck that.

I truly believe that every coach who has ever worked with athletes has his/her own set of cues that are developed over time. We are all saying the same things, we just have different audiences so we each develop our own system of cues.

The cues an elite, superfit athlete needs are pretty different than what recreational runners (with or without ambition) like us need, but they aren't terribly different.  Note the article below, the coaches quoted all have different athletes but all want to get to the same result: podium finishes at major races.  Sprinters need to focus on mechanics in ways distance runners never will.  Distance runners need to focus FIRST on strength THEN on speed, the cue is 'striking from the hip'.  Worrying about footstrike makes sense for a sprinter but a distance runner needs to worry about hip strength and footstrike will take care of itself.


So if you hear advice or cues that seem to run counter to what I've been telling you, before you panic that I've led you astray or missed something, stop and ask yourself: "where did that cue come from? Was it made for me?"  There are bad cues for sure, like yelling at teenage girls (and boys, JFC) to 'get to race weight', but most cues aren't necessarily bad.  They just weren't made for you by a coach who is deeply invested in your development.

I promise, when it's time to worry I will tell you. Never forget that I care enough for both of us, do not ever conflate my silence on a topic with complacence. I have plenty to say about footstrike, but is that really the cue you are needing?

Coach MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she coaches all kinds of runners for $30 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her Marathon Selection Guide!

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