For many of us triathletes, we are entering the off season. Our racing is done for the year, the seasons are changing, and we are happy to indulge in Chicago’s wide and delicious offerings of beer.
For many of us still, it is difficult to contain the excitement for next season. New workouts, new gear, new races, new goals. An opportunity to learn on all of the good, and challenging, lessons learned from a new season.
If you are anything like me, you may be asking yourself the question, “What is the single most important thing that I can do to set myself up for success next season?”
My answer for you, unequivocally, is to get a coach.
Having a coach is amazing for many reasons, and many people have written about the subject at length. But I would focus on these four reasons specifically if you’re waffling on the decision.
- Pattern Recognition. The major knowledge advantage of a coach is the pattern recognition is watching many different athletes go through countless training cycles throughout a season. We as individuals are pretty terrible at evaluating where we are relative to where we should be in the context of our goals and in the context of a long season. Though we will always know best where we stand day-to-day in our training, a coach is better able to evaluate how we are doing as athletes for the long haul, which is critical to success in racing.
- Creativity. When you are exercising more than 10+ hours a week, your energy levels inevitably suffer. As a direct result, the gas tank for creativity and inspiration are some of the first to go dry as resources are poured into keeping your basic functions. When you’re training alone, this means that we as athletes do a terrible job of mixing up our training, even in the face of injury or fatigue. Outsourcing this necessary component to keeping training interesting and fun is the difference between training that flies by and training that seems to drag on for an eternity.
- Community. Do you need a strength coach? Your coach probably knows some of the best. Nutritionist? Check. Swim Specialist? Also in the Rolodex. Your coach, by definition, has committed to the community of triathlon in a big way--it’s their profession. As such, their connectivity to other wonderful, knowledgeable people can save you a lot of time and hassle in finding more people to support you. As your triathlon career moves on, you will build yourself a team of people that support you. Putting your coach as the hub of your team gives you easy access to great resources, which is important when time and energy are both in a deficit.
- Sanity Check. Triathletes, as a percentage, are not a big part of the population. We’re often self-reliant in evaluating how much effort we are putting into our training. Generally, when you tell most people what you are doing, they tell you how you’re doing relative to a normal population: Astoundingly well. Here’s the rub: even if you’re doing great relative to others, what really matters is how you are doing relative to yourself. That perspective only comes from someone who watches you, asks you questions, and really knows how you are feeling. Particularly in the midst of big builds, the comfort that comes from a knowing, caring, and a watchful eye is profound.
Now, having said all of that, here are a few things that I would shy away from as primary reasons for getting a coach.
- Accountability. It goes without saying that having a coach will hold you accountable for doing your workouts and sticking to your training, but it should not be your motivation to use one. If YOU don’t want to get yourself out of bed to train, they also are not excited about getting you out of bed to train. If you find yourself asking yourself, “Why am I doing this,” make sure that you find that answer within yourself--your coach can’t possibly know that for you.
- Ninja Secrets. Spoiler Alert: Having a coach will not dramatically reduce your workload or give you the secrets to Ironman success in just four hours a week. Any coach out there will tell you that success in this sport takes a ton of hard work, and you hiring a coach will not change that. If anything, it will give you perspective on all of the things that you can do, and realizing that your success will be about prioritizing the most important and impactful things that you can do on a daily basis to have a great season.
- Therapy. All coaches, at least the good ones, do care about your life beyond the boundaries of your sport. You work life, your relationships, and your living situation all have a big impact on how you train, and they will do the best that they can to support you. However, this is mostly limited to how you can manage these situations in the context of high training volume and low energy--they’re not built to give you advice on a tenuous marriage or a hellacious boss. So, again, know that having someone in your corner is a cure for many of the frustrations and challenges that we will face. But you are ultimately responsible for your life as a whole, and a coach can only support you in so many ways
Are you looking for a coach right now? Here are four groups that can get you started right away:
SuperFly - Local to Chicago, this is a powerhouse coaching group with a strong community, tons of online content, and a crazy-impressive track record of success. They’re currently taking on new athletes for the upcoming season.
FIT Coaching - Also local to Chicago Jenny has attained USAT Level 1 and 2 Endurance Coaching Certifications, a 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Certification, and regularly attends yoga conferences, workshops, and classes.
Jennifer Harrison - Jennifer works with triathletes, swimmers, cyclists and runners to help them attain their goals and have fun all while maintaining balance in their life.
Drew Davis is a certified coach in Strength work, Breathwork, and Nutrition, as well as a competitive age group athlete. He serves humans in all shapes and sizes and is taking on triathlon clients for the year ahead. If you are interested in working with him, email him directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.