Go Triathlete

Finding the Right Triathlon Coach

A coach is a valuable asset, in that they can help monitor your training, increase your fitness, and provide much needed support for the inevitable rough patches encountered along the way. Finding the right coach for you though, can be a daunting task. For starters, there are probably hundreds of potential coaches within a relatively small radius around wherever you live. Add in the coaches across the nation that use online training programs, and the number of coaches grows to an even larger, seemingly indeterminable number. Where to begin?

First off, recognize that one coach does not fit all athletes. Simply put, different coaches have different training philosophies and the majority are bound to clash with how you can feasibly go about your training. Almost every coach will say how they're "flexible" with their training plans, but that's not to say they don't have a system in place. Though, any good coach should have a system, because triathletes benefit greatly from routine and consistency; you just have to know what you can handle yourself.

So, instead of blindly jumping on board with the next coach you meet, set up a time to discuss your expectations and more importantly, theirs. Think of this meeting as an interview, but always remember that you are the one hiring the coach. Therefore, have questions prepared and thoroughly discuss every detail until you feel you have found the right candidate for the job. The following is a jumping off point for the type of questions you may want to ask:

Is your training program based on science or feel?

Some coaches rely heavily on data to structure their workouts and gauge progress, while others favor the rate of perceived exertion. Either method can help you get fitter and faster, but scientifically based training can be much more expensive and usually requires much more time analyzing data (establishing power/heart rate zones, thresholds, etc). Your investment - time and monetary - in the sport is entirely up to what you want out of it. That's not to say that scientifically based training is better than training by feel, because some people dread staring at a small digital screen while riding, myself included. Honest introspection about how you prefer to train and what you want out of the sport will help you determine your preference.

How do you measure success?

It is the goal of every coach to help their athletes achieve their desired goals, but it's also good to ask what success means to the coach. That is, what is their expectation of you.

What is their (the coach) athletic background?

Finding out the coaches athletic background is crucial to helping you be the best well rounded athlete possible. For instance, if swimming is your weakness, it is best to find a coach with a strong swim background. That allows you to leverage their particular knowledge for the single discipline to better yourself.

Do they have a group of athletes you can train with and what are their goals?

Training with a group not only serves as good motivation to get out and train, it also is beneficial in that you'll have others around to push you. However, if you are aiming to be as fast as possible for Olympic-distance events and you train with a group of Iron-distance athletes, you may not be getting everything you should out of the group sessions depending on the other athletes' skill levels. So, just be sure to ask.

The coach-athlete relationship is a two way street, so it is imperative to let them know what you life looks like in regards to your commitments (work, school, kids, travel, etc). Regardless, you are the one paying for their service, so don't be afraid to scrutinize them and set up multiple meetings with other coaches. Finding the best fit for you is the best scenario for everyone, in that you'll gel well together and get the most out of each other.