Do I Need a Triathlon Coach?

Whether you are competitive or just out there to have fun, it’s natural to want to do your best. When I get to the end of a triathlon (no matter the distance), I immediately want to know my splits for swim, bike and run AND how I stacked up against everyone else in my age group.

I did my first sprint triathlon as a means to cross-train for a marathon eight years ago. As I ran the four miles to the finish line, I can recall feeling like I never wanted to do that again. Then I crossed the finish line and all the tough moments paled in comparison to the feeling of accomplishment of finishing my first triathlon. When I looked at the results and I realized I didn’t do all that bad compared to everyone else, even after panicking in the swim, carrying three-too-many water bottles for a 13 mile bike ride, and wanting to vomit during the run.

I am not obsessed with the results of a race, but seeing progression and improvement drives me to keep showing up for training sessions. This is when I decided to get a coach. I wanted to see progress in my training sessions, continued improvement in my races and I didn’t know how to put a training plan together on my own.

Training Plans vs. Customized Coaching

Having a coach is very different than following a plan and that is why, if you look out on the internet, downloading a training plan or paying a coach to send you a training plan is significantly less expensive than having a coach.

(Need a place to start? Click Here for pro triathlete Radka Kahlefeldt’s 6-Week Beginner Training Plan!)

Triathlon Coach

If you participated in organized sports when you were younger, you had a coach. They saw you regularly, knew your hobbies outside of the sport you played, how many siblings you had, what your home-life was like, how many hours a week you were in school/work, and they could recognize when you weren’t “yourself.” A triathlon coach is the same way even if they don’t see you every day. Even if your interaction with your coach is just through your data files, that says a lot about what’s going on in life.

When you download a training plan, nobody knows who you are and they don't know if the plan is really right for you besides your category: beginner, intermediate, advanced or elite. You receive a calendar of workouts weekly, biweekly or monthly and you follow it. If injury, illness, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, fatigue, mood-swings or anything else shows up, you figure out how to get it all in any way you can.

When you have a coach, you are in communication regularly on everything related to your plan and they review how you showed up for your training sessions. A coach knows what you are capable of and they have created a customized plan to help you progress. Some of us progress quickly, some slowly. Some training plans that coaches put together are bulls-eyes, and some need tweaking as they get to know the athlete they are coaching and what they can manage.

Whether you select a virtual coach or someone local, that person is with you through the thick of your training. Coaches celebrate when they see a workout uploaded and successfully completed, they measure and evaluate your progress, and they keep your big picture goals in mind when you think you need to get your workout in with a fever.

Sometimes our coaches see what we cannot see – they see fatigue and they give us extra rest, and they see potential and they challenges us more. If you have ever felt either of those two things when training for an event, a coach might be just what you need to kick it up a notch to reach your goals.

(Need help setting some basic goals? Click Here for Adrienne’s tips on goal setting!)

Coaching Triathletes

How Do I Know if I Need a Coach?

There isn’t ONE way to answer to this question. I think a great way to break this down is to assess your own “Whys” behind “Why do I want a coach?”

In my own journey, I wanted a coach because I wanted someone else to handle the heavy load of what I should do. I felt like downloading a training plan was too generic for my fitness level and ability and my goals were too big to leave it to chance, so it was time for me to consider getting a coach. Your “why” may be different so here are a few things to consider.

What GREAT Coaches Do Well:

• Putting training into perspective

• Talking us off the ledge when we have given up

• Speaking life into us when we need motivation

• Reminding us of the work we have done that we forgot about

• Calling attention to where we started

• Looking at the positive parts of training session and races when we only remember what wasn’t completed or where we feel we failed

• Knowing how to take a step back so that we can take several steps forward

• Assessing how what is being done today fits into our bigger goals

• Giving us a swift kick in the pants when we didn’t show up fully for training

• Patting us on the back when we need reassurance

• Giving us direct and honest feedback

Why get a coach

There are a million other things that great coaches do well and none of them have to do with putting together the perfect training plan. They have to do with reading an athlete day-in and day-out to support his/her goals. So where to start….

  1. Consider the importance and amount of energy that you place on your triathlon endeavors, your fitness and the progression you have made to get where you are. If it is important to you, it might be time to look around for a coach.
  2.  Ask triathlon buddies who have a coach their likes and dislikes about him/her.
  3. Speak to perspective coaches at a minimum and if possible, sit down with them to talk through his/her coaching style.
  4. Assess your ability to be coached! Are you willing to let go of your “Type A” control of knowing how it’s all going to pan out and trust they are leading you on the right path?
  5. Lastly, give it time. With any coach, you need to give it at least 3 months, if not an entire year to tease out the kinks and work together. We all communicate differently so keep that in mind. 

Adrienne Smith is the founder and owner of Power of Your Om Yoga Studio in Santa Barbara, California as well as a former professional triathlete - now she trains and races for fun, for health and to inspire others to live big! 

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