Getting the Most Out of Your Triathlon Coach

author : eric_kenney
comments : 1

Own your training! Coaches don’t read minds. You, the athlete, have to take action.

I have seen many articles and blog posts in my day about what makes a good coach. What he, she should be doing, not doing, etc.  And, for the most part, they are all pretty valid. The topic is also one that's sure to attract lots of attention. Picking a coach is tough. I know, I have done it myself!  

But what about being a suitable and good client (athlete)?  In my many years of coaching I have seen such promise in athletes that simply was never tapped into.  Why?

So you have done your diligent searching, interviewed your possible coach and asked them your ten big questions and now you’re under way. Now what? How do you get the most out of your coach?  Guess what? It’s your responsibility! 

Do the work and do it right

Well of course.  It’s your fitness, it’s your big race, your goals, your body. You have to work hard, get up in the morning and follow the plan you and your coach set out to do.

“Wait, wait, what did you say? Me and my coach?”  Yeah. The grand plan. The here we are now, we want to go there, this is the path I think we should take discussion. You need to have a common understanding of where you’re going.  You don’t say to your buddies, "Hey, let's go to the movies!" "Sweet, see you there!” What movie? What time? What day? What theater?  For those of you that hired a coach and said, "I wana do Ironman Lake Placid" and off you went...it's likely you and your coach are on a different bus to get there.  Have a long talk with your coach about the BIG PICTURE.

This conversation should boil down to training phases, month to month, week to week and then, the day to day. “Ok cool, we are taking this path and this month it means this is my training plan."

Onto executing the workouts.  Before my clients do any workouts they need to know three things.  If you (the athlete) don’t know these, you need to ask! 

3 Keys to knowing your workout:

How to do it.  3x15’ in zone 4 with 4’ rest can be done a few ways. Uphill, flats, rd bike or TT bike. After a warm up or after 2 hr’s riding? What cadence? If the workout is 3 hr’s what do I do the rest of the time?  Etc. I have prescribed all these variations before, anyone can write down 3x15’.  You have to know all the details.

Why you’re doing it.  You have to know why. What’s the purpose?  What is the physiological adaptation that I am looking for here? This will help you focus on that. Doing workouts blind is a waste!  And it’s your fault! There is no magic workout!  “Why is Joe becoming a better runner than me? We do the same workouts?”  He does it better, harder and smarter than you, that’s why. 

How it pertains to you and you’re a race: Ok, you got the above down. But why are you doing run intervals on a hill in Z4 while training for an iron distance race? When we get down to specific workouts, you should be taking apart certain aspect of the race or discipline and training each separate part. We talk about this in the off season training articles and the fall training seminar. When you do this you can get pretty non-specific.  Know where you’re going with everything you do. Your car runs on gas but there’s a reason you have a big battery in there. 

Communicate!

You, the athlete, have to take action. Coaches don’t read minds. No coach is going to call you up in the morning to ask you how you have slept, etc.  If you’re tired you have to communicate that. If you don’t have time to do three hours next Sunday, if you don’t know the three keys to knowing your workout you have to ask!  I once heard at a stage race, “My coach sucks! I haven’t talked to him in two weeks!”  I said “That sucks, does he just not answer his phone?”  “Oh, I don’t know, I haven’t called him.”  Are you serious!  I quickly told him that the coach needs more attention, that before you go telling people your coach sucks maybe you should make a call first. You have to communicate with your coach. You have to ask questions. If you don’t want to, or you are going to wait for them to call or don’t care, don’t get a coach and save yourself and them some time.

Take control!

If you read nothing else I write read this. 

Things don’t happen to you, you gotta MAKE IT HAPPEN.  We have all heard it’s not the cards you’re dealt but it's how you play them.  Life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Then get some vodka, get some more lemons and tequila, get all your friends together, make sure the unleaded lemonade is clearly labeled, collect all the car keys and have a party!  “The glass is half full or half empty?”  I say neither, the glass is too big. Seems like a pretty fixable issue, get a smaller glass and move on!

Things don’t just happen to you. Take control of your life. Take control of your training! Own your training - it’s your body.

