One of the best ways to maximise the effectiveness of limited training time is to seek expert advice. Here, Fit2Tri head coach Graeme Turner outlines 5 reasons you should consider a coach.
With all the information and training programs available across easily accessible media – books, magazines, e-readers, internet and the like, the volume of training information has never been higher or more accessible. With all of this information so readily available, the simple question arises – why do I need a coach? Indeed, if coaching is simply about knowledge, why is it that the likes of Mo Farah, Pete Jacobs, Alistair Brownlee, Chrissie Wellington and Michael Clarke all have a coach?
A coach provides a number of tools beyond just technical knowledge that can be the difference between a good performance and a great one. Watch a show like The Biggest Loser and you’ll notice that the trainers have nothing miraculous to tell the contestants – eat better and exercise. So why do the contestants succeed on the show when they have failed at home? The answer lies in the non-program benefits a coach brings.
For most athletes, this is the reason they seek out a coach. If an athlete writes his or her own sessions, there is little daily pressure to complete them. By paying for a coach, there is an expectation – in essence a contract – that they will follow the program. A coach will keep track of what the athlete is doing, question why if sessions are being missed and remind the athlete of race and event deadlines.
It has been shown that if you commit your goals to writing, you are 40 per cent more likely to achieve them. We also know that if you tell someone else your goals, you are 60 per cent more likely to achieve them. You are 95 per cent more likely to achieve your goals, however, if you have a coach.
2. Comfort zone
Human nature says that you won’t program a set for yourself that you don’t believe you can do. It is common for athletes I coach to say they don’t think they’ll be able to complete a particular set I’ve given them. My typical response is to tell them to just give it a try. Around 99 per cent of the time, the athlete will complete the set. The old adage that if you do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got is particularly apt for self-coached athletes, I find. A coach working closely with an athlete will always push them out of their comfort zone and remove the self-limiter that human nature applies while paying attention to the fine line between improvement and overtraining.
3. Sharing the load
When it comes to training, a coached athlete worrys about just one thing – doing what they are told. Their time commitment is based on the agreed sessions. It is the coach who puts in the energy to plan seasons and sessions, think about diets, plan race strategies, research trends and equipment, and read studies. In some ways it is like a tax return. Yes, you could do all the research yourself; complete all of the submission processes and worry about the outcome, or you can outsource all of those things to an agent. We all have busy lives outside of training with work and family commitments. Coaches alleviate a lot of the work, allowing athletes to focus on racing and training.
4. Experience vs knowledge
Technical knowledge of the sport is vital. A good coach understands all aspects of the sport and knows what works. More importantly, though, through experience a coach will know what doesn’t work. Working with a number of athletes over a period of time allows a coach to see consistent trends; what makes people succeed, what makes people fail. While failure can be corrected, do you want to spend an entire season heading down a path only to find that it doesn’t work? The internet is an almost unrestricted source of content, but for every ‘study’ showing something works there is another showing it doesn’t. A coach has experience on the practical application of theory without you going through the time-wasting exercise of being a case study of one.
How do you know if you are overtrained or undertrained? Quite often it is difficult to see the forest for the trees. A coach can obviously assist with measuring metrics; however, often, the indicators are more ‘neural’ in the comments or feedback an athlete provides. A coach can ask objective questions about sleep, diet, work and family stresses.
From experience, the factors we’ve looked at in terms of accountability and athletes’ comfort zones make up the majority of an athlete’s improvements when working with a coach. Do not take this as an advertisement for coaching – some people are self-aware and self-motivated enough to perform well without one. But for the majority of people, working with a coach can provide a faster and less stressful path to achieving their goals.
Photo credit: Delly Carr