So it’s that time of the year again when thoughts start turning to the next season and motivation levels are rising. Which races to pick? Should I go up a distance? Aim for an Ironman (eventually)? Should I attempt it alone? Is it time to get a coach? While I can’t help you choose your races, I’d like to share my thoughts about taking on a coach, the qualities you should look for in a coach and some of the key aspects that make a good program.
To start with, probably one of the most important aspects of a good coach is experience. It’s funny how we learn far more from our past mistakes than we do from our successes. And unfortunately that comes back to years in the sport, hard lessons learnt and equally hard successes earned.
Another often-overlooked aspect is communication. Communication is absolute key in any working relationship between athlete and coach. As an athlete you need to give honest feedback to your coach. If a session is not working for you then you need to say so! A good coach will want to know if a session is good or bad so if you want to get the best out of your coach, you need to speak up! Equally, a good coach should make it easy to communicate and be available, sometimes when you most need it. When you choose a coach be sure to check their contact/communication policy.
Motivation. Your coach should be able to motivate you in different ways, whether you need a pep talk now and again or you need your sessions mixed up to keep you interested… and hopefully your coach realizes this before your training takes a dive.
The makings of a good coaching program
Firstly your program should start with an annual plan outlining your race calendar and goals for the season, the weaknesses you need to work on in the off-season/season and generally give you a rough outline on what to expect throughout the year.
You should then receive weekly or at most, fortnightly detailed training sessions, with each session’s goal and a description of what you should be doing for that particular session. A good coach will not get too far ahead of you as they should be reacting to your previous sessions and be making small changes depending on your feedback and the data received. Plus, life happens and your work, family or social commitments may sometimes also call for last minute changes!
If you are getting a fixed 4-week block of training with no room for changes or feedback from your coach, you are either paying peanuts or your coach is not paying close enough attention to your needs. If that’s the case then you might as well buy an online program and crack on by yourself!
As with any relationship, trust is hard earned and important to make the athlete/ coach relationship work to its best. There are no shortcuts in endurance sports, you have to trust in the process set from your coach and give it time to reach your goals. If you have given your training 100% and are progressing, then trust in your coach as you are probably on the right track. If you are not improving and giving 100% then maybe its time for a change!
Good luck with your training and I hope your coach is helping you on your journey not hindering you!