"It's cold, it’s windy, I was at work late, lunch didn’t sit right, I have an early flight, it’s too dark."  Yeah these things happen, but when they “happen” all the time they're excuses. Fix it if you still want to stick with your goals, or your goals need adjusted.

“Adapt, improvise, overcome!” ~Clint Eastword in heartbreak ridge.

Your race won’t be easy. No one is going to hand you your goal on a platter - you have to go get it.
Stop saying, "Whoa is me," and start saying, "Whoa, I feel sorry for my competition."

You have to do this and you alone.  Your coach can’t teach this, and many will be unlikely to tell you to get tough so I’ll say for them. "Suck it up and get tough!"

I have an infinity symbol tattoo. It's broken however, it doesn’t connect. Every now and then someone takes a close look at it and asks, “Why is your infinity symbol not complete?”
I say,  “I am in the completion of it.  I have to go out and make life happen.”  If I sit in the house all day and wait for my business to grow or my legs to get stronger or to meet new friends, guess what?  None of that will happen.  In fact it won’t be long until the opposite happens. 

The best way to do this is to plan ahead.

Plan ahead

Ever said this to your coach?  “Oh yeah, I didn’t do any of the workouts last weekend, I was away.”  

Really? REALLY?  Did you wake up sat at 3am and decide you needed to fly to Canada that morning? Training properly takes planning.  And your coach still can’t read your mind. Your month should go like this:   Communicate (getting tired of saying this but so few do it enough). 

  • Communicate your athlete schedule. For the next month I need these days off. I am away for work here, there is a group ride I would like to do on this day, etc. 
  • Look over your training when it’s all set. Make sure it works with your schedule again. Double check.
  • Make sure you know the three keys to a good workout for every single workout!
  • Plan ahead.  You may have to get up early for a particular workout, pack clothes for another, eat pasta for breakfast, ask to move that workout as the weather looks bad.  All this leads to better quality training and better performance on race day.  
  • Prepare! Remember things don’t happen to you. Make them happen!  Stretch, eat and hydrate well before those tough workouts, get pumped up - whatever it takes to get it done.

Listen to others, don’t react

Its ok to read training articles, listen to others and what they do.  But before taking action ask your coach.  

Its only a matter of time before people start telling you what workouts you should do, how many hours you need to train, how fast you have to go to reach a goal. Go ahead listen, take it in. Realize that everyone has an opinion and everyone responds to training differently.  For many of us our local sporting team is the only place we can express those feelings in a place where people will have a clue with what we are talking about. 

If something sparks a question in your head, ask your coach!  See communication again.  You need to have trust and faith in your training. You can’t be second guessing yourself all the time.  If you hopscotch around form training method to training method you’ll fall very short of your goal not to mention waisting your money if you’re doing what you think is best instead of what your coach has taken the time to lay out for you. “Hey coach, what do you think about this?”  Seems like a pretty easy question to me.  I get it from my clients all the time. I encourage it. It makes for smarter, better athletes and it pushes me to be a better coach.  

Know thyself

Communication again! Is it sinking in yet?  Listen to your body. Your coach doesn’t know what, “I felt horrible” really means. Horrible to him and you may be two different planets.  Horrible how?  Tight, empty, weak, tired, good at first then bad. What? If you know you just can’t do it today you have to communicate that.  Figure out why and move forward. The answer is probably right there. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees sometimes.  One reason for having a coach is for the objective point of view but you have to tell them what’s going on. Every athlete is different.  “Hey coach, I think I can go faster. The Z4 intervals are feeling almost easy and I am in the upper end of the zone.”   That’s a pretty quick e-mail. If you’re too busy to e-mail, too busy to take control and own your training, then you're too busy to train.  You may want to better organize your life.

Here’s the deal gang. Whether you have a coach or not you have to own your training. Plan ahead. The best results I have seen from athletes all have a common thread. They missed very few if any workouts. Why? Because they don’t have jobs? No, because they communicated and planned ahead. They took steps to ensure that their training was at the highest quality possible. Everyone has setbacks. Everyone has tough times and bad workouts.  The more you take control, the more you take responsibility and the better you will be on race day.

Train smart, train safe.

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date: November 9, 2012

eric_kenney