Thinking of Hiring a Triathlon Coach? Few Tips

BY: LAURA MARCOUX, USAT CERTIFIED COACH , JULIE DUNKLE, USAT CERTIFIED COACH

As the new year approaches we get a lot of requests for coaching. For those who are new to the sport, who have never had a coach, or are interested in hiring a new coach, these are some things you should consider to help you find the right one.  A coach can have many roles in helping you achieve your triathlon goals: 

  • Designing an individualized training plan that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses, rate of progression, and availability.
  • Navigating your season by providing structure around development of technical skills, defining training objectives at different times in the season, and developing race-specific strategy
  • Managing your time and energy more efficiently. Having a plan tailored specifically to you leaves you with more mental energy for family, work, and social time, rather than worrying about creating the plan and if/when/where to make adjustments.

Here are some suggestions on what to look for in a coach: 

  • How accessible/responsive is the coach?  Understand what their response time is for questions on workouts, review/feedback on completed workouts.  Ask what modes of communication are accepted; text, email, call, DM? Do they take a day off, when are they not accessible? 
  • Ask about their credentials:  USAT Certifications, Ironman U., USA Cycling/Running/Swimming, Strength Training, etc.  This will help you understand their education level and commitment to ongoing learning. 
  • Years of experience:  1 year or 20 years? The number of athletes coached to an Ironman finish (or whatever distance or PR you may be aspiring too).
  • Scheduling:  When will you receive your schedule?  And what is the typical block? 7/14/21/30 days?
  • Changes: How many changes are allowed, how frequent, what if I miss a workout or need to move it?  This may apply to the level of coaching you are willing to pay for.   
  • Is there more than one level of coaching?  Generally, more communication, more allowed schedule changes and more flexibility correlates to higher fees.  Time is money.

Once you’ve determined that your coach is responsive, reliable, and qualified, the next step is to figure out if a particular coaching style works for you. In the same way that you see different personality types of the coaches of your favorite sports teams, triathlon coaches have different styles and methods of motivation. Some coaches are more directive in defining a training plan, while others take on a collaborative approach. Communication styles and frequency vary and should ideally match your own.

Here are some suggestions on finding a coach whose methods and approaches are best suited for you:

  • Short course or long course focused: Many coaches work with a variety of distances, but some specialize.
  • Beginners vs. advanced athletes: Regardless of your speed, some coaches may prefer to focus on one end of the spectrum.
  • Data: Do you prefer a coach who uses heart rate, power, or RPE? Make sure you have a power meter if you are choosing a coach who only works with power zones.
  • What is the coach’s motivational style? What type of motivation works best for you?
  • Expectations: What are the coach’s expectations of you as an athlete? Do you fit within their framework?

If you commit to putting time and energy into finding the right coach, the benefits you will gain will be exponential.

D3 Coaches Laura Marcoux and Julie Dunkle co-authored this article and each has outstanding coaching credentials and inspiring athlete success stories. What you will find from both of them is a commitment to help you achieve your goals and they will leave no stone unturned to help you get it done!

Swim fin workouts: Dave Scott explains how they help your training, and key sessions

by Dave Scott (via 220triathlon.com)

Well, as any of you who swim in my groups know, I’m not a big fan of a bagful of swimming accessories! Too many athletes overuse pull buoys and floaty drag pants and other gizmos and they become crutches that prevent them from truly improving. However, the one piece of gear that I recommend for triathletes of all levels is fins!

Swimming with fins: what’s the difference between long and short fins?

A weak core often causes a weak kick.  When combined with very tight hips, weak gluteals, poor plantar flexion and a stiff back, a triathlete can definitely benefit from kicking drills. 

Also, when faced with the issues mentioned above, the freestyle kick provides neither propulsion nor stability. The legs end up with either too much knee flexion or a spaghetti-like wobble that create excess drag. Many triathletes exhibit a kick that resembles a pedalling action: they have a dramatic knee bend that creates huge drag by dropping the hips, quads, knees and feet too low.

Instead they should kick from the hips with a much straighter leg, with no more than 20° knee flexion. Maintaining this straighter-leg position requires increased mobility in hip extension and generally good plantar flexion. This is where training with fins can help.

When used properly, fins teach the conservation of energy and provide stability without lateral wiggling. The wide silhouette of fins can initially amplify the problems, which ultimately leads to effective corrections. Then, when the fins are removed, the neuromuscular pathways will feel enlightened and stimulated! 

When choosing a swimming fin, you want ones with adequate pliability, without being flimsy. Most triathletes don’t have very good plantar flexion, or good mobility in the hips and back, so a moderately flexible fin helps you establish good form and improves your flexibility over time. The ones I prefer are the Finis Edge fins.

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