Getting the Best Coaching Experience This Season
So it’s a New Year and race season. You have signed up for that big event, and even hired a coach to help you meet your goals and navigate your training year. Now what? Coaches aren’t cheap, and for most, coaching may even be considered more a luxury than a necessity. If you’re putting your hard earned cash down for a coach, how do you ensure you get the very best from your coaching experience?
The Basics – what will I need before my coaching begins?
For triathlon coaching, we will assume you already have all of the basics like a bike, as well as swim, bike, and run gear. You will also need access to a swimming pool and a safe place to ride and run. While not absolutely necessary, you may want to consider a good GPS device for running and riding, including a heart rate monitor.
Outside of that, here are a few other items that may improve your training and coaching experience:
- Bike Trainer (for indoor riding)
- Power Meter for your bike
- Bike Cadence Sensor
- Swim Pull Paddles and Buoy
- Swim Fins
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Communication. It sounds easy, right? But the truth is, lack of communication between the athlete and coach is likely the number one reason that athletes don’t benefit fully from coaching. Before coaching ever begins, there will likely be an initial meeting or phone call. This contact is the first and best opportunity to set some expectations around what you will need as an athlete. As a coach, I always ask this question at every first contact: “What would a successful coaching experience look like for you?” Be prepared to communicate the answer to this question. The first contact is also an opportunity to communicate your expectations, not only around coaching, but also your race goals and any limitations to your training, such as family, job, injuries, etc.
As online coaching becomes the new normal, location doesn’t have to be a limitation any longer. A majority of the coach-athlete interaction will take place through e-mail, telephone calls, text messaging and the online training software itself. Be clear with your coach regarding what you prefer in the area of communication frequency and method. Otherwise, he or she may assume everything is going fine and you have no questions. Just make sure you let your coach know what you need, and make use of all available technology such as Skype or Face time.
Follow the plan
This is a big one. As life sometimes gets in the way, we all have to miss or cut a workout short from time to time – even your coach! But do your very best to put in the work and follow the training plan set by your coach. This includes time, distance, and intensity. Many coaches customize your workouts specific to you and your races. So it is important to do the workouts as prescribed – especially the key workouts. But if you aren’t able to get in that workout, or have to cut a workout short, don’t sweat it! Let your coach know and they should be able to guide you on what to do next. Often the best thing to do is just move forward with your schedule as planned.
Log in your workouts
We all want to get credit for the hard work, right? Most coaches these days are using available online coaching software such as Training Peaks or Addaero. It cannot be over-emphasized how important it is to upload / log in your workouts frequently, and to leave your coach post workout comments. This lets your coach know what you are doing, how your body is responding to the training load, and how you are progressing with your program. I happen to coach with Training Peaks, and when one of my athletes completes and uploads a workout, it generates an e-mail to me. This gives me an opportunity to review the workout file and give feedback.
Celebrate your successes!
Include your coach when you’ve had a great training session or race. Your coach wants to hear from you! On the training side, shoot your coach an e-mail to let them know how the session went, and why you felt it was a success. This will also give your coach clues on how to set you up for great sessions in the future. If your coach isn’t able to make it to your races, make sure to let them know right away how you felt the race went. And it is also helpful to schedule a phone call in the weeks following the event to debrief. Lastly, I always recommend athletes write a race report for their most important events. While these do take some time, I find that it is a great way for the athlete to reflect on the race, and if you post these online, it can help other athletes who might be preparing for that same event in the future.
Dollar for dollar, hiring a coach can be one of the best things you can do to progress in your sport – more than any piece of equipment or electronic gadget. But here’s the deal – you pay a coach for guidance, support and accountability. The accountability is shared. We all have a part to play to make it work.
Here’s to your very best in 2016!