I am a terrible athlete to coach. I know because I coach myself; I’m on top of the details and follow my progress session by session. Despite this I don’t always do what I should: I choose training I enjoy over training I need. I can be undisciplined, the coach has to pull the athlete back in line. Rebuking my bad behaviour on this blog has been a powerful coaching tool!
I also have a great group of athletes to coach. They do the work I set, they push themselves and sometimes even apologise when they feel they under perform! It’s a rewarding job, especially seeing their development as the training works. But I’m not there to see them train every day, I rely on my athletes to keep me informed.
It’s a rare athlete that hits every session perfectly. At some point every athlete I coach has required adjustments. Often family or work necessitate changes and the question is how to prioritise workouts. Sometimes sickness or injury interrupts routine and we have to consider how to return as quickly as possible. Occasionally it’s obvious they can handle more and I can push them harder.
Communication is a core component of the coach-athlete relationship. Building a schedule is simple, but I can only coach an athlete when I know how they’re training. Under performing, excessive fatigue, cruising through sessions? These can all be reasons to adapt plans and adjust training. I definitely want to know if they’re sick or injured; handled correctly recovery time can be minimised. Good coaching isn’t rigid, it adapts and ensures every session is appropriate.
I do my part. I routinely check in and follow my athlete’s progress; I chase the information I need. There are limits, coaching is a business, in rare instances where an athlete doesn’t feedback I have to assume everything is to plan. It’s frustrating. The most rewarding athletes to coach are those who engage with me – we work together and the results follow.
Use your coach – keep us updated on progress and talk to us when training isn’t as planned. Don’t go it alone! Without this communication there’s not much difference between a coach and a good book. You hire a coach for their knowledge, experience and ability to optimise your training, not for a template.
I started triathlon with the help of a coach. As I gained experience I developed my own views on training and increasingly deviated from his plans. Athletes can outgrow their coach. That’s fine, but rather than discuss it I kept it secret. I wasn’t using my coach – I received plans I didn’t follow and took advice from other sources. Without communication I was paying for a service I never used; it didn’t make financial sense!
I may be shooting myself in the foot! My athletes might inundate me with mail and I’ll have no time to train. Coaching is a business, but I want to be engaged with the athletes I coach. I want to know the details of their training and progression and I want to support them when it’s hard going. Without communication I just build schedules, with it I coach.
From nutrition to pacing - a collection of CoachCox blog posts focused specifically on Ironman training and racing.