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The Benefits of Year-round Coaching

BY Jason Schisler

Working with a coach over time is a key step to improving your performance. Here are the reasons why it works and how you can solve some of the issues that may be keeping you from using a coach year-round.

Coached endurance athletes fall largely into two camps: those that maintain an ongoing coaching relationship and those that hire a coach to help them prepare for a season or event, then discontinue coaching after their A priority event or during their off-season. While there are legitimate reasons for athletes to choose the latter option, there are several good reasons that it may be in your interest to maintain the coaching relationship. In this article, I’ll outline those reasons and address some of the common concerns that prevent people from sticking with their coach.

There are three main reasons why it is better for you to stay with your coach for the long term.

1. Your Coach Knows You

After working together for a season, your coach likely knows you pretty well. They are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, know how much rest you need and understand the demands that work and family might place on your routine. Keeping in touch with your coach through the off-season helps them be more prepared to get you started on the right foot at the start of the next season.

2. Your Coach Can Direct You

The coach likely has some ideas for areas you can work on over the winter, and these might be things you wouldn’t do on your own. Left to our own devices, most of us will gravitate toward areas we like and are already good at. This means we never address our weaknesses, so they persist and continue to detract from our strengths.

3. Your Coach Can Keep You on Track

Without imminent goals, it’s easy to let the training focus slide, to miss some days here and there and allow other bad habits to creep in. This may not be the worst thing in the world, but losing too much focus and consistency isn’t good. The coach can help hold you accountable to your training and be more objective about how well you are maintaining during the off-season.

Concerns and Solutions

With the above reasons for working with a coach, there are still common concerns that lead to a coaching hiatus. While legitimate, they don’t mean you have to stop working with a coach completely. The list below is meant to address those concerns and give you potential solutions.

One of the biggest reasons athletes stop with coaching is the cost. Personal coaching can be an expensive proposition. A few months without a coach may allow you to save some money for the next big piece of equipment that you must have on race day, or even something more mundane like new siding on the house. If the financial burden is the biggest reason you discontinue coaching in the off- season, look into temporary alternative service levels your coach may offer, such as fewer plan tweaks or less frequent communication, that might be more affordable. You still benefit from the relationship, and your pocketbook does as well.

Another reason is that a busy season with a lot of training and racing can leave you a little burned out and you may want to take some time away from the pressure of coaching and structured training. If that sounds like you, express that to your coach and see what suggestions they might have. Perhaps they can build more rest into your routine, or offer a more flexible training schedule so that you don’t feel like you have to be nose-to-the-grindstone in each session.

Finally, if you shift your focus from one activity in-season to something else in the off-season, maybe you feel like you won’t get the benefit from coaching services. If this is the case, seek out a coach who can help you in both areas. If you can’t find one who’s already qualified, help your current coach to understand the demands of the other sport, why you enjoy it, and how much time you want to commit to it, along with how much you can continue to focus on your primary activity.

The most important part of a successful coaching relationship is good communication. Whatever your reasons for considering a coaching hiatus, bring them up with your coach and listen to their feedback. They should be understanding and dynamic enough to adjust to your concerns, but they may also offer some additional ideas that aren’t immediately to your liking. Consider these with an open mind before making a final decision. As long as the coach has your best interests in mind, which they should, they won’t steer you down the wrong path. Sticking with them through the off-season will allow you to make the most of this time, address your limitations and be ready to hit the ground running when the time comes to build up for the next season.

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About Jason Schisler

Jason Schisler is the Director of Coaching at Vision Quest Coaching in Highland Park, IL. He works with endurance athletes of all ages with diverse goals from marathons and Ironmans to criteriums and multi-day cycling adventures. His emphasis is on gathering and analyzing objective training data and using this data to design future training. Along with one-on-one coaching, Jason designs the group training sessions for Vision Quest training centers and helps to develop their coaching staff. His own athletic background is in cycling, but you’ll more often find him competing in running or Nordic skiing events these days.