It’s a new year, and your first race will be here before you know it. You have signed up for that big event, and even hired a coach to help you meet your training and race goals. Now what?
Endurance coaching can be expensive, and for most might even be considered a luxury. 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?
Here are five things to do to make sure you are getting the most out of the investment you’ve made in your racing season.
Communication is key
Communicating with your coach. 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 fully benefit from coaching.
Before coaching ever begins, there will likely be an initial meeting or phone call with your new coach. 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. We all have them, and being upfront with them will help your coach craft a training plan that is both realistic and attentive to your abilities and your available time.
Online or “virtual coaching” has become the new norm, so location doesn’t have to be a limitation in having a quality coaching experience. A majority of the coach-athlete interaction will take place through e-mail, telephone calls, text messaging, and through TrainingPeaks.
Be clear with your coach regarding what you prefer in the area of communication frequency and method. Do you prefer to be texted in addition to receiving post-workout comments through TrainingPeaks?
Otherwise, he or she may assume everything is going fine and you have no questions and feel you’re getting the attention you need. 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 your coach’s plan
Following the plan is critical. As life sometimes gets in the way, we all have to miss or cut a workout short from time to time. 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.
Upload your workouts
We all want to get credit for our hard work, right? Most coaches these days are using available online coaching software such as TrainingPeaks. It cannot be over-emphasized how important it is to upload and log in your workouts regularly, and to leave your coach “post workout” comments as well.
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 use TrainingPeaks, 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 in an extremely timely manner.
Share your successes with your coach!
Tell 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 email 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.
What equipment do I need to begin?
For triathlon coaching, your coach will assume you already have all of the basics like a bike, as well as swim, bike, and run gear. Triathletes will also need access to a swimming pool and a safe place to ride and run.
And while not absolutely necessary, you may want to consider a good GPS device for your sport, and some coaches might even require a heart rate monitor and power meter.
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
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.