Most triathletes in the Northern Hemisphere have already started planning their 2011 season, and many have already registered for races. Many of you are hoping to build upon all that you’ve gained this past year. Maybe you were plagued by injury, your job, or fatigue, and are trying to figure out how to ‘get it right’ next year. Whether you specialize in Ironman, Olympic, Sprint, Off-Road, or all of the above, there is no denying that working with the right coach for you, will get you started on the right path. But how do you pick the right coach to work with? The key word being, ‘with’ because coaching is a partnership. Just as much as you may want someone to tell you what to do, you always want someone to listen to you. A pre-made training plan can’t do that. So, what do you look for in a coach? Here’s a list of what we at Trismarter.com, consider to be most important.
You Need to Trust Your Coach This is the most important aspect of your athlete-coach relationship. Your coach could give you the greatest workouts and training plan ever devised, but if you don’t trust and believe in the plan, you won’t follow it. That isn’t a valuable way to spend your money, and you aren’t reaching your potential.
If you currently have a coach, ask yourself if you really trust that person to provide you with the information and guidance you need/want. If not, find out how to make this relationship work better for you, or find a new coach. If you are looking for a coach; choose wisely. Interview the person with whom you are considering investing your entire next season (and potentially beyond) with. Can this person deliver you that PR you are hoping to achieve?
Experience Your coach should be, at the very least, more experienced than you are at racing the events you are going to train for. Your coach should also have a successful track record of coaching athletes similar to your ability, and racing similar events.
For example, if you intend on participating in your first Ironman-distance triathlon in 2011, your coach should be working with other athletes training for Ironman-distance races. A coach should have plenty of personal experience racing Ironman-distance events too. Someone that has successfully finished several Ironman events, brings with them a level of experience, that someone who has only raced Sprint or Olympic distance events, does not possess. In other words, learning about the required training for a race such as an Ironman from books, lectures, and the internet, can only take you so far. First hand experience is key here.
Does Your Coach Listen? Regardless of how amazing your periodized training plan looks on paper, it means nothing if your coach does not take the time to listen to you, the athlete. Your training is not customized to your needs if your coach is not reading your training log entries and listening to your thoughts on the workouts that you do. That’s what they are there for; to read and interpret your feedback. Then, based upon how your mind and body are responding to the training, they should further customize your training plan. Creating a training plan should not be a one-time only offer. A training plan should be as dynamic and flexible as necessary to work for you.
It’s well documented that in order to improve in sport, the athlete engages in a process of overload, then recovers to become a stronger, faster, and a more fit athlete. The art of coaching is understanding the individual process that each person needs to achieve the desired/necessary adaptations to improve. A coach will not be able to guide you to your potential, without listening and understanding what works best for you. Most of the time you don’t know yourself what works best for you, and the coach should help figure that out. Once they have a clear picture of how you are handling the training and what you need, they should adapt your training plan to meet those needs. For this reason, pre-made training plans will always be inferior to having someone coaching you. That being said, if your coach does not listen to you, it is no better than having a pre-made, one size fits all training plan.
As you begin planning for your best season yet in 2011, use these criteria to search for the best coach for you. Coming soon will be Part II of this series of posts, What to Look for in a Coach. We will explore the finer details of what a coach in 2011 should be offering his or her athletes to further enhance training and racing.