Finding the right triathlon coach

Finding the right triathlon coach

There's a lot to consider when choosing your triathlon coach. What's your budget? How much time do you have? What are your goals? Here are my top tips to make sure you find the right triathlon coach for you.

Now you know the benefits of triathlon coaching, we'll now we focus on the different options available and how to identify the right coach.

What types of coaching are available?

Club Coaches

Most local triathlon clubs will have coaches on hand to give free coaching advice or more commonly, coached sessions (e.g. swim club, track session etc.)

Pros

  • Other than club membership fees, there is usually no fee
  • It's a great way of meeting other triathletes and finding training partners

Cons

  • You are unlikely to get particularly tailored training advice. 
  • Improvement is likely to be slower

Professional face-to-face

A coach you are paying to coach you who you see on a regular basis.  There are many levels to this, ranging from seeing some of our pros daily, with all sessions are designed specifically for each individual, through to athletes attending once or twice a week at group swim sessions. All athletes will have regular face-to-face meetings to discuss the week’s training and ensure programmes are adapted as necessary.

Pros 

  • A training programme designed and adapted specifically for you.
  • Additional advice including conditioning training, race strategy and nutritional information will often also be included. 
  • You can expect to feel you make progress, so long as you are following the advice given.

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • If you haven’t got a reasonable amount of time to commit to training, this might be a level too high for you

Internet-based training

A coach will put a training plan on a web-based platform for you to access.  Often communication will be via this platform, but it can also include contact through Skype for example. There are many levels to this, from a tailored approach similar to face to face above (regular contact etc.), to a simple periodical programme that you follow, until completion and go back for another.

Pros

  • Easy format
  • A wide range of options of coaches, as they can be based anywhere in the world.

Cons

  • We use the term “training” here, as it is tough to coach someone via the internet.  
  • You can have limited and unreliable gains in technical areas without seeing the athlete regularly in training. 

Discipline-specific coaching

Some coaches specialise in coaching a specific triathlon discipline.

Pros

  • Very good for people with a desire to improve in particular areas, e.g. swimming. 

Cons 

  • Triathlon is different from the individual sports in many ways, and not all discipline-specific coaches appreciate this and take into account the other training you are doing.
  • Less likely to learn specifics of multi-discipline training, e.g. transitions.

Workshop coaching

Similar to the discipline-specific coach, you can get coaching at workshops targeting specific areas. Swim workshops are very popular at the moment, but it might also be a weekend away where you look at an upcoming race and do transition practice, open water swimming in a group etc.

Pros

  • A good way of getting a good injection of knowledge and tips for your training.

Cons

  • No regular reinforcement of knowledge and training methods

Training/Coaching camps

These are most common in winter (especially in Europe) to get to warmer climates and get some intensive training done.  Typically run by coaches these camps can vary from a simple holiday with some practice, to thoroughly coached, specific training camps. 

Pros

  • A great way to get some individualised coaching on a one-to-one basis
  • ​No commitment to long-term cost.

Cons

  • If you don’t go on a coached camp, it is easy to get carried away and do way more training than you would at home, and be too tired to train properly for a few weeks.

What should you look for in a coach?

Qualifications - if you are going to be spending a good chunk of money on coaching, you should choose someone with triathlon-specific coaching qualifications. Other areas to look for are relevant degrees or post-graduate qualifications (e.g. sports science, with a focus on physiology or coaching). 

Experience - what has the coach done in the sport or outside the sport that might enhance their ability. What level of athletes are they experienced at working with - an experienced coach of elite athletes may not be such a great coach of novices. 

A lot of ex-elite/pro athletes (and even current ones) turn their hands to coaching.  It is important to remember that what they have achieved as a coach is much more relevant to you than what they accomplished as an athlete. A great athlete doesn’t necessarily make a great coach (although they can).

Track record - what progress have athletes made with this coach? Coaching big names is one thing; making athletes better is another. 

Compatibility - does the coach ‘fit’ with you, do you like the way they work, can you talk honestly with them?
 
Provision of your requirements
- do they offer what you need? i.e. there's no point looking at a coach with expertise in swimming if you intend to improve your biking. 
 
Hopefully, you now have an answer to that question of whether you could be a better triathlete with a coach - and know how to choose precisely the right type of coach for you.

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