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What is and What is Not Important to Your Coach

BY Bethany Rutledge

While communicating with your coach is critical to success, not every detail is super important. Bethany Rutledge breaks down what your coach values, and what they can do without.

As a newly coached athlete, it can be daunting to figure out what’s important in your training files. While every coach values data and communication, some things just are not that important while others are critical. I can’t speak for all coaches, but I think most would agree with the following items below.

What Your Coach is Not Concerned With

These are the parts of your training that are likely not important to your coach. Though you may think these are critical details that you must tell your coach, the truth is that they just aren’t that critical and you may actually be harming your ability to perform your training.

How Fast You go on Your Easy Day

I hear athletes a lot talk about how they can’t believe they were so slow on what’s supposed to be an easy run or ride day. The point of a slow day is to promote recovery and keep blood flowing so pace doesn’t matter at all. Trying to keep to your personal definition of a ‘good’ power or pace during a recovery day will come back to haunt you in the form of poor recovery for key sessions. Instead, take advantage of those days to run with a slower friend, catch up on a podcast, or just relax your mind without worrying about metrics.

A Little Red and Yellow

In TrainingPeaks, if you didn’t complete the session, went over or under the planned time by more than 50 percent, it will show up red. If you only completed 50 to 79 percent of workout, or went over by 121 to 150 percent, the workout will show up yellow. Most athletes want to keep their training peaks all green- that’s a given. But if the training is the right amount of challenging, there will be days inevitably that a session is a miss or even a fail. Doing everything perfectly is not a good goal. Not only is it unrealistic, if you always hit everything perfectly with no issues, it’s likely your training is too easy.

Little Tweaks to Make Training Fit With Life

Did you run out of time for your whole swim set on Tuesday and abbreviate the warm up? Did you need to change an easy bike and run day into a brick due to time constraints? Small changes like this are not a big deal and are the reality of a busy life. After awhile, you will learn which tweaks are doable on your own and which ones your coach would prefer you communicate and collaborate about ahead of time.

A Bad Workout

This is similar to the point about a little red and yellow above. Part of training is challenging yourself and if you’re being adequately challenged you won’t always be able to meet the requirements of every session. One bad session does not usually require a drastic overhaul to the plan. A succession of misses does. If you’re not sure about your coach’s guidelines for when to shorten, versus cut intensity, versus bail completely on a key session, then ask.

What Your Coach Cares Very Much About

There are however, a few things that your coach cares a great deal about. These are critical elements to success and your coach needs you to communicate with them what is happening. 

All Red Everywhere

As mentioned above, when you only complete half or less of the prescribed distance or duration, it shows up red in TrainingPeaks. This can leave a coach with many questions. Did you complete everything and are just waiting to upload? Are you sick or injured, or have your stopped training altogether? Usually, all red is a bad sign as sometimes it involves you either disengaging or not wanting to share about an illness or injury. Help us help you by letting us know what’s happening.

Flatline on a Key Workout

There’s nothing like opening up a key workout file with eager anticipation and being greeted with a key interval bike turned into a soft pedal with no explanation or worse, turned into a different sport altogether. Let your coach know what happened so they are not left to guess if there was an equipment is

That You’re Having Fun

This one may sound strange, but in my experience, athletes who don’t enjoy training and the sport don’t tend to stick around long. Sure it’s not always fun to pop out of bed at 4AM to jump into a cold pool, but you should be getting rewarded on some level aside from race day.

Remember that coaching is about communication and understanding. Just like any relationship, some items are more important than others. As you and your coach get to know each other and nail down your process, it will become clear what really matters and what does not.  

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About Bethany Rutledge

Bethany is a USAT certified triathlon coach with an M.A. in Health Science/Health Promotion as well as graduate training in Counseling. She is one of the Atlanta Tri Club partners and owners of Energy Lab, a coaching and cycling studio in Atlanta, and serves on the USA Triathlon Southeast Regional Council as the Technology coordinator. Bethany has been coaching both individuals and groups in running and triathlon for several years now. She also serves on the USA Triathlon Southeast Regional Council as the Technology Program Manager.She is also a freelance writer, contributing regularly to the training section of Triathlete Magazine, co-author of the recently published 180 Your Life from Tragedy to Triumph: A Woman’s Grief Guide and various other publications.A two time IRONMAN World Champs and 70.3 World Champs Qualifier, and perennial USA Triathlon All American, her personal focus is the Ironman distance. In the 2015 USAT Rankings she was ranked 6th in 30-34 in the SE, and 3rd in the state. She was also ranked 4th in the country for 30-34 in the 2013 IRONMAN 70.3 Age Group Rankings. Her favorite mode of exercise is running with her two vizslas, Sadie, and Bailey.