Triathlon Coach – Knowing My Athletes As People

As a triathlon coach one of my major priorities is to understand them as a person. When I know them better as a person, I’m will be more informed to prescribe the training that will be specific to them. Fit the program to the person not the person to the program.

However, there is only so much I can determine as a triathlon coach. I need to rely on the person to communicate to me who they are? What do they like to do? Why are they doing triathlon? What type of training do they dislike and like? What are their needs? How much time do they have to train? As a triathlon coach I also need to know what questions to ask.

In age group triathlon we’re not relying on it to put food on the table. It is and should be about enjoyment and challenging ourselves. Therefore, from a training perspective I don’t see much point in doing things in training you don’t like to do. It should be something you look forward to and that gives you joy. When you’re in a state of joy you are far more to achieve your best performance.

Take for example an athlete who is training for an Ironman event. The thought of a long easy aerobic ride of 5-6 hours could be one of boredom and little enjoyment. Sitting at an easy pace and not feeling a ‘burn’ is something they would dread and avoid. However, if I was to say to them, we could do a 3.5-4 hour ride with some specific intervals that would give a similar training effect to a 5-6 hour easy aerobic ride they would love it.

I’m more of an old school athlete personally and avoid riding indoors. I don’t use Zwift and like to get outdoors and ride, even in bad weather. However, some athletes love platforms like Zwift and using the turbo indoors to get their training done. Look at athletes like Canadian professional triathlete, Lionel Sanders who does the majority of his training on Zwift and a treadmill. This is a classic case of fitting the program to the person and prescribing sessions that will compliment their lives and what they enjoy.

Swimming is another example. I have coached many athletes, especially males that want to swim with their pull bouy and paddles every session. Yet others more so females don’t like using a pull bouy. I’ve learnt with swimming especially as a triathlon coach you need to do everything you can to maximise enjoyment for triathletes. It’s the only way you’ll get consistency in the program around swimming. Also never underestimate the placebo effect and if someone thinks something is working then it most often will be.

The first question you need to ask yourself is why I am doing triathlon. What is it that you want to get out of the sport? Once I know why you’re doing it then I can start to dig a little deeper and understand what parts of the training process you enjoy. From there we can put a program in place to suit a person’s specific needs.

If you’re a self-coached athlete have a think about the type of training, you like firstly and secondly respond to. Is it strength training with lots of hills, longer easy aerobic work with minimal intensity or a love of high intensity intervals. Within any program the sessions and overall balance can be modified to accommodate your needs and still follow the underlying principles of any training program which is easy on the easy and hard on the hard. Recovery sufficiently, be consistent and manage your intensity distribution and you’ll improve.

Some may say that we need to force ourselves to do things we don’t like in training. Such as riding on the turbo trainer indoors or swimming without a pull bouy. My argument to that is it then becomes a battle of will power to force ourselves into doing something we don’t like. And when it comes to will power as humans, we’re not that great defeating will power. Why fight something when we can compliment and fit the training to suit what you enjoy. There is still much that can be done in sessions to force you into uncomfortable situations. Even in sessions we enjoy sometimes they are hard, and we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Too many age group athletes get caught up in trying to do what someone is else is doing, follow a professional athlete’s program or force themselves to perform sessions they dislike and avoid where possible. I’ve never seen this approach work long term or deliver consistent results.

Know who you are, what you enjoy and train accordingly.

If you are interested in one on one coaching with us please get in touch.

Related Articles

What Ironman Should I Do?

With four Ironman events in Oceania you may be thinking about what one you should enter or what one you should enter next. Here’s Suzanne’s run-down of the Ironman events in Australia and New Zealand. What the courses are like, travelling to the race, atmosphere and more!