So You've Hired A Coach

So you’ve hired a triathlon coach (or a running coach, or a swim coach…pick your sport du-jour).  You hired them because you want to improve?  Because you want to get faster?  Or did you have a great race last year, and this is the year where you’re ready to really go after a podium finish?

Whatever your reason, you've done some research on him or her.  You’ve reached out to your coach of choice and had preliminary discussions, met in person, and talked about your goals.  You might even have had the opportunity to have a one on one session in the pool or at the track to determine if personalities and coaching methods fit everyone’s needs.

You then made the decision to hire them.  You and your new coach have talked about your plan, discussed your yearly training plan and targeted your “A” races, as well as your buildup races.  The two of you have talked about what your training is going to look like – when heavy load weeks will fall and when recovery weeks are built in.  You’ve paid your monthly fee, signed into your Training Peaks account, and had a look at your upcoming workouts.

And you then argue with your coach why?

You don’t do the prescribed workouts, and question the ones that you do decide to do.  You disappear for five days and wonder why things seem so much harder this week as compared to two weeks ago.  You don’t like doing long swim sets (or speedwork, or threshold rides) so  you change the workouts.  Or, you ride three hours when you’re only prescribed to ride 90 minutes. 

Why did you hire a coach?  Coaching is a lot of work, and your coach puts a lot of time into customizing your workouts.  He or she looks far ahead in the calendar and plans the training this week with a training session that is four weeks ahead in mind.  He or she determines where you need work (speed, endurance) and tailors your training to build you up where you need to be, and to enhance your abilities on top of that.  Your coach finds your weaknesses – your limiters – and creates a plan to, well, get ride of them.

And yet you argue / don’t do the workouts / change your workout / don’t communicate / etc.

If you hire a coach, it’s a two way street.  Effort from both parties is required.  Yes, it’s going to be hard work.  Yes, you’re going to dislike your coach, a lot, during repeat 400’s on the track.  You’re going to call your coach a fucking asshole when you see you have 3 x 800’s in the pool tomorrow.  You know what?  When those things happen, your coach is probably doing something right.

If you hire a coach, make sure you mean it.

Okay, end of rant.

What I really want to do is help you have a healthy and trusting relationship with your coach.  How do you do this?
  • Be open and honest.  If all you’re looking to do is finish a race, and feel good at the end, be up front about that.  Don’t feel pressured to tell them you have lofty goals when that’s not what you’re really looking for.  Just because your friends are doing “X” doesn’t mean that’s right for you. Coaches deal with individuals of all levels.  Be up front with them, tell them what you want, and that’s what the two of you will work on – together.  If busting your ass during January isn’t your thing, let your coach know!  Coaching requires give and take, and being open and honest about what you’re looking to accomplish is always a winning idea.
  • Communicate.  As your coach we want to, need to, know what your thinking.  If you’re looking at an upcoming workout and wonder “what the hell is this for?” then speak up.  That workout is most likely there for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.  If you’re going to be away next weekend, just say so.  It’s not that big a deal – and workouts can be moved around.  Life, work, responsibilities…..all these things need to be taken into consideration when putting a training plan together.  Yes, your coach might ask you, depending on the time of year, to take your running gear with you on your business trip to Omaha, but that’s okay.  Running in new cities is fun.
  • Be true to yourself.  You, the athlete, have to do the work.  Period.  Don’t think that just because you have a plan in front of you that things are magically going to happen on race day.  You’ve got a lot of work to do (depending on your goals) and you’re most likely going to dislike some of the training.  (See note above about calling your coach a fucking asshole).  If it’s not working out, or you realize you’re in over your head, or you made loftier goals than you realized….see #1 above.  Tell your coach!  Make changes.
Are those the only things that are required for a successful coach / athlete relationship?  No.  Are they a good start?  Yes. 

Coaches are there for you.  They want you to succeed.  That’s their job.