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How Do I Choose A Good Triathlon Coach?

We are often asked by Triathletes who are staying with us, the following kinds of questions:

Would I benefit from a Triathlon coach?….What makes a good coach?…. How do I find the right coach for me?…. How much should it cost?…

So we thought it might be useful to focus this article around these themes to help inform those athletes out there who might currently be asking the same questions.

The 2010 race season is fast coming to an end and we are all ready looking at ways that we could improve. Our dreams are taking shape, goals are being set, races are being entered already (in some cases) and the desire to achieve our best occupies our thoughts. How do I improve? What can I do to change bad habits? What distance suits me best? How can I fit all my training around my family and work commitments? For Triathletes, each New Season can be an exciting time, and these ambitions can be aided by the support of a good coach. In reality if you are already a part of a club you will already have access to coaches, but their time maybe limited and it is rare that club coaches are in a position to offer individualized programs as they are often trying to fit in their day jobs! Maybe you have a great personal coach already and you are busy working towards your goals as we speak, maybe it is time to switch to a new coach completely? Maybe you have never even contemplated employing a coach. If so this short article may be of interest to you.

So why do I need to hire a coach at all?
There is no need (in our age of easy, quick and affordable communication) to waste your valuable training hours on wrong or simply uninformed training, when there is a wealth of very good coaching information available. If you are currently self-coached, a good coach will help simplify and structure your life. Through constant feedback and support they will take care of your training and the details of your program in order to maximize your performance from the limited time you have available, freeing you up to concentrate simply on the enjoyable bit, the actual training.

An experienced coach can offer you both his expertise and experience, helping you to fast track your learning process by sharing his knowledge with you. They may have been a high level athlete themselves so can also provide a personal insight and an additional level of understanding. A good coach will motivate you to train, give you a kick up the bum when you need it and hold you accountable to your goals, training and racing.

A coach will teach you how to become a complete triathlete by bringing all the necessary components together at the right time. They will teach you when and how to train, race and recover, give focus for your goal setting and nutritional advice and support. They will provide technical and analytical advice, help tune your mental skills and provide clear programs, which work with your lifestyle, tapering, planning and periodizing your plans for you. A coach can provide an objective viewpoint on both your racing and training. Through constant feedback and support they will communicate in a constructive manner about what they see as your strengths and weaknesses enabling you to become a better athlete.

If all that fails, remember you are paying for the coaching services. That in itself may be enough to get you out the door!

There is of course a plethora of options out there at incredibly varying prices. Fundamentally you need to consider what services and programs a coach can offer and is what they can offer suitable to your level, lifestyle and budget at this point in time.

What makes a good coach?
A coach should be more than an IT wiz who uploads snazzy looking weekly training programs, or someone who stands at the side of the track or pool timing and counting laps. They should be someone who is passionate about what they do and why they do it, a professional who is comfortable wearing many hats: training partner, teacher, mentor, role model, technician, facilitator, and without doubt someone you can identify as a friend, someone who you can effectively communicate with. The relationship between a coach and their athletes should be open and two way.

A good coach is often an experienced, knowledgeable and balanced individual, who naturally commands respect, so while formal coaching certifications and/or personal athletic achievement can be excellent qualities in a coach they do not automatically make an excellent coach. A coach, who has continually worked with different levels of athlete across the different disciplines over the years, has pooled more experience and knowledge and should be better informed to bring out the best in you as an individual. They will need to ask for key information about your past and current fitness levels, racing history, future goals, plus a lifestyle audit to enable them to design a program specific to your needs.

A dedicated coach needs to have empathy and compassion, and understand what it is like to be an athlete (although not necessarily be a current or former professional athlete), but also be capable of applying the science and appreciating that each athlete is an individual, who responds differently to varying approaches. They coach each athlete as an individual and are creative, knowing how to keep a training program interesting and enjoyable and how to integrate it into the life constraints of the athlete. This should be reflected in their enthusiasm for the sport and for coaching.

So how do you find the right coach for you?
Ultimately, you are looking to build a relationship over time with this person, so it is important that your coach possess many of these qualities, plus others too that you may feel you need from a coach. Can you talk to them and get sound advice when you need it? Do they offer camps where you can get individual attention at an affordable price? Do you share similar values and philosophies as?

How much should it cost?
A good coach should happily put you in contact with athletes whom he is/has coached and/or provide references from coached athletes. Remember you are paying for a service and just like any other service you want to ensure that you are getting a good deal. So whatever the cost, ask yourself quite simply does it represent good value for money?

For the last eight years Michelle and full time Triathlon Coach Richard Laidlow (BTA and British Cycling Coach) have specialized in fully coached hassle-free, Triathlon Training Holidays , on dates that suit you, in one of the most sunny, dry and breathtaking regions of Southern France.

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