Do you speak to your coach enough?

With 'coaching' being a norm for triathletes, it shouldn't be a taboo subject to suggest that it may not be working for you in the way you expected it to. With most advertisements talking about why you 'need' a coach, you can easily become withdrawn from the coaching process when you don't feel it is working for you.  Athletes are a proud breed, always striving to improve but sometimes pride gets in the way. Here we discuss a few different indicators to watch out for that may mean you should sit down and have an honest conversation with your coach.

Sometimes there are very good reasons to think about how coaching is or isn't working for you. Most of the time, a coach should pick up on this before you have, so it's usually an easy conversation to have but that doesn't stop it from being difficult. However, here are a few honest and fair concerns which are worth bringing up with a coach and really wont make you sound silly:

  1. Performance Plateau (See this blog to see how and what a plateau or stagnation may look like). Sometimes, for whatever reason, the athlete's performance just won't improve. Sometimes various training stimulus will help this but sometimes it is time to get a different perspective. This can be because you have worked with the same coach for many years and you have settled into a routine or simply your working schedule means it is difficult to change too much. This could be as simple as starting to train in a swimming club or doing more running sessions with the local club and bringing more coaching perspectives to the table and help make things exciting again. If you feel you have hit a plateau, chat to your coach and look for innovative ideas of getting yourself back on track.

  2. Your goals are not aligned with a coach's expertise. You may want to start doing bike races, or ultra marathons, or masters swimming and you are thinking of moving on. For example: there are many types of lawyers, but you would like a property lawyer when dealing with a house purchase and an employment lawyer when looking at work contracts. Both are lawyers and both have an idea of how the other works, but they have their specialities. The same is true in coaching and it is certainly a good idea to consider if a coach could work in this specialist area but you both need to be honest if the coach can help you. It may be for the standard you want to perform at, the consistency of the current coach will be more useful than the change...initially, but you may need to change after that first season. Either way, speak openly and frankly with the coach, this could be a challenge which excites you both.

  3. You feel you have outgrown what a coach can offer in certain areas. This may be you have different ambitions or goals (e.g. looking at going to IRONMAN where the coach actively works with sprint athletes (or vice versa)). Alan's blog here on how athletes fill a spectrum has to align with how coaches also vary here. If you find yourself changing in the spectrum it may be time to consider how you want a coach to work with you.

  4. You are a Data Geek or a Technophobe. Perhaps, you are wanting more of a technological leap – you like the gadgets, the data (e.g. Training Peaks) and the coach still works with paper, pens or spreadsheets; or maybe Training Peaks is too complicated for you and you just want a plan on an A4 paper stuck to your fridge with a call every week! Either way it is fine to have this conversation and get the service that works for you.

  5. When you are continually missing targets and goals or you feel you are regressing. Sometimes it just doesn't work. If you can see clearly (e.g. power numbers, running results, PMC direction) that you just aren't improving, then it is certainly worth a conversation to find out why it isn't – this could come down to you or the method used. Perhaps in your given situation, you need more contact time to make a difference, or maybe you need to focus on work/family more to stop life getting in the way and the goals are actually unrealistic. Bear in mind though that race results are not the defining factor. If you said you wanted to win your age group and you hit podium with a PB, the process is right, the outcome is not. Changing that process could be the worst decision you can make! This is the time when you need to open communication channels with your coach the most.

  6. You aren't feeling that you are getting the support you need. All coaches will be proud of an athlete's performance – it would be weird if they weren't. However, coaches should be there in both the highs (when it goes to plan and you are successful) and most importantly the lows (when it doesn't go to plan and you need the support). That low point is when they should be the most forthcoming! Ask yourself if you are getting the right kind of support for you or are you shutting things out.

Coaching is a fantastic industry and one that can be completely fulfilling. However, it is totally unregulated. It can be easy for athletes to feel like they are one of many others to the coach. The minute you are paying money for a coaching service, then you should be completely sure that you are getting the service you asked for. However, most coaches do not go into coaching to maximise profits, it is because they care and they want to help people improve. None of them are there to do a bad job, most would be mortified if they realised they were. Be transparent and talk to your coach if you feel any of the above apply; after all coaching is a two way street and you may not have made things clear that that is what you are after.

At Tri Training Harder, we try and mitigate those issues and identify possible sticking points before they take place by offering a collaborative coach experience which can mean many of these areas are flagged up well before the athlete experiences them. In an environment where we all work together, one person's bad review tarnishes the name of all coaches in the company. Therefore, we have developed over several years and iterations, a robust checking system. Coaches have monthly Performance Development Meetings and regular feedback from their athletes. We work in a collaborative way where everyone's view is included and the pool of knowledge evolves through CPDs and funding for courses and qualifications as each individual is encouraged to continually learn and self grow as well as give back to the coaching community. We are certain that we will continue to refine this system but in an unregulated environment we are trying to make a positive step forward to help make the athlete's experience the very best experience.