Training PlansWith a plethora of free training plans on the internet (check out Beginner Triathlete for some great ones to get started with), it is easy for beginning triathletes to skip the coaching route and get started on their own. What these free training plans don’t account for is the individuality of everyone’s physical fitness and available time commitment. You can make your own training plans with Training Peaks which allows you to easily track performance and measure yourself as you progress through training, but you may struggle with lack of expertise. If you hire a coach, they will likely be looking at your life’s commitments and workout data and be modifying the plan on a weekly basis. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of picking a plan, and it has someone focusing on what you are actually accomplishing and providing guidance as you progress.
AccountabilityNot having an accountability partner has definitely hindered my training performance. It is much too easy to sandbag a training session or skip it all together when work and family commitments have provided an excuse to “take it easy” instead of pushing through. Online training programs don’t do a great job of holding you accountable. If you are a strong type-A personality and can drive yourself even when the world around you seems to be caving in, then you may be well served by buying a canned training plan. But be cautious that you don’t do what thousands have done in your same shoes and overtrain. Accountability goes both ways and provides sound advice for when the time comes to slow down training to recover from injuries or just fatigue. Are you strong enough to push yourself hard in training AND strong enough to know when your body needs a break?
What to Look ForAs I have been struggling with the whole "coaching thing,” I have asked around and even spoken with coaches. Through this process I have come to realize some interesting things.
Not all coaches are created equal
One part of that is not all great athletes make great coaches. It is interesting that when you surf the internet looking at coaches’ websites, the first things shown are their triathlon exploits. This isn’t the norm with coaching in a lot of different sports. Easy examples are golf (Who coaches the top 10 golfers?) and basketball (How many coaches played in the NBA before becoming a head coach?).
While there is expertise to be gained from participating in the sport, coaching is more than just taking experience and translating it to a new athlete. A coach’s personality is also important. If their quirks annoy you, then it will be difficult to develop a trusting relationship that meets your needs.
A coaching relationship needs to be a two-way street
Hiring the best coach in the western hemisphere won’t do you much good if they don’t provide the time to listen, answer questions, and dialog about what is going on. This is greatest benefit of hiring a professional coach, and if you aren’t utilizing them, then it was a waste of money. If you aren’t going to listen to your coach or tell them the truth about what is going on, then you would be best served by just using an online training plan.
Even age groupers with no podium aspirations can benefit from a coach
I have spent the last three years chasing my goal of losing weight through triathlon. I have struggled greatly with the balance of how to train without beating my body up so bad that I need extra recovery days to avoid injury. Ask a prospective coach to discuss the success their athletes have accomplished and call a couple to get their opinion of their coach.
For me it isn’t about getting a podium spot, it is about becoming a better me. Triathlons have changed the way I think, and helping achieve even greater goals is the reason I am considering a coach.Triathlon coaches can be pretty expensive. With monthly rates ranging from $100 to over $1000, it can be difficult to justify (especially to non-racing spouses) the expense. It is amazing how easily I have found ways to justify a gadget that I must have, yet struggle to spend the same effort developing a plan and justifying it through professional guidance. We all strive to buy a new set of $1800 wheels to drop 10 minutes off our race time, when that same amount of money could help us save 30 minutes through proper training and strategy.