I have coached hundreds of athletes over my 14+ years as an endurance coach and one constant that I see season after season is that those athletes that dedicate the time to their training almost always achieve the realistic goals they set for themselves. Whether the goal is complete their first sprint triathlon, complete a century ride, qualify for the Boston Marathon or improve their Ironman finishing time, the athletes that can effectively prioritize the demands of life with their training are the most successful.
There are many athletes that compete successfully being self-coached, while others need the motivation, accountability and structure that you find when hiring a quality endurance sports coach. This brings us to how you, the athlete, can maximize the relationship with your coach to achieve the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of each season.
1) Communication. Fundamentally, two-way communication is the cornerstone to a successful athlete/coach relationship. If your coach doesn’t know what workouts you have completed, and how you felt during those sessions, how can they effectively prescribe future trainings for you? Many coaches utilize online training resources that allow you to provide the details of every workout and comments on how you felt you performed. You should also consider setting up scheduled review sessions with your coach to talk about progress and goals moving forward.
2) Leverage technology. Most athletes I coach utilize some type of heart rate monitor, GPS device and/or power meter. This technology records detailed metrics about each session you work so hard to complete, yet most of the data stays locked away inside the device never to be viewed by anyone again. Take the time to learn how to upload the data to your computer and either send the files directly to your coach or upload it to a web based training software program, such as Training Peaks. The information that your data provides is critical for your coach to develop the proper long term plan that allows you to maximize your time spent training.
3) Follow the plan. This is probably the biggest mistake that athletes make which results in sabotaging their training and failure to meet goals. Coaches make your life easy because you don’t have to think about what you need to do from day to day. It is the athlete’s responsibility to follow the details of every workout and complete it to the best of their ability. This will ensure that you progress towards your goals. Here are the three main scenarios that lead to athletes deviating from a well-developed training plan:
Following workouts of other athletes/friends
Not reading and performing the specifics in the description of the workouts prescribed
Moving workouts around on the schedule without consulting your coach. It’s almost inevitable that your training schedule will need to be altered, sometimes quite often, to meet the demands of a busy lifestyle & trying to balance work, family and a social life. This brings us back to good communication with your coach. If you keep them informed, then your schedule can be altered so you don’t miss key training sessions.
4) Be consistent. For endurance athletes consistency in your workouts is critical to achieving the greatest possible fitness in the least amount of training time. Consistently missing workouts leads to poor race performance and lack of motivation that tends to “snowball” out of control. However, everyone WILL miss the occasional workout and it is ok. Life happens and we simply reschedule the ones that we can. Don’t worry about the trainings that cannot be seamlessly reintroduced into the plan, you’ll only succeed at driving yourself insane trying to do so.
Develop the relationship with your coach so they can blend your busy lifestyle with your training. If your coach knows your work/family/social/travel schedule in advance, and on a continual basis, then you’ll be provided with a training plan that provides the highest probability of you being able to complete the work necessary to achieve your goals. See how we circled back to communication again?
Since a good working relationship with your coach is vital to your success as an athlete, take the time to get to know them and provide them with information so they can utilize their expertise to guide you to the most successful season of your career. It comes down to training smarter, not harder or longer. Let your coach do the work of providing you a detailed schedule. All you have to do is execute.