Joe English is the head marathon coach for TNT Flex and has trained more than a thousand people directly. Now that he’s overseeing our online program, we wanted share his perspective on the unique attributes TNT Flex provides. Here’s our quick Q & A with Joe on TNT Flex:
Lets start with how you came to be involved with the Team In Training program, Joe – did you know someone who was diagnosed with a blood cancer?
This is an interesting question in that I would have said I didn't have a connection until I recently remembered that one of my idols growing up -- a professional triathlete who was a friend of the family -- died of Leukemia in his early twenties. I was very young and had probably blocked this out somehow, but he had a great impact on me. It was mostly because of him that I took triathlon and running so seriously and it was a big loss when he left us. Another close friend in my twenties was diagnosed with Leukemia and has since gone on to be a Patient Honoree. Again, I think I blocked out the fact that she was sick, although I was one of the few people from our company that visited her in the hospital at UCLA. Leukemia and Lymphoma are close to all of us. Closer than we'd like to think.
How has the mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Team In Training program itself, influenced your coaching?
I have completely revamped my coaching as a result of working with TNT athletes. For one thing, since we work with so many people that are just trying to finish their first race, I've moved away from some of the tools that drive most coaching programs, such as heart rate monitoring and pace analysis. Our role is much more geared as balance to teaching the participants, giving them a fun a experience, helping them finish and making sure they stay healthy along the way. It's a huge reward to watch our participants grow as they come back to us over the seasons from their first half-marathon or marathon to go on to a triathlon and maybe even an Ironman distance triathlon or ultra.
You’ve been coaching a long time, tell us about the unique benefit that TNT Flex offers people who are interested in training for a marathon or half marathon?
Flex is a great option for people that are self-motivated and independent. Flex doesn't generally offer participants the group settings of our chapters, but we make up for this with an emphasis on education. We've developed about 20 training modules that include videos and articles to help the participants learn in as much depth as they care to explore. Our participants go into their first race knowing more than about 95% of first time marathon runners. That's a great confidence booster on race day -- although they often only learn this out on the course and when they finally cross that finish-line.
One key difference in the TNT Flex program is that people get to know each other virtually prior to meeting in person. That must make the event weekend even more exciting.
This is true. Event weekend is a little bit more like going to summer camp as a kid. Our participants may only know names and faces when they meet for the first time. But by the end of the weekend, these folks are just as connected as people that have trained together in person. It's really fun to watch. It's cool to see how close the roommates get -- they don't want to leave each other during the weekend. It's very sweet and fun at the same time.
What advice would you give to someone who’s training for a marathon for the first time through TNT Flex, but may not be all that tech savvy?
Tech savvy isn't really required. All the participants need is a will to complete the program and a desire to keep going when things get tough. There will be bumps along the road, but they just need to reach out to their coaches and mentors for help. The technology is al an enabler of the training. As long as they put one foot in front of the other, they can do this thing!
Share your favorite TNT Flex story with us?
There have been so many teams and so many people that it is hard to pick. But one that pops to mind was the group The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans that went through Flex together for the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon. It was like 20 moms who had met each other on-line and then went through Flex together. They were one rowdy bunch and they all finished and then were crazy at the Victory Celebration. I also trained a group of six sisters through Flex recently. They all joined the kick-off call from different parts of the country -- even their mom was on the call. It was pretty awesome and funny. I love all of my teams, but I admit that every one is different and has its own unique character.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Joe – and for all you do to TNT Flex the exciting, interactive program it is!
For more about TNT Flex, see: http://www.teamintraining.org/firsttimehere/tntflex/