Coaching is broken into two parts. Delivering a program and coaching that though are inextricably linked. Most people can understand the basics of training indeed the courses you can undertake are good, open to many and teach you the theory. However, we had an expression in the military, ‘no plan survives first contact’. What does this mean? Simply, all the best plans will need to be altered almost immediately when applied in this case to an individual athlete. So then this is where coaching comes in. The coach provides the human interaction and creates flexibility in the program as to individual needs. The coach looks at the feedback and makes it relevant to your life in that week rather than a generic formula however well grounded. This human interaction reaction to feedback is the most important element of coaching. It is why you should absolutely always look for a coach with unlimited contact time. Anything else is what it sounds, limiting.
Accountability. This is a huge part of the value associated to a coach. Even just the simple act of having someone else overlooking your program is enough to help motivate and along with other elements such as the benefits of group training, reduce stress on your motivation bank account. Coupled with accountability is balance. Simply as humans statistically we will gravitate to the path of least resistance. This is not to say you’re not training hard on your own but for example, you may well gravitate towards the things you enjoy which is not a problem some of the time, just not all of the time! Many times we have had a quick message from an athlete who’s day has blown up meaning they need to miss, for example, one of their two sessions. Now in truth they know which one they should be doing but it’s the coach’s job to help point them in the right direction which undoubtedly is the one they don’t want to do!
Most if not triathletes are driven individuals with many pulls on their time be that, work, family or other responsibilities. We’ve found that people have a strong understanding of what they’re doing next week but after that it pretty much falls off a cliff which is why we deliver programs on weekly basis flexing to changing needs and priorities whilst paying heed to the overarching meso and macro cycles thus looking after the bigger picture. Being able to outsource this sort of decision making to a professional with the experience to manage your time to help you hit your goals is invaluable and promotes efficiency.
Experience matters. One reason a self-coached athlete might hit a plateau will almost certainly be experience. Experienced coaches have worked with 100s of athletes over the years and this helps us to engage a different solution to a problem than you may have thought of. A good coaching relationship allows you to bounce ideas off a reputable, knowledgable source rather than an unknown one on a forum.
What is performance and why does it matter to coaching? Well this is almost an entirely new blog topic! Simply, a generic program will only be interested in one thing, making you faster which is awesome but sometimes misses the point. Performance is what you make it and that is as individual as every athlete. There is a tendency to compare oneself to others in triathlon, not least because each course, weather and so on, are different. However, a good coach will find out what performance means to you which is vastly more satisfying.
Finally, invest in the engine. If you already have a mid-high end TT bike you will find that in order to improve on it you will be looking to spend on average £3109 (Figures taken from 6 top brands) to improve on it and realistically you’re just not going to get the bang for your buck at that point. That investment represents almost two seasons of coaching…
Argon 18: £3805
Investing in the engine will ultimately push you forward.