Someone asked me this weekend why I needed a coach. Well, the answer that I gave them didn't really satisfy them because they walked away with a puzzled look on their face (which isn't anything new if you have a conversation with me). The answer that I gave was a short and sweet one... "I just do!"
Being part of a online triathlon group, the question about coaching has come up often. "Should I have a coach?" "How much are they?" "What can they do for me?" These questions are all valid. I would add, ask questions that are important to you. Let me share with you my coaching journeys. It's going to be long.
Though I have only completed one true year of training, I knew early on that I would need help with training. My first mistake was that I thought I could go at it alone. Duh! Now many people can train without the help of a coach. That's great, but I'm not one of them. I believed that 1. I could swim 2. I could bike and 3. I could run... not well but I could do all three.... so a triathlon would be a breeze right??? For four months, even though I took swimming lessons from fabulous swim/tri coach, I pretty much went at it alone. Well, that was a mistake. After my first sprint, I soon realized that I needed more guidance.
I am not disciplined enough to go at it alone. Training is not studying for a test or a certification exam. I have done that. I can do the training, but I have no idea on how to modify or analyze my results. Pretty much my analysis is either it was a good or it was bad.
My first coach was amazing. She taught me drills for my swim and made sure that I could survive a 25 meter swim. She was there to walk me through the early jitters of racing and taught me that no matter what, triathlon is suppose to be fun. She was there when I got down on myself after my first Oly, and was there to prepare me for my next one. Things got hectic after all the racing. Being new at this sport, I really didn't know how to juggle my time as a mother, wife, nurse and athlete. I had to step away. I had too. I was so burnt out, I didn't want to train at all. I didn't know if I would ever want to race again. Maybe I needed a break, I didn't really take a break after finishing school.
After my hiatus, my friend introduced me to her coach. She stated that her coach was vivacious, had completed 20 plus Ironman races and had totally changed her training. Knowing that I was in a total funk, my friend thought I needed a kick in the pants. So came the triathlon journey with another coach. My coach was able to help me with all three aspects. She came and watched me swim once a week, had group rides and went running with me. She taught me the importance of race nutrition and hydration. She got me through Soma. Slow but she got me through it. Something was missing though, something didn't click. I did all the training that she wanted me to but it just didn't fit.
At this time, you are probably thinking that I'm just super picky and that I'm just not satisfied with anything regarding coaching and training. It might seem that way but here is the thing, training should provide you results but you should also like what you are purchasing. Meaning.... you're paying for it.... you should be satisfied with your purchase. I see finding a great coach like shopping for a bike. Yes, there are beautiful and awesome bikes out there, many brands with many specifications. If you don't buy a bike that fits you, you will never benefit from all your training. (side note: I bought my tribike blind...... so I'm paying for that now.) That is how I see coaching now. I need a coach that fits my needs like a bike that fits my body. I never interviewed my prior coaches... I knew for my next one, I would.
So here I am on coach number three. Yes three. He is the same coach for Swim Bike Mom. I decided to reach out to him a couple of weeks after Soma (and after some family health issues were resolved). This time around, I made the conscious effort to ask questions before I decided. I contacted several other coaches and asked them the same questions and he felt like the best fit for me.
So why is this coaching experience different this time? Well I don't know. Could it be that he helped me with my Garmin 910xt and the data is being used to monitor my training? Could it be that he is a coach but has another job, thus understands my crazy schedule with my career? Could it be that he also has two kids, and understands the demands of being a parent with two kids in sports? Could it be that his philosophy of training and racing fits mine? Could it be that he is calm which is opposite to my spaz. I might have to say..... all the above but there is so much more.
This is where I would share why I have a coach and would not survive doing it on my own. One advantage of having a coach, Coach Brett has the ability to hold me back but push me forward at the same time. Sounds weird but it's true. He was there to hold back and told me that I needed to master the 70.3 distance when I wanted to sign up for IMAZ15, but he was there and pushed me to PR on my first race of the year (BOOM!!!!) He benched me when I was sick, but told me that I would be okay when I came back. Train "smart" he would say. Little would I know that two words would change my mind set regarding training.
Second: He has taught me that I need patience. As you can see, I get caught up really easily when it comes to races. I also get really frustrated easily when my training or my racing isn't what I want it to be. His response in one text "Patience Grasshopper." That was all it took to calm me down. This is to ensure that I have years and years of triathlon in me.
Third: He has emphasized, the importance of technique. Cadence for the bike, stroke and kick for the swim and my run well, let just say I need help.
Forth (and not the last): Coach Brett has gotten into my brain! He flat out told me that I needed to change the way I looked at running. I hated running! While triathletes have one discipline that they don't like as much, I really loathed running. He has taught me that I do need patience, (eeekkk) and that placing a mental block translates to a real block that won't allow me to get better. The thought of "just wanting to survive the run" will never translate to a good race. I get it now.... I can see how it has been effecting my training and racing. Just looking at my two recent races..... different mind set, different results.
So for those who are disciplined enough to train without a coach. Hats off to you and continue! For those who are considering a coach, there are major advantages of having one but make sure you have a great fit!