Understanding How the Body Functions is Critical to Being a Good Coach (and athlete)!

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There are near infinite videos, blogs, magazine articles and Facebook posts pertaining to how to best train for and compete in endurance sports. Do some of these contain great and valuable content? Of course. Do some of them contain antiquated methodologies and, or outright lies? For sure.

So how do you tell the difference between which content is good and bad? Unless you have a general understanding of how the body works and are willing to do some research and are able to think critically – it’s likely that you won’t be able to.


If your cited research is only available on Microfiche, it’s probably time to look at some new studies!

One of the reasons why ‘fake news’ is such a hot topic nowadays is due to its prevalence and influence. By why is it so influential? It’s largely because we take information at face value (especially if an article states statistics and has graphs!) and assume that it’s true without critically thinking or doing any sort of fact checking.

As a result of this, long standing myths (ex: 10% volume increase rule) are able to not only persist, but thrive. Worse yet, ‘coaches’ read about a new training method and immediately apply it to their clients without researching it or validating the informational source(s).



I’m in agreement that there is a lot of great information out there. But, if you’re not thinking about the information that you’re taking in, how do you know if the information is good, bad or otherwise? With research-based websites such as Plos One and PubMed, why do most coaches skip these resources and head straight to magazine articles and Facebook posts?

Assuming that a coach knows that these websites exist, perhaps it’s because they feel uncomfortable with the type of information being presented, or the way in which the information is discussed. Having a general understanding of how the body works (ex: anatomy and physiology/mechanics) will likely help coaches grasp the information contained within the aforementioned websites. Will a coach with a basic to intermediate understanding of anatomy/physiology be able to decipher everything in articles on these websites? Certainly not. However, they will likely be able to get the gist of most articles pertaining to endurance sports training and if need be, they can look up any terms and, or topics that they are unfamiliar with.

While magazine articles often cite professional studies (which is awesome!), they often only present small segments of studies. Therefore, it never hurts to look at the actual paper(s), if possible, to get the whole picture.

During the creation of UESCA’s certification content, we reviewed at thousands of studies/papers online and it was amazing to see how magazines and blogs cherry picked information from papers to suit their particular agenda. This is why it’s so important to read the actual source.


New research comes out on a daily basis. Therefore, relying on information from mainstream sources will likely result in gathering information that is at the very least, slightly outdated. This isn’t that big of a deal if the information isn’t too old and statistically significant. However, as a professional coach, you should not be reliant upon this information, but rather be proactive in your gathering of current training information.


Why won’t my heart rate go up? Why does my calf cramp after switching to a midfoot strike? Why does my low back hurt after 5 miles of running?

These are just a few examples that could likely be deciphered by someone with a working knowledge of the body. As a coach, you must stay in your lane and as such, you cannot diagnose an injury – remember, you’re not a therapist or physician. However, if you have a general understanding of how the body functions, you’ll likely have a pretty good idea of what is going on and if injury-based, you can refer the athlete to the most applicable professional.


Whether for yourself or as a coach that works with athletes, understanding how the body functions is important for improving in a safe and progressive manner. 

Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science/evidence-based endurance sports coaching education company that certifies running and triathlon coaches.

To learn more about our Running Coach Certification and to get a code for $50 off, click here!

Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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