As the new year approaches we get a lot of requests for coaching. For those who are new to the sport or who have never had a coach, I thought I’d write up some ideas on what you should look for.
Obviously, one effective way to stay motivated and to develop a solid training plan is to have a coach. A coach will help design your training plan and hold you accountable for your workouts. All of the Olympic Medalists have coaches, as do the top pro triathletes. Is it just a coincidence that they all have coaches? Of course not, they need guidance, support, and direction. They want to know when to go hard, when to go easy and when to take time off. Having a coach benefits them greatly. Why should age group triathletes be any different?
I hear many triathletes say, “I don’t want someone telling me what to do” or “What if I don’t like the workouts?” or “What if we don’t get along?”
These are important questions to ask as you interview your coach. Each coach has his/her own style, his/her own philosophy and motivational techniques. You communicate with your coach, which workouts you like, which workouts you don’t like. You explain to them your time constraints and goals. It’s their job to take all the pieces of the puzzle and make them fit together. Instead of blowing off that important bike workout because you made another commitment, your coach should re-adjust your schedule so you won’t miss the important workouts. Your coach will know what workouts to emphasize, when to push you, when to back you off. You should be able to build a good rapport with your coach. He/She should be trusted and come with a solid endorsement from other triathletes. Make sure your coach isn’t just churning out programs to athletes of all abilities. You want your program to be tailored to you.
What you should look for in a coach:
Q: Is he/she accessible? Do they answer their own voicemail and or email will you get a prompt reply?
A: You don’t want to wait three days to hear back from a coach when your question needs to be answered immediately. Find someone who is personally accessible.
Q: Does he/she have solid credentials; do other triathletes speak highly of their program?
A: Ask how long the coach has been coaching. Always ask for references or proof of certification. You want to know that the program is going to work for you and ask for a sample program to get a feel for the coach’s training philosophy.
Q: Should I do some comparison-shopping?
A:You wouldn’t just go right out and buy any car would you? You would look for the best price, color, the best fit, etc. The same thing goes with shopping for a coach. Find out what works for you. As long as you are paying for it, you might as well get what you want. Not all coach’s fit all athletes. That is a mistake some athletes make. Just because it worked for your friend, doesn’t mean the same coach will work for you.
Q: Find out how you are to receive the workouts.
A: Do they come monthly, weekly, via email, fax etc.
Q: Does the coach provide one level for everyone or are there different levels?
A: You want to make sure the 150 lb athlete gets a different program than the 220 lb triathlete and that the the 15-hour Ironman gets a different program than the 11-hour Ironman.
Q: What if I get sick or even worse, injured? What if my job sends me on an unexpected business trip and I miss an important workout?
A: Ask the coach how she/he will adjust your training bases on changes to your personal schedule and help you adjust these changes within your goals.
Here are some benefits a coach should provide:
Structure. Your program should fit your specific needs. From long easy runs, to gut busting hill climbs to recovery runs and days on the couch. Your program should cover all areas of training.
Motivation. So what if you have a bad training day and your motivation to train is nil? Your coach should provide you the motivation to get you back out the door the next day.
Success. Yes, success. Your plan should help you meet your goals. As long as you follow the prescribed plan the program should work for you. If it doesn’t, sit down with the coach and ask questions, lots of them. You are paying for his or her help, so you should get answers.
Of course we think that we have a pretty good coaching company right here at D3 Multisport, but we know that athletes choose us over other companies due to more than just whom we know, whom we’ve coached or how many athletes have gone to Kona. We maintain long term relationships with our athletes and on top of that everyone keeps getting faster.
In summary, do your research, ask questions and select the right coach for you. Follow the plan. Don’t expect it to work if you keep adjusting the schedule or if you keep skipping your long bike rides. You need to work with the plan that you and your coach have designed. I hope you find a coach that fits your needs, do the workouts given to you and go faster next year! You may not win Ironman, but you can have your best year ever